Giving Customers Control – How Real-Time Reporting Features Reduce Churn for SaaS Companies

March 24, 2021

Customer churn has been a pain point for subscription-based businesses since the model was invented. But with the number of SaaS companies continuing to grow – with 73% of organizations indicating that nearly all their apps will be SaaS by 2021 and the increasingly competitive SaaS market – it’s more important than ever to limit churn. As most of you already know, Customer churn is the percentage of customers lost during a given period of time and is not the same as revenue loss. Most enterprise B2B SaaS platforms spend a lot of money acquiring new customers and when customers churn it can really sting.

Before we rush into trying to fix churn problems based on our assumptions, it’s more important to understand WHY customers are leaving. There are great tools out there that can help with product analytics and frameworks to guide conversations with lost customers. Like most things, there is rarely a silver bullet feature that will fix your churn issues – but thinking about how you can provide more value to your customers, increase engagement, and prove the ROI of your platform are all key to addressing churn.

One solution that is often overlooked is customer-facing analytics and reporting features that provide real-time data when your customers need it. Here are few ways to think about adding better data experiences to your platform.

Add value to your platform

The beauty of SaaS is that we can always be improving our platforms to give our customers more value than yesterday. There are a few key ways that data can create value for customers within your platform.

Before thinking about how to display and share data analytics, first think about new data that you can help your customers create. Increasing the amount of data that you’re collecting will inherently make your analytics more valuable. As you help collect, the data grows, and so too will the opportunities for your business. As they say, data is oil – start drilling for it.

After you’ve thought about expanding data, it’s then time to consider how to give data back to your customer in the most usable way.

Real-time reports not only add value as other features do, but they also give more control to your users in how they interact with your platform. Similar to self-service support tools, providing analytics increases the self-service nature of your platform and when data is available in real-time, customers can get their information when they want it.

This beats the laborious and inefficient alternative of emailing a customer success team, who then asks an engineer to write a query and pull the data into a spreadsheet, to then email back to the customer. This would be equivalent to emailing customer support at your bank every time you wanted to see your credit card payment history – by the time you got the information back, it would be outdated.

Deciding what your customers need from analytics features is next. It’s important to really understand how your customers will use their data to create features that will actually be used. A dashboard that is only 80% helpful will not create enough value for customers to continue to use it. And when you’re fighting churn, you have to be really intentional with using your resources.

If you discover that each customer has unique needs and that they will view their data differently – then it is vital to create a truly useful dashboard that will allow for self-service. By self-service analytics approach, we mean that customers can define their own dashboard experience by selecting what data shows on each chart.

In other instances, you may be providing a subset of your customer’s data. If this is the case then even the best analytics in your platform will be missing information. We previously ran an eCommerce platform for the world’s largest restaurant chains. The problem was that online orders were only a fraction of their overall sales, and so it was more important for our customers to pull the data from our system into their internal analytics tools to match up the data with their in-store orders. Even in this instance, real-time data access is important. Providing an API to customers might just be the best analytics experience you can provide. If it’s seamless – you will score points because your customers just won’t need to think about it – the data will just appear where they need it.

With any of these experiences, it is imperative to provide customers with data as up-to-date as possible. While many people will say they need data up to the second, be careful to over-build for an unnecessarily complex feature. Providing near real-time metrics can be a daunting task if there is a lot of data to aggregate, but if your customer is running a transactional business on your platform it is a game-changing feature.

Increase user engagement

Real-time analytics can also increase user engagement because it keeps your platform top of mind and brings users to your platform more frequently. It gives them a reason to log into your platform on a daily basis which opens your communication channels with users. Real-time data is imperative to create this value as stale information doesn’t do anyone any good.

Another way to stay top-of-mind with real-time reporting is through external communication, such as push notifications and emails. Reaching out to customers instead of always asking them to log in to your platform for information – this is not only proactive but also creates a better user experience. Setting up daily/weekly email digests or alerts when something is outside of the normal variation helps customers keep tabs on performance without having to think. If you are a ticketing platform for sports teams, when ticket inventory is running low, you can automatically send the team an alert to add more tickets to the event.

Personalization also increases user engagement – and that’s not just adding your users name to the home page but allowing for configuration of their data experiences. Allowing users to choose what metrics they see when they log in or customize their charts ensures that they get the experience they want. We discussed above how valuable this can be and the difficulties in getting self-service features right.

Another personalization approach that is less customized but just as effective is to provide role-specific metrics that are tailored to each user-type in your platform. Instead of blanket metrics, consider providing higher level, aggregate performance indicators for executive-level users alongside more tactical information to your day-to-day users. These role-specific reports also help bring in more variety of user-types to your platform, increasing engagement across your customer’s organization.

Involving more users can really help to amplify your value and show the ROI of your platform across departments. Making historical data and aggregate information easily available shows the improvement over time that your system provides customers. While some customer success teams may do this on an annual basis, giving users the power to view this type of information as they use your system reinforces the value that you provide.

Churn be gone

Implementing a dashboard can be a daunting task – especially when you consider the opportunity cost of building features, the risks taken to create real-time data experiences, and the ongoing maintenance of your platform. But while real-time reporting is undoubtedly difficult, the value is well worth it and unmistakably clear. Real-time featured dashboards and other data experiences have the power to reduce customer churn by creating more value and increasing engagement – truly enhancing the ROI of your platform. Building the functionalities mentioned is a huge task for a company of any size. For those who feel like it may be impossible to do in-house without building out a team from scratch, can look to third-party providers who offer solutions that can help

Author Bio

Dave Hurt

Dave Hurt, founder and CEO of Verb Data, a no-code platform that provides added functionality for SaaS companies to build native dashboards and reports

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