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7 steps to create a brilliant customer experience for your SaaS business
A SaaS business’s success relies on acquiring and keeping users in your product.
And while an amazing product will attract customers—it's a great customer experience that'll keep them coming back.
Last updated14 Jul 2022
To provide a brilliant SaaS customer experience, you need to assist your customers at every step of their journey. This chapter will look at aspects of the customer experience (CX) of SaaS businesses: the journey, touchpoints, interactions, and engagements that matter to and for your customers.
Follow this seven-step process to create a great customer experience for your SaaS company and drive business growth.
Elevate your SaaS customer experience
Use Hotjar’s product experience insights to improve your customer experience by perfecting your understanding of customer needs.
What is SaaS customer experience?
In the world of SaaS, CX is your customers’ holistic perception of their experience with your company. The SaaS customer experience includes every interaction customers have with your employees, brand, messaging, and product across every channel and device—anything and everything that affects your customers’ perception of your brand.
A good SaaS customer experience provides users with value by helping them navigate the buying cycle, educating them, and encouraging them to stick with you. Success depends on whether customers can recognize this value.
Why does customer experience matter for SaaS businesses?
Your success as a SaaS business is completely dependent on customer experience. You’re literally selling software as a service; you're promising a product that is easy to use, an alternative to customers doing it themselves, and an opportunity to save them time or money—an entire experience in itself.
Your users’ experience with your company is your core offering. It’s what will keep them coming back for more, improving customer retention and providing you with an ongoing flow of revenue brought in by repeat customers.
Meaningful, memorable customer experiences can lead to rapid growth—and even market dominance. Good CX enables SaaS companies to:
Build a competitive advantage
Optimize how they drive revenue, customer acquisition cost (CAC) efficiency, and renewals
Make intelligent product development decisions
Some of the world’s best SaaS companies have achieved long-term success because of their obsession with the customer experience—Slack and Zendesk are great SaaS experience examples.
How to create and optimize a SaaS customer experience in 7 steps
Improving SaaS customer experience is about balancing customer and business needs, and making sure your customers achieve their desired outcomes with as robust a process as possible. That way, you can stay on top of your SaaS company's strategic development, product roadmap, key releases, and general short- and long-term goals.
Turning your customers’ outcomes and experiences into a quantifiable competitive advantage requires scalable processes, and evaluating and optimizing your customer’s experience across the whole customer lifecycle—including multiple customer journeys, touchpoints, and interactions.
To provide a good customer experience, your SaaS company must take the right steps and prioritize the right areas for improvement. Here are seven key areas to focus on to master the SaaS customer experience:
1. Discover how customers truly engage with your product
→ Why it matters: in the SaaS world, your product is your bread and butter. An exceptional customer experience depends on how well you understand user behavior within your product—including why users take certain actions.
By moving toward free trials or a freemium model as starting points for engaging prospects, SaaS companies can take a product-led growth approach to gain early insight into how users explore, navigate, and actually use the product.
Allowing prospects to sign up and try your product for free improves customer experiences, and provides product teams with relevant behavioral data—the fuel you need to deliver a personalized customer experience, leading to a loyal customer and higher lifetime value.
On the other hand, companies that make it hard for customers to evaluate and try their product end up irritating them with a subpar user experience (UX). Because they lose the opportunity to learn early on how customers interact with their product, this limits a SaaS business’s growth potential and can affect the CX, business goals, and product workflow.
How SaaS teams use Hotjar to increase conversions and improve their product
Online banner-making and design tool Bannersnack used Hotjar at several points in their customer flow to better understand what people were actually doing on their website, and why, by:
Placing Heatmaps on the landing pages they needed to optimize for conversions
Watching Recordings to figure out why their just-launched ‘Timeline’ feature kept going unused by many of their long-standing customers
Once they had a better understanding of the barriers customers faced and how they spoke about them, the Bannersnack team was able to validate and prioritize product changes.
→ Who’s involved: a product-led go-to-market (GTM) strategy guides almost every team to put customers front and center. In-product behavior can be insightful for:
Product teams: to make more data-driven decisions on what features to build and what updates to release next
Marketing teams: to improve the ROI of marketing campaigns
Sales teams: to prioritize and focus on leads that are already using the product
Customer success (CS) teams: to understand where prospects face difficulties in using the product
→ How to optimize it: the best way to build a personalized SaaS customer experience is to use data that uncovers how prospects interact with your product.
