Aug 11, 2023

Read Time 5 min

How to hook customers on your product’s value with Jeff Newman


Coaching customers to adopt your product is one of the more challenging aspects of customer success. Your company can have the best software product in the market, brilliant ads, compelling sales pitches, and the most useful feature set—and yet, still be hard to learn.

Applying best practices isn’t straightforward either, as there’s no universal template for what “good” adoption looks like. Because no two companies—their structure, size, products, and customer base—are exactly alike, the adoption goals and metrics that work for one company may not work for yours.

Despite these differences, however, customer success teams tend to face similar obstacles. Promoting customer accountability, identifying product activation events, and finding efficient ways to improve adoption are just a few of the tougher tasks at hand.

To explore how you can encourage customers to use your product, I sat down with Jeff Newman, customer success manager at ChurnZero. Jeff shares the steps you can take to build a more systematic approach for measuring and increasing adoption.

What common product adoption challenges do customer success teams face?

Jeff: Typically, it’s due to one or a combination of issues relating to their customer’s strategy, tech, or management. Teams encounter strategy issues when they fail to map their workflows before bringing on new technology. People get excited about the potential and benefits a new tool brings but can overlook the groundwork needed to support it. New software can’t fix a bad process. They may also lack a strategy to incentivize users to adopt the product.

Tech issues can arise when users are brand-new to a product category and aren’t given sufficient training to overcome that inexperience. This becomes more problematic when the team’s primary product owner doesn’t have a strong grasp of a technology’s core functionality.

Management issues tend to crop up when leaders fail to hold their team accountable for learning and using the product. Customers must feel a sense of ownership over their onboarding tasks and deadlines. Ownership builds motivation and keeps people focused on the goals they set.

I also see adoption issues occur when management is out of touch with their users. They focus on the wrong things that don’t help the end users’ workflow. It’s important that leaders invest the time to understand their end users who are often the most far removed from customer interactions and the chain of feedback. Think hard about your end users and their specific problems, and then put effort into figuring out how to make onboarding better for them.

Additionally, be upfront with customers about what it takes to adopt your software. Oversold expectations damage trust and are hard to come back from.

How can leaders hold their team accountable for adopting a new product?

Jeff: One way to encourage greater responsibility within teams is to tie their adoption goals to a number. For example, the number of logged tasks or reports created. Then use those numbers to create a scorecard that the entire group is measured against. This kind of transparency is a great motivator in teams. However, for this to work, you must assign someone to track the team’s performance. Otherwise, your adoption goals and scorecard will fall by the wayside amid other priorities.

What tactics do you recommend for increasing product adoption?

Jeff: The adoption tactics you use will depend on your specific needs and constraints, but here are a few common ones that I see work:

  • Use simple prizes, such as gift cards, to reward adoption and foster positive accountability.
  • Focus on customer education. Provide step-by-step instructions on how to use the product based on a customer’s specific use case. Make your guidance as simple as Lego instructions.
  • Hold weekly live trainings centered on adoption. Leave room for Q&A either throughout the presentation or at the end. This is a great solution for facilitating large onboarding cohorts.
  • Keep an open line of communication with customers. Set up a regular cadence of communications—such as emails, in-app messages, and walkthroughs—to users offering ongoing training, congratulating them on reaching milestones, or asking if they’ve encountered any issues using the product. Sending these engagements based on a customer’s usage within the system increases their relevance compared to having to invent a reason to reach out or guess the right time.
  • Interview customers who didn’t adopt to figure out what is preventing them.
  • Arm CSMs with product usage data. With ChurnZero, CS teams can create custom dashboards that track adoption metrics and trends. They can share these dashboards directly with customers to guide conversations, surface usage roadblocks, and make recommendations to improve adoption.
  • Continually monitor metrics—and share progress with customers. Your customer’s product usage fluctuates over time as their own work and priorities change. Keep a pulse on adoption dips and spikes to show customers you’re in tune and aligned with their business needs.

How can customer success teams help identify their product’s “aha” moment?

Jeff: Start by making a hypothesis about the most important actions a customer needs to take within your product to achieve a specific outcome. Track events within the product—whether via reporting from your product team or through a customer success platform—to confirm when these actions are taken, and the outcome is achieved.

Then, measure how long it takes a user to get to that “aha” moment. Identify the start time and end time. You can use ChurnZero Journeys to track these markers.

Continuously monitor user behavior and adjust your touchpoints and resources as needed to help users realize value faster. For additional insight, interview customers who activated to learn what you can do to speed up their time to first value.

How can customer success teams systematically measure product adoption?

Jeff: One idea I’ve been exploring is building a usage scale for specific product features.

For example, if I were to build a scale for one of ChurnZero’s features, such as the Renewal and Forecast Hub, it might look something like this:

  • Level 1: Create a renewal report.
  • Level 2: Access and view the report.
  • Level 3: Share the report with X number of team members who view it.
  • Level 4: Engage with the report at a set regular cadence, such as daily.
  • Level 5: Achieve the desired outcome of managing and forecasting the growth of all customer accounts.

After defining the scale, track the date an account achieves each level. Measure daily the number of users in each level and how long it took them to progress to the next level. Then, create strategies, such as automated campaigns based on usage, to advance them to different levels faster.

How can customer success teams capitalize on and celebrate their best adopters?

Jeff: To give you one example, teams love seeing how other teams—who share the same attributes and makeup as them—operate. Case studies, when written from the customer’s point of view, provide an illuminating window into a team’s challenges, processes, and strategies. Customers who have achieved an ideal level of adoption are a great source for case study candidates—though you still need to consider factors such as tenure and sentiment. Interview these people and gather their feedback to improve your adoption journey.

I’m a huge proponent of celebrating positive customer behavior. Find the customers who are your strongest adopters and celebrate them in every way you can. The goal is to get everyone else to see their success and the recognition they’ve received and think I want to be a part of that club.

With ChurnZero, it’s easy to identify your superstar customers based on usage data and other behavioral indicators. I can see when a user has completed ample training and built plenty of playbooks and used other key features within the system. A simple acknowledgment of their work and progress goes a long way, and it costs virtually nothing to give.

It’s important to remember that we’re talking about people here. Think about the person that’s on the receiving end of your training, onboarding, and communications. It all boils down to making them feel like they’re a part of something.

Codify your strategies for effective adoption

Learn tactics for encouraging the positive adoption of new software, whether that be ChurnZero or any product, in our blog “Breaking adoption inertia: How to get teams to stick with new software.”


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