Customer-Facing Metrics: The New SaaS Imperative

We are generating and collecting more information than ever before. In fact, according to Domo, 90% of all data that exists today was created in the last two years. Woah.

The amount of data available and the ability to track it in real time has given SaaS companies the power to rapidly collect product data, analyze it, and use it to make strategic business decisions. However, these companies are realizing that their customers want access to the same data they are looking at internally. This has introduced a new imperative in SaaS: organizing and distributing data in a way that is clear, engaging, and actionable for customers.

Enter customer-facing metrics, which enables SaaS companies to share usage and performance data directly with their customers as part of the frontend experience. When done well, customer-facing metrics can bring SaaS products to the next level when it comes to acquiring, engaging, and retaining customers. In this article, we explain what customer-facing metrics are and why they are critical to your product’s future success. We’ll also share a few examples of how companies are implementing customer-facing metrics effectively.

Let’s dig in.

What Are Customer-Facing Metrics?

Customer-facing metrics are personalized data delivered seamlessly through the front-end experience. This means real-time or near-real-time data presented in the same look and feel as the rest of the application. SaaS companies are increasingly using customer-facing metrics to highlight relevant data to showcase their value, differentiate their products, and improve their user experience.

What makes customer-facing metrics truly impactful is that (by design) they enhance, rather than disrupt, the product experience. Facebook does an excellent job of this. For example, the platform displays statistics on individual posts (e.g. likes, shares, reactions, etc.) so that users can track engagement in context directly in their news feeds. Additionally, Facebook will show how much additional exposure posts would receive if they were backed by ad funding. Customers seamlessly receive tailored analytical insights that are instantly valuable.

Why Would You Use Customer-Facing Metrics?

Customer-facing metrics tend to come in two forms: usage-based and performance-based data. Both help explain or characterize user behavior. This data can benefit your product in a few important ways.

Highlight the value of your product 

Some of the most essential customer-facing metrics simply show customers how they are using your product. This could mean sharing how many hours customers spend in the application, how many messages they’ve sent, or how many times they logged in. These examples tell your customers that they are regularly engaging with your product and using your product to facilitate results. There’s no easier way to retain customers than to show them data about how much they rely on you.

Offer a better product experience

In addition to highlighting the value of your product, customer-facing metrics can be a great way to increase value provided to customers. In an age of unprecedented data availability, SaaS products are now differentiating based on their ability to curate engaging, personalized data experiences. In fact, curated data experiences are becoming core to many products. Consider Clarity Money, which helps customers track and optimize their financial spending habits through a variety of data-driven insights — the product doesn’t include analytics, the product is analytics. As the bar gets higher and higher, SaaS businesses will increasingly compete based on the personalized data experiences they provide.

Influence usage or encourage specific behaviors

SaaS businesses also use customer-facing metrics to encourage smarter use of their products and share helpful recommendations with users. For example, a company might encourage their customer to switch to a different plan if they are reaching rate limits. Similarly, a freelancing platform could encourage customers to complete or enhance their profiles to generate more contract inquiries. With more decisions being driven by data, customer-facing metrics can be a helpful way to nudge customers toward behaviors that are a win-win for both parties.

Examples of Customer-Facing Metrics

Though customer-facing metrics is still a growing trend, there are a number of companies that are already doing it extremely well.

slackbot metrics

The messaging platform, Slack, shares insights with users directly in their communication feeds. In the screenshot above, we see a company whose leadership sent over 2,000 messages per day in a given week. The users who see this are now thinking, “How would we communicate all of these messages without Slack??” The platform also tracks usage and makes recommendations to customers based on their engagement. For example, the app will suggest leaving channels that aren’t used very often or turning off notifications for conversations that may not be relevant anymore.

Airbnb also deploys customer-facing metrics really wellWithin the front-end experience, the platform will tell hosts how much money they’ve earned by month and project future earnings based on past success.

Airbnb also shares customer-facing metrics that help users improve the quality of their listings so that they can draw in more business. This is a win-win-win. Guests searching for properties have a better marketplace experience, hosts get more value out of the platform, and Airbnb makes more money.

The customer messaging platform, Intercom, shares metrics that segment user response times by day of the week.  Customers are empowered with this information to take action that may improve responsiveness.

Through easy-to-read graphics, Intercom also shares actionable information about when companies are busiest, encouraging them to reallocate resources appropriately.

Implementing Customer-facing Metrics

As the name suggests, being customer-centric is key to success. But there is a lot of planning required in order to do them right. Customer-facing metrics is a truly “full stack” exercise. It’s important that design, UX, frontend, backend, and infrastructure are all at the table and working hand in hand.

It is critical that you understand what metrics your users want to see and carefully plan how you’ll deliver them seamlessly and engagingly within your UI. The iFrame and raw data dump are arch enemies of an impactful customer-facing metrics experience. Dashboard fatigue is a real thing, and too much or too disjointed data risks wearing your customers out and the data getting lost. Instead, create an experience in which data adds value and feels at home within the rest of your application, and your users may never even consciously realize they’re crunching and absorbing data at all.

With backend infrastructure, there’s a lot more complexity than most product teams realize. Some questions to consider are:

  • How will you collect data across multiple streams in real time?
  • Where will you store data so that it stays secure?
  • How will you set up queries and access controls that provide each customer with truly personalized insights?
  • What happens when your customer base goes from hundreds to thousands to millions? Can your analytics stack scale as your business grows?

These are just a few examples of what you need to fully think through before you can successfully implement customer-facing metrics. But when done right, your customers will love you for it. Interested in learning more about how Keen can get you up-and-running quickly with customer-facing metrics? Talk to our solutions team today.