Using a product experience insights platform like Hotjar (oh, hi 👋) makes it easy to understand customer behavior—and the motivation behind it.
Hotjar's Observe and Ask tools help you understand the why behind user actions, so you can make customer-centric UX and CX decisions:
Heatmaps: visualize user behavior, and identify and eliminate friction to improve UX so you can build customer delight on top of a product that’s already easy to use
Recordings: capture sessions to map the full UX and deepen your understanding of blockers and pain points
Surveys: use on-site and external surveys to gather VoC data that brings customer voices into your CX strategy
Feedback widget: get more context into the customer experience by letting users express frustration and delight by highlighting specific elements
If I had to give one piece of advice for outstanding customer experience, it would be consistently listening and taking into account the customers’ feedback. By doing so you can then understand what’s missing and what needs to be modified for the perfect customer experience.
2. Coordinate CX across departments to break down silos
→ Why it matters: the customer experience encompasses every touchpoint a customer has with your company—which means CX involves multiple stakeholders, with decisions often spread across multiple individuals or departments.
If everyone in the company approaches CX with different goals, viewpoints, and information, this can create communication silos, frustrate your workforce, hurt company culture, and weaken customer experiences.
Here are a few signs that your company has become too siloed:
Customers may complain because their experience with a product or service doesn’t live up to what a sales representative or marketing message promised them
Sales teams may end up trying to sell a customer a product they already have
Users may receive conflicting information from different customer service team representatives
Marketing teams may create content irrelevant to users' current needs
Product teams may release features that add to the customer’s dissatisfaction and begin to erode the experience
To effectively evaluate and improve your customer experience, you have to look into various journeys, as well as countless touchpoints and interactions with users within your SaaS product.
→ Who’s involved: every team within a company—including marketing, sales, product, finance, engineering, and support—should play a role in the customer experience.
It's important for team members to know what other team members are working on (in detail) so that they don't waste their time duplicating tasks or using the wrong tools. This encourages efficiency by eliminating wasted movement and double handling.
→ How to optimize it: to succeed with this approach, your SaaS company needs to align different departments around relevant product goals and metrics.
Team leaders should work together to develop a plan to improve knowledge sharing and encourage employees to adopt collaborative processes and technologies.
For example, product managers should align more closely with those in customer support, and use data and CS learnings to improve product development. This includes refining enhancement requests, sharing UX research, and tracking customer satisfaction progress.
Leaders also need to equip their teams with the tools and data to deliver customer experiences that advance prospects and customers from one stage to the next.
Becoming a truly collaborative organization takes time, but the effort improves productivity, ensures happier employees, and produces better customer experiences.
Pro tip: don’t just train your team to understand your customer—give them tools and a tone of voice they can rely on.
A customer-centric approach to every step is a must. Instead of looking around to see what’s happening, rely on listening to the needs of your customers and creating your own trends. That way, you can seamlessly spread the experience around different channels and make the customer feel they are talking to one strong brand.
Here are a few ways for your team to understand and empathize with your users:
3. Create an effective onboarding process
→ Why it matters: SaaS companies that understand customer experience and expectations are shifting to a new customer acquisition process.
The goal is to reduce the time it takes, as well as the friction involved, for a buyer to try the product. The way to do it is to implement an effective onboarding process—which is the time when new customers learn how to use a new product, ask questions, and resolve initial doubts.
A personalized onboarding plan is an absolute must-have for building long-term relationships with your users. If a user experiences a poor onboarding process and ends up confused or frustrated, it can be detrimental to your growth—especially considering it sets the tone for future purchases or interactions with your business.
→ Who’s involved: building long-term relationships with your customers starts with a good onboarding plan. That should come together as a collaboration between the customer success team—taking care of user data—and the product team—taking care of operations and administration.
→ How to optimize it: onboarding new users can be tricky, but it isn't magic—it's engineered. The most successful SaaS experience examples—like HubSpot and Trello—put processes in place that streamline onboarding and reduce the time from when a prospective customer lands on the website to the time they start to use the product.
To engineer a great onboarding experience for your customers, you can (and should) implement, optimize, and test your way toward the ideal product experience.
Remove any unnecessary steps or fields from your signup flow
Don’t show your users more features than they need to see to activate
Build contextual, interactive walkthroughs instead of linear product tours
Create experiences for different user personas
Keep it simple. You won’t be able to teach the customer everything during your onboarding process. Instead, empower your customers to find additional information on their own.
