Why is eliminating friction in your SaaS customer experience so important?

The short answer is that it’s important because eliminating friction in your SaaS customer experience will grow your business, the long answer is more complicated. The world has become more and more accustomed to having instant access to whatever they want.

Here are a few examples:

  • I can order something on Amazon and get it delivered to my door the same day
  • We carry around mini-computers in our pockets that are faster and more powerful than laptops from 3 or 4 years ago
  • Services like Hulu and Spotify provide us with instant and nearly unlimited access to tv shows, movies, and music

Technology has enabled us to purchase and consume products and services at our leisure. We’ve become spoiled. Slow internet or loss of cell service ruins our day, and if we’re unable to get 2-day shipping from Amazon … well what’s the point, I’ll just go to the store.

How is this relevant to eliminating friction in your SaaS Customer Experience?

Well, humans have been trained to get things now! The bar has been set extremely high and as a result, your customer experience for your SaaS product is held to equally high expectations.

This is the first factor that you need to take into consideration when optimizing your customer experience. Instant access has become the norm.​

The second thing you need to be aware of has to do with the power of choice. The rise of cloud services and SaaS has reduced the barrier to entry, resulting in a more competitive and product-rich landscape … in other words, people have more choice than ever.

In addition to SaaS reducing the barrier to entry for new products and services, it has also made it significantly easier for consumers to “change their mind” once they have made a decision. Winning a deal is no longer good enough, the changing landscape demands that businesses work to continuously keep their customers engaged and productive.

What is friction and where does it come from?

Friction is anything that gets in the way of your customer accomplishing their goals. It could be a tiny speed bump, a toll booth, or full-on traffic jam; all of these obstacles have an effect on your customer experience.

To understand where friction comes from we need to circle back to understanding your customer. The better you understand your customer, the more efficiently you can create a SaaS customer experience to get them from point A to point B.​

We design products to solve problems for our target audience (not the whole world) but as you might imagine even our target audience has varying goals and objectives. Every assumption you make about your customer impacts the experience they will have with your product which is why understanding their intent is so important.

Getting this wrong results in friction.

Humans also have a tendency to over-complicate problems and solutions, and in doing so unintentionally introduce friction into the customer experience. This can happen when we try to please existing customers by building custom features, it can happen when we lose sight of the overall objective, and it can happen when we have varying opinions on how to solve a particular problem.

Ok, now that we’ve identified some of the ways friction gets introduced to our product, let’s explore some techniques for identifying and eliminating friction in your SaaS customer experience.

Before you can start to work on eliminating friction in your SaaS, you need to understand your customer and get crystal clear on how you’re going to address their problem.

What are some of the techniques used to eliminate friction in my SaaS customer experience?

  1. Keep it simple – solve your customer’s problem in the most efficient way possible. Remove unneeded features and have a rigorous process for getting new features added to your product that includes customer feedback. Be wary of using the same friendlies over and over, it’s best to include new customers and have variety when vetting new features.
  2. Measure the time it takes customers to activate, record user sessions, and review the ones that get stuck for opportunities to improve customer experience.
  3. Measure the time it takes customers to achieve value, record user sessions, and review the ones that get stuck for opportunities to improve customer experience.
  4. Measure feature usage and consider ways to improve adoption and/or remove the features that get little or no use.
  5. Be deliberate about onboarding and what you want your customers to accomplish and then help them get there. Test different techniques such as email programs, in-app messaging, live customer support, guided tours, webinars, etc.


What are some of the tools I can use for eliminating friction in my SaaS customer experience?

There are a number of tools in this category, too many to name so I’ll run through a few of the tools I’m most familiar with and whenever possible name some of the alternatives.

MixPanel – when it comes to product analytics this is a great place to start. MixPanel has a number of features, but the core value is in-app event tracking. You can use MixPanel to add event tracking for the key moments in your customer experience (e.g. activation, value, key feature usage, paid upgrade, etc). Some alternatives to MixPanel would be Google Tag Manager, HeapAnalytics, or Segment.

Appcues – they brand themselves as the product led growth platform, a bold claim that has some truth to it. Their product is a leader when it comes to personalized onboarding, driving feature adoption, and collecting in-app feedback. These are all critical components to your SaaS Customer Experience. Some alternatives here would be WalkMe, and Pendo.

FullStory – record user sessions and collect a lot of engagement data using FullStory. This is a powerful tool for really digging in and analyzing user experience. Recorded sessions deliver tons of insights into areas of confusion and friction, providing much more color than typical conversion metrics. Record sessions, define funnels, build segments, filter by device, etc. It’s a powerful tool, check it out. Other tools that are similar include HotJar, CrazyEgg, and MouseFlow.

These tools provide a wealth of data and a strong foundation for understanding and improving your customer experience. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Every SaaS business is going to have unique requirements and priorities. The 3 categories above will provide you with enough intelligence to operate with confidence and as your growth stack matures you can fill in the gaps to meet your specific needs.

What are the key metrics I should be tracking to measure friction in my app and my ability to improve my SaaS customer experience?

The first thing you need to do is define your funnel and some of the key metrics associated with your customer experience. The main things to focus on here are activation, value, and key feature usage.

Activation Rate

In order for your customers to begin using your product, there is a certain amount of setup required – this is referred to as activation. This is going to be different for every product, so it’s up to you to define what constitutes the bare minimum required to begin using your product. Once you define that moment in your app, trigger an event using (mixpanel, segment, or google tag manager) when customers reach that milestone.

Once you have the event firing you’ll then want to pay attention to:

Activation Rate = the % of your customers that reach activation

(Total Activated Accounts / Total Accounts Created)

Time to Activate = how long does it take for your customers to reach activation

(Activation TimeStamp – Account Creation TimeStamp)


Once you’ve gone through the process of defining what value looks like in your app, take the same steps you did with activation and fire off an event when customers reach your defined threshold for value.

Once you’ve defined value and have the event firing you’ll then want to pay attention to:

Value Rate = the % of your customers that reach value

(Total Accounts Achieved Value / Total Accounts Created)

Time to Value = how long does it take for your customers to reach value

(Value TimeStamp – Account Creation TimeStamp)

Key Feature Usage

Understanding key feature usage can help you understand a range of things about your customers and your product. The data can help you understand if you are attracting the right customers, if you’re prioritizing the right development work, if your approach to onboarding is working, and what features are more likely to result in paid accounts, to name a few. The key here is to tag your key features (maybe all features depending on the number) with event tracking so you have the data to analyze as questions arise.

Once you define your key events and have the event(s) firing you’ll want to pay attention to:

Overall Key Feature Usage – % of total accounts using each feature

(Total Accounts Using Feature X / Total Accounts Created)

Active Users – this one requires you to define an active user. Your definition should include some level of key feature usage so you can be sure the activity is value-driven and not simply a login. One word of advice, creating a soft measure for value will cause the remainder of your funnel to suffer. Don’t cheat, hold your product accountable. (Active users per your definition (daily, weekly, monthly))​​​

Using this guide you should provide the information you need to put in place a plan to identify friction within your SaaS customer experience, measure the key customers touch points and interactions, and track your progress towards eliminating friction.

Check out The Beginners Guide to Product Led Growth and learn how to plan, execute and measure a product led growth strategy for your SaaS business.

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