‘Churn is a dangerous ingredient that can’t be ignored’ – Claire Burge, This is Productivity

“Eat. Sleep. SaaS. Repeat.”

That wasn’t just a slogan but the anthem for this year’s SaaStock at the RDS in Dublin. Just listen:

For the 1,500 or so people attending the conference, one of the most obvious early themes are the challenges and dangers from churn. That’s the rate at which companies lose customers. Sometimes, you have to be willing to lose customers to scale.

But as the team from Boston-based Price Intelligently showed: Churn is a dangerous ingredient that can’t be ignored.

CEO of Dublin-based This is Productivity Claire Burge says far too many SaaS companies tolerate churn early on, only to regret it when they grow far too large.

She argues better sales automation must be coupled with human interactions to not only recruit new customers, but keep them.

Burge, a South Africa-native founded her company in Dublin but recently expanded in the United States with an office in Dallas, Texas.

At #SaaStock17, Burge spoke with Dublin Globe’s Kevin Kline about the company’s U.S. expansion, what role Dublin will play in her company’s future, and how to prevent high churn rates early in a company’s development:

Dublin Globe: You said companies need to take on churn earlier versus later. What can a small company do to take on churn?

Claire Burge: First, introduce customer success into the pipe much much earlier. Proactively prevent it from becoming a problem in the first place.

Second, understand that customer onboarding is vital and a significant contributor to solving churn down the road if done properly. There’s a product training piece, but there’s also a very real human piece.

Third, define your client journey not only by the product touch points but by the human workflow and process changes that are being brought about by your product. Understanding these two faces of your client journey leads to better customer service. So you need to make sure that when your’re onboarding, you’re not only onboarding from the product perspective, but that you’re onboarding from a human workflow perspective.

So understand and make sure that you [have] training mechanisms in place inside your team to offer to your client. You do this by asking questions like “how is it going to change your workflow?”, “how are you going to embed this into your overall ecosystem of tools?”

Dublin Globe: Is it some sort of specific language, or is it just a matter of knowing your customer inside and out?

Claire Burge: It’s very simply sitting down and having a conversation with your clients. Understand where the tool fits into their workday.

Very few people think about the ripple effect from SaaS implementation. Once they actually start thinking that through, because you as a product company are taking that lead, you’re building a lot of trust. From this trust and understanding, product expansion is going to be natural.

Dublin Globe: With this new expansion into the U.S., what are some of the lessons that you’re learning?

Claire Burge: We were really proactive about this is when we moved into the U.S..

We actually did a very deep analysis across 17 different cities in the U.S. and we looked at a number different factors. For example: retention of staff, hiring of staff, the cost of acquisition, the cost of someone actually being able to live in that city.

First, we chose to specifically avoid the two coasts due to abnormally high costs of doing business. 

Secondly, we chose Dallas because of the ease of access to Fortune 1000 companies. We could service our partners better. 

Thirdly, we chose Dallas because of the type of money found in the ecosystem there. What’s different about the money in Dallas is that it’s a very long-term-thinking money. It’s generational money that dates back to the cotton trade and later oil and gas. These investors understand that building viable business models are a priority. One needs significant upfront investment and needs to think about markets and business growth over long periods of time. That’s different from the 3-5 year turnarounds being demanded on the East and West Coasts. 

Dublin Globe: Where does Dublin fit into your development?

Claire Burge: Dublin is always going to be a critical location. Dublin will be a development hub for us because of the talent here. Naturally, as a customer success business, language is absolutely key for us. The fact that Dublin is so central to so many language offerings, it makes sense to operate a core part of our operation from here. Plus, one cannot ignore the taxation and intellectual property benefits that come from being headquartered in Ireland.

Dublin Globe: What’s next for This is Productivity?

Claire Burge: We are both a product and service solutions company. We are focused on always improving our service to serve customers with excellence and we are focused on building products that enable them to naturally gain greater benefit from the products they purchase. 

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