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What Makes Trust the Currency of SaaS

The three levels of trust that make or break SaaS relationships, according to Propel CEO Ross Meyercord. Part of our blog series “The CEO Lens.”

Our blog series “The CEO Lens” chronicles insights from Ross Meyercord’s learned experiences as CEO of Propel Software.

Trust is an interesting concept. It applies to individual relationships (Joe trusts Jane) and the corporate level (Bob trusts Propel) and somewhat weirdly at the application level (Sally trusts Google Apps).

Trust is something that can be quickly gained if you play your cards right, and even more quickly lost. 

Trust gained is a currency that can persist over time, even in spite of issues and obstacles. Trust lost can drag on for an extended period of time or even forever, despite major effort exerted to gain it back. I believe to win and thrive in SaaS, we need to focus on all three vectors of individual, corporate, and application-level trust.

1. Individual Trust

Individual trust is something we all understand and experience every day in our personal lives. Roles such as customer success managers or professional service providers experience both sides of this in their customer dealings.

In SaaS, there are individuals you do or don’t trust when it comes to customers or prospects, and conversely, they trust you, or don’t.

In the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with dozens of Propel customers—one of whom was Samsara, a fast-growing IoT technology company. When speaking with one of their executives, I asked my typical “how are we doing”  question. I was quite pleased with how the whole company rallied to reboot their implementation of our software and successfully brought a ton of value into their current implementation. He went on to say what a great job his assigned Propel account executive (AE) did on their account. This customer trusts that AE.

2. Corporate Trust

I also met with a CIO from a prospect who currently uses software from a competitor of Propel’s. He does not trust this competitor brand, full stop. During our introductions, he even asked if my colleague or I had ever worked there. His distrust is so great it would even extend to the company’s alumni!

When we answered we had not worked there, he replied he didn’t think so (I took that as a compliment!). I tell this story specifically to emphasize a point… leaving an unsuccessful or unresolved customer in your wake may not only leave you with issues at the current customer but also run the risk of future poisoned wells wherever that executive goes in the future. Every customer, every time, needs to be a success.

3. Application Trust

The last angle of trust is at the Application level.  Over time app-level trust will equal company trust, but initially, they can be perceived differently.  

A customer may trust Propel generally but not trust a specific release or a new feature, for example. Application trust is built over time by shipping products on time, at high quality, and with solutions that allow customers to derive value. 

Customers explicitly state their trust in the apps when they renew and expand with Propel. 

One thing I love about SaaS business models—there is no ambiguity or guessing games with customers. They express their trust explicitly in that act of renewal.

Final Thoughts

In the world of business, trust is like that reliable friend who's got your back, whether you're navigating personal relationships, corporate partnerships, or the apps you can't live without. It's fascinating how you can hook someone’s trust in an instant, but one wrong move and it's like trying to catch a slippery fish—almost impossible.

We've seen how trust plays out in the SaaS game: from the customer success heroes who earn their stripes one successful interaction at a time, to the almost imperceptible feeling of reliance on a trustworthy app. One that proves themselves, release after release, to make you renew with that confident nod.

For more from Ross, check out his article CIO To CEO: A Transition That Delivers Immediate Impact (originally published in Forbes).

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Ross Meyercord
CEO, Propel

Ross Meyercord is CEO of Propel Software, a SaaS provider dedicated to helping high tech, medtech and consumer goods companies build compelling and profitable products. Throughout his 30+ year career, Meyercord has worked in a variety of capacities, including directly with manufacturers to implement PLM and QMS solutions, managed global technology organizations, and has been instrumental in guiding customer-facing teams to increase customer success and drive corporate growth.

Fun Fact: When not working or with family, you will likely find Ross on the tennis courts.

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Ross Meyercord