For example, it can be helpful to have a customer-facing knowledge base or help center that allows them to easily find the training materials, FAQs, and tutorials they need to succeed with your product or service. Make sure the information you are sharing is:
Comprehensive, so users have all the information they need at their fingertips
Accessible from anywhere and at any time to help customers succeed with your product or service quickly, efficiently, and painlessly
Pro tip: when’s the last time you went through your own onboarding process?
Becoming your own customer is one of the best ways to find and solve issues or gaps in your customer experience. Eat your own dog food, as they say.
Going through your own onboarding puts you in your customers' shoes to see what improvements you can make moving forward.
4. Reduce friction as much as possible and create customer delight
→ Why it matters: the revolutionary SaaS business model is already a truly modern user experience. But the secret to delighting customers—and making sure they come back for more—is enabling aneffortless end-to-end experience.
Companies that provide an effortless user experience are rewarded with increasingly higher conversion and retention rates, loyalty, and reduced customer service costs and decreased SaaS churn rate.
Reducing customer effort with products that are remarkably easy, quick, and enjoyable to use also creates a sense of goodwill and connection between your brand and your customers.
→ Who’s involved: reducing customer effort requires cross-functional product and support teams, and a customer-led approach to gathering feedback and putting it to use. That means going beyond the standard CS playbook to set your company apart from the ever-expanding field of competitors.
Consider the talent you need to communicate with while remaining agile. This could mean Product Managers, developers, QA resources, as well as representatives from customer support and customer success departments—all working together to identify points of friction, understand the user experience, customer behavior, and the why behind it.
→ How to optimize it: make it easy to do business with you by reducing the customer’s effort wherever they are on their journey:
Gather and analyze customer behavior and feedback: when it comes to reducing friction, understanding customers and improving the user experience is a great place to start. For a SaaS product, this is where behavior analytics and product experience insights tools—like Heatmaps, Feedback, Session Recordings, and Surveys—can help you understand user behavior and reveal their likes and dislikes, points of friction within the customer experience, and their blockers and pain points.
Redesign and improve their product based on feedback: now that you have the data you need to optimize your product, it’s time to start working on solving problems and providing your customers with the best CX possible. Identify the areas that need improvement, as pointed out by the customers themselves, and deliver what your users actually need and want from your product.
Make it easy for customers to self-serve: in the same way content marketing empowers prospective customers to self-educate, self-service allows them to evaluate a product. Provide efficient, friendly customer service and spend time optimizing those touchpoints, but also allow customers to self-serve where they want to. Focus on ensuring customers have what they need, when they need it.
Provide a user-friendly website experience: your website is the first impression of your SaaS company that your users experience. If they face difficulty navigating it or have to contact your company repeatedly to get an issue resolved (for example, needing to call after trying unsuccessfully to solve a problem through the website), it can impact their perception of the SaaS customer experience.
These elements are critical to your SaaS company, and therefore your customer experience. By optimizing elements that bring on these types of hurdles, you’ll be on the right path towards a smoother customer experience.
How SaaS teams use Hotjar to continuously improve UX
Payment platform Razorpay knows that their success depends on providing a clear, seamless experience for its users. The company uses Hotjar Surveys and Session Recordings to create a more usable dashboard and build a better product, with each key feature release.
Saurabh Soni, Product Designer at Razorpay, says that “the best thing about it is the ease of use: we don't need to keep bugging the front-end team, and we can do most of the things directly from the dashboard.”
5. Educate your customers about your SaaS product
→ Why it matters: providing free educational resources creates additional value for customers, and is something every SaaS company should be doing to improve the customer experience.
Helping customers learn and grow using your product or service will make your brand memorable—and make customers more loyal.
→ Who’s involved: product and customer success teams should collaborate to make educational and product-related content more accessible to prospective and existing customers. Inputs from marketing and sales can also help shed light on various customer needs.
→ How to optimize it: here’s how to make sure you spend time creating content that’s useful to your customer experience (and your own objectives):
Keep it relevant: identify pain points and analyze what your customers need to be successful when using your product
Make your customers’ voices heard and taken into account: generate content to communicate your solutions clearly to them
Provide a self-service customer portal: empower customers with a knowledge base or learning portal where they can educate themselves on your product, find troubleshooting guides, and discover product-related information whenever they need it
How we do it at Hotjar
Creating a standout customer experience is an all-hands approach. At Hotjar, our strategies to make the CX smoother include educational resources like Hotjar Learning, our extensive Help Center, and in-app product updates.
