Monday, January 19, 2015

How we drove 200+% adoption growth for the second year in a row

As the HireVue fiscal year draws to a close and we review our Customer Success accomplishments and metrics for the year, one metric stands out. In 2013, my first year leading the Customer Success Team, we drove a 280% increase in adoption of the product by our customers. In 2014, we continued this momentum and drove another 210% increase in adoption over 2013. I am incredibly proud of my team as well as our partners in other departments for their support in this achievement. Product adoption doesn’t just happen. With innovative and disruptive digital interaction software, we encounter objections, frequently very strong and vocal objections, from end users who are being asked by executives and thought leaders to adopt digital interviewing. Overcoming these objections and driving adoption has become, quite purposefully, a key objective of my Customer Success team.

Why does adoption matter?

In Customer Success, there are a lot of areas of focus including renewals, revenue retention, customer satisfaction scores, executive relationships, sponsorship programs, among other important measures of customer health. At HireVue, our Customer Success team owns all of these important SaaS metrics. While these measures are all very important to the health of the business, product adoption underlies all of them. Without product adoption, the renewal conversation is significantly more difficult. Why would a customer who is not using the product continue to invest in it? Without product adoption, customer satisfaction is more a measure of the effectiveness of your product marketing than the actual use of the product. Without product adoption, executive relationships, references and sponsorship all ring hollow and eventually fail. At HireVue, I chose to focus our Customer Success team on product adoption to ensure that we were building a solid foundation for our customers to be successful.

How do we drive adoption?

Driving adoption of an innovative and disruptive technology is not an easy task. End users have a major stake in maintaining the status quo. Whether it is indifference, a fear of something new, a focus on the way it has always been done, or something more nefarious, end users are often reluctant to see the positive in a technology change. Executive sponsors are often at the mercy of these end users who live in the details of day to day operations and can selectively share their experiences, choosing to focus on what isn’t working versus the positive or value add of our solution. The last two years of massive adoption growth at HireVue has at times felt like pushing a square rock uphill in the snow. I have found that there are four keys to driving product adoption, despite the objections of end users, to achieve our business results.


Viral is a purple unicorn in enterprise software. While a dog on a skateboard or a cat in a box can go viral, enterprise software, especially enterprise software for the HR function, simply doesn’t. Driving product adoption starts with a clear focus on adoption as a goal. At HireVue, one of our four annual company goals is to “Drive Massive Adoption”. While Customer Success is the clear owner of this company goal, achieving it takes the entire HireVue team. We partner with our Professional Services team to ensure customers are set up for success, with our Support team to ensure any issues are quickly resolved, and with our Product and Engineering teams to ensure that any product gaps to massive adoption are quickly resolved. In Customer Success, we talk about adoption constantly and hitting our goal is a clear priority for each individual as well as the broader team.


We start with a big audacious goal for product adoption as a company and as a Customer Success team. But having a big and agreed upon company goal is just the start. To ensure that everyone knows how we are tracking against that goal, my team developed clear measures of success for individuals and the company. Every Friday our Customer Success Business Analyst distributes a company-wide email announcing our results and how we are tracking against our monthly and annual adoption goal. A second email goes to the Customer Success Managers with their individual portfolio results and how they are tracking against their month-over-month adoption growth number. Adoption is a key discussion point during my one-on-one and team meetings, and has been a highlight for the last two years in the board presentations.


End user behavior can be an obstacle to reaching our adoption goals. Enterprise software doesn’t just go viral, and end users simply don’t embrace change regardless of how brilliant our technology might be. Driving massive adoption requires continuous innovation. Some innovation comes from our Product and Engineering teams who partner with us to ensure end user feedback is heard and acted on to remove any barrier to adoption. Additional innovation comes from within Customer Success. We are constantly changing our approach, our messaging and our tools to identify what works and to discard what doesn’t. We have found that End User Spotlights, short marketing-like pieces highlighting how one end user realized success with the platform, are an effective way to drive adoption. Through the spotlight we note their success and provide a forum for them to be recognized as a leader by their peers. Spotlights have worked particularly well to drive small incremental adoption growth. We have also found that the industry analysis (peer comparisons) we provide as a part of our quarterly business reviews are effective at driving more substantial change and adoption from the sponsor level. Similarly, we have found success driving change and adoption by highlighting the ROI the organization is, and more importantly, could be, realizing. We partnered with The ROI Shop on an innovative and simple way to articulate ROI so it did not become an obstacle in itself.


Finally, we drive adoption by celebrating success at the individual and at the company level. Throughout the year we have seen breakthrough results from several Customer Success Managers and their portfolios. We take the time to highlight these individuals to the entire company. Additionally, each Customer Success Manager receives a quarterly bonus based on the adoption growth of the portfolio. We mark the milestones and celebrate success on the way to our company goal and have aligned incentives so individuals realize the benefit of persistence in driving adoption.

Driving massive product adoption is one of the keys to running a successful SaaS business. Adoption is the foundation that solid logo retention, revenue retention, customer satisfaction and sponsorship is based on. Driving massive adoption is not rocket science, but it requires a clear company-wide focus, tools to measure and report on progress along the way, innovation from across the organization to understand, learn from and meet objections, and personal and company-wide incentives to drive focused behavior. I am fortunate to have an organization that values the importance of product adoption, and in response to the teams’ efforts, have seen a second year of over 200% adoption growth.