10 Ways to Reduce Churn
We all know the importance of customer loyalty. What many companies forget is that loyalty is earned and it doesn’t magically just appear. Many companies are baffled as to what it takes to earn loyalty. Too many companies think loyalty is earned from product use alone, or perhaps a renewal. To the customer, it means products perform as advertised, additional value is provided in the form of information, and the experience is as expected over the course of the product’s lifecycle.
Just because a product isn’t tossed out doesn’t mean a customer is loyal. The size of the investment, extent of process changes made to integrate the product, and/or the hassle factor in switching out are hurdles that deter customers from hastily churning. They refer to it as being “stuck” or “hostage”.
Value is in the eye of the beholder. It is multi-dimensional and contextual. Customers perceive value as realized over time and cumulative. It’s the summation of the pluses and minuses of the customer experience. Understanding what “loyal” means in the eyes of the customer is the key to how vendors can avoid churn.
If all you do is focus on value and do it right, you don’t need to worry about the rest. You can learn a lot about value and loyalty through analytics – but it’s important to remember that value actually changes over time for your customer. Vendors need to “continuously drive momentum within customers.”
Many companies are embracing analytics to help spot customers that might churn based on their behavior patterns. But the analytics tracked need to be the right ones and show the link between vendor behavior and customer churn. That linkage is key to convincing organizations there is a big pink elephant in the room.
A health score could be comprised a five leading indicators:
Usage and engagement
Attainment of business outcomes
Utilization and coverage
Operational metrics (such as support, payments…)
Usage and Engagement is an indicator of satisfaction and value. Comparing trend lines for each user, account, product and transaction enables vendors to easily spot changes in customer behavior. Leveraging these metrics and others, Artificial Intelligence makes it is possible to identify those customers at risk of churn – and when the churn may happen. It’s then up to the vendor’s customer success manager to ask “why?” Asking “why” reveals how and what the vendor needs to change to reduce churn.
Aside from analytics or AI to help improve retention, below are other best practices:
1. Keep the customer-to-CSM ratio between 25 and 50.
Keeping the ratio below 50 enables front line personnel to develop real relationships with customers and have the time to meaningfully impact the customers’ definition of success. Enterprise customers perceive greater value and more loyal when the help they receive is customized to their situation instead of generic.
2. Implement company-wide transparency and real-time reporting of customer health scores.
For every employee, regardless of function, impacting customers, directly or indirectly. When employees are blind to how satisfied customers are, they don’t have the opportunity to make informed changes to how they work. Customer health scores are not a secret; sharing them empowers every employee to make a difference.
3. Have the CEO and leadership team model the company’s customer values in their behavior.
Employees look to leaders and emulate their behavior. Which is why having posters and platitudes around customer-centricity fails every time when leaderships’ actions do not mirror their words. The fastest way to pivot a company to be customer-centric is to hold management accountable for their actions.
4. Customer Success, Marketing, Professional Services and Sales jointly own customer-facing processes.
Organizations are rife with silos which impede value-creating customer engagement and alignment. Instead of ‘handling’ a customer off from Marketing to Sales to Professional Services to Customer Success, bring the groups together and charter them to collective re-engineer their processes to not only streamline customer engagement but also increase value delivery, as defined by the customer.
5. Measure CSMs on their customers’ satisfaction, business outcomes, and CLV compare that to cohort benchmarks.
Customer Success managers today are often measured on renewal rates and up/cross-sales. The result is behavior focused on the next transaction instead of customer lifetime value. While revenue is important, future revenues comes more easily if customers achieve their outcomes, of which product usage is only a small part. Measure CSMs on health metrics as well as within and across like customer groups and cohorts; the trends lines will be accurate and insightful.
6. Replace periodic check-ins with contextual engagement.
Check-ins consisting of “how are you doing and do you have any questions?” are appreciated by the customer once or twice. Front line employees should look at customer product usage, trouble tickets, etc. compared to benchmarks and from that, craft the scope and content of routine check-ins. That’s the secret of customer loyalty; make it all about the customer and provide advice they can act on right away.
7. Continuously capture and make available to customers tribal and domain specific knowledge.
In every vendor organization is a treasure trove of knowledge and expertise; share it. Value, in most cases, is defined by B2B customers as access to the knowledge, experience and best practice that is in the heads of Professional Services, Customer Success, Engineering, etc. Leaving it in their heads is a disservice to the organization’s potential as well as to customers. Leverage it and turn it into your key differentiator.
8. Use post-purchase journey maps to identify key trigger point and align processes.
Most companies believe they understand their customers’ post-purchase journey. But if they truly did, churn would not be such a hot topic. Instead of guessing, journey map the desired and expected post-purchase experience verse reality. This becomes your blueprint for change management, it’s easier and faster approach.
9. Enhance products with multi- channel engagement and just-in-time education.
Replace the traditional method of calling customer support or emailing when a customer has an issue or gets stuck. Embed into your products text chat, video calls, Skype phone calls, hardware ‘call-home’ protocols or a direct link to a peer-to-peer community so the user can get the advice they need. If they have to stop and wait for an email response, they’ve lost work productivity and just might not use the product.
10. Set customer expectations during onboarding.
Customers come into the onboarding process with preconceived notions based on other similar products they’ve used in the past. Vendors, however, believe that customers have a blank slate of expectations. Understand those preconceived expectations and clearly and directly address them during onboarding. Also, set the expectations of what they can expect in terms of cadence of contact and scope; it’ll go along way.
Customer success use cases are increasingly becoming more sophisticated and companies, with the help of technology, are looking at customer relationships holistically.
If you are interested in the AI approach to predicting churn, drop me a line.