We also have a public product roadmap that we make available to our customers, to keep you informed of exciting new updates.
6. Take your customer support to the next level
→ Why it matters: CX involves and affects every department within a company—but customers often interact with customer support more than other teams. With that in mind, SaaS companies should aim to enhance the support experience.
→ Who’s involved: in addition to their own research, product teams should look to the customer support and customer success departments to understand how customers feel about certain parts of the product experience, and help them identify new features and fixes to prioritize.
→ How to optimize it: here are a few tools that you can consider to take your customer support to the next level:
Self-service knowledge base: this allows customer support representatives to find answers to customer questions quickly, which will reduce customer frustrations and increase trust in your SaaS company. Additionally, a knowledge base can help customer support representatives build their knowledge and skills even when they’re not interacting with customers.
Surveys: sending regular on-site and external surveys allows you to collect feedback from users who are currently in your product, giving you insights on specific aspects and elements of your product or site. Capturing in-the-moment details and experiences from real users helps you be proactive with your support experience—anticipating the needs of your customers ahead of time and taking action, which prevents small issues from becoming big ones.
Chatbots: using omnichannel chatbots and virtual assistants lets you support your customers 24/7. You can even enable live chat on your website and application to help customers resolve their queries. By offering 24/7 support and immediate assistance, you can recognize customer needs and offer a more satisfying customer experience.
Feedback widgets: when placed throughout the product, a feedback widget lets customers express frustration and delight by highlighting specific elements of a page, rating how those elements make them feel with emoticons, and adding written feedback. That feedback helps you address and remove blockers, and identify and repeat what works.
Helpdesk: resolving technical difficulties is easier with a live or automated helpdesk, especially with the extra input of an omnichannel AI-powered solution.
Remember: you may not immediately get to everyone's problem, but you should create a culture of caring that your customers can trust. This shows customers that you are invested in their success, which leads to improved loyalty, and helps them evolve into advocates of your brand.
Simply practice patience, empathy, and consistency. Fantastic customer service is all about continuous learning from past experiences. Always listen to your customers and communicate with them clearly for a faster resolution.
7. Track metrics that span the customer lifecycle
→ Why it matters: the key to offering intrinsic value to your customers while operating in a competitive SaaS market is delivering an engaging experience throughout the customer lifecycle.
Customer experience used to be measured based on metrics like adoption and customer satisfaction. Today’s greatest customer experiences are based on metrics that provide insights that span the full customer lifecycle, unify customer data, and track customers’ personal journeys through the products they’re using.
Measuring CX should start during the sales process and extend all the way through the client lifecycle. This can ensure that the customer experience doesn’t end at adoption, but continues through to renewal and expansion.
By measuring your customers’ experience and analyzing the results, you can use the insight to improve your CX strategy.
→ Who’s involved: measuring CX involves everyone from the customer success team, who’s running customer experience surveys, to the CEO and other execs, who should sit in on interviews (or listen to recordings) to better empathize with customers and have a stronger appreciation for what you’re trying to accomplish.
→ How to optimize it: one of the best ways to improve your customers’ experience is to determine their end goal and define milestones to achieve it.Focus on long-term CX metrics that ensure customers achieve their desired outcomes from your product:
Customer Effort Score (CES): measures the effort required for a customer to achieve a goal (e.g. fix a problem, place an order)
Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): whether a customer is satisfied with a specific element of their experience
Net Promoter Score® (NPS): measures customer engagement by analyzing the likelihood that customers will recommend you to friends or colleagues
Having these goals in mind beforehand will help create and set customer expectations, which will in turn enhance customer service and satisfaction. By setting goals and KPIs, it will become easier for you to track the progress of your SaaS company.
Your ticket to a better SaaS customer experience
With a good CX strategy—and the right CX tools—you can provide the most exquisite SaaS customer experience throughout the entire lifecycle, resulting in satisfied and secure customers (which eventually leads to strong, long-term relationships).
Great customer experience is built on the values of your business and honed by what your customers want. It’s hard to replicate by competitors, and so gives you an edge that you can maintain throughout your business’s life.
Elevate your SaaS customer experience
Use Hotjar’s product experience insights to improve your customer experience by perfecting your understanding of customer needs.