3 Customer Retention Strategies for the Pandemic’s Next Wave

This is a guest blog post by Anita Toth, Chief Churn Crusher

This is shocking.

Did you know that 60% of SaaS companies reported a negative impact on customer retention and upsell deals due to the pandemic?

Customer retention, along with new customer acquisition, has been challenging for most companies when the pandemic hit. The second quarter of 2020 was chaotic. From hastily creating home offices  in closets to figuring out new operations to scrambling to retain customers or learning to handle the tsunami of new customers, everyone struggled.

But as the initial wave of the pandemic winds down and everyone prepares for the impending next wave, there is rising uncertainty for businesses around what that next wave will look like and how it will impact them.

This article shares three successful approaches B2B SaaS companies took to retain customers in the first wave. The goal of this article is to show you options and maybe trigger some thoughts or new ideas around different customer retention strategies that you can employ before the next wave hits.

 

#1. Train to Listen

Just like in the first wave, your customers’ lives will  be turned upside down once the next wave hits. As customers struggle to adjust and manage, they’ll want to know their troubles are being heard by the businesses they interact with.

Customer Success teams are in a unique position to listen to their customers’ challenges. While you might be tempted to  renew their subscription or sell them a new product, the best course of action is to empathize with their current situation and listen to what they truly need.

As you know, when people feel they are heard, they’re more open to listening to suggestions on how you can help them and are more receptive to your offers. You and I both know how awful it feels to have someone disregard what we say and focus on their end goal instead. I’ve had a few situations where the person was more interested in the sale than truly helping me find the right solution. I’m sure you have too.

To increase customer retention in the next wave,  train your Customer Success team to listen to what the customer says they need to find the right solution for them. One of the best ways to do this is to practice a specific type of roleplay that focuses on having difficult conversations.

Will, head of customer success at a website personalization software company, had his team roleplay as a key training tool for CSMs during the initial wave of the pandemic. The task associated with the role play was to understand how COVID affected the customer’s business and to determine its impact.

“Doing the role play allowed CSMs to practice getting better at having difficult or awkward conversations,” shares Will. “The goal is to help CSMs feel more at ease with having tough conversations while learning to ask the right questions that get the answers they need to offer the best solutions.

“You want to hear what the customer’s pain is about so you can address it directly. Focus on the negatives but always steer the question toward how the customer sees the situation moving forward. The key is to progress the conversation into the future and focus on the prospective outcomes you will deliver.  Don’t labour on the pain, always move the conversation toward the future.”

According to Will, this specific type of role playing helped CSMs develop stronger and deeper relationships with their customers. It’s also built a new level of trust and respect between the customer and the CSM.

 

#2. Update Customer Knowledge Bases

Sometimes you want to interact with customer support and sometimes you just want to find the solution on your own. Low-touch support services, as you know from your own experience, can be satisfying  if done right.

However, most companies never consider regularly auditing their knowledge bases (by removing or updating old reference pages) as a way to decrease support minutes and make the customer experience even better. And, as you know, a better customer experience leads to better customer retention.

We’ve all encountered an incomplete or out-of-date knowledge base that inadvertently forces you to spend even more time contacting support for a simple answer. It’s frustrating for you as the customer — wasting your precious time — and it diminishes your experience.

“When COVID hit, our support volume increased for things that weren’t typically in our knowledge base,” shared Matthew Serel, founder of AccuPoint.

AccuPoint leveraged their Facebook Group to answer questions that were not found in their knowledge base. It was the fastest and easiest way to get  urgent questions answered. The Facebook  Group also became one of AccuPoint’s more effective customer support tools. If a user posts a question in the Group that is already answered in the knowledge base, the Group’s  moderators put a link to the existing knowledge base  page in the comments. This redirecting trained AccuPoint’s customers to check the knowledge base first for answers. 

“The more you educate your customers on the platform, the more they become advocates and refer your platform for you,” says Timothy Murenzi, founder of GoAnalyze.

GoAnalyze had phenomenal results after updating their knowledge base. They saw a 60% drop in support tickets and prevented nearly 22% of their customers from churning.

Over  an intensive two-month period, GoAnalyze directly reached out to  customers who had submitted support tickets six months prior. They asked these customers to take a 32-question survey to gain a thorough  understanding of  how they used the knowledge base and what they did when the answers weren’t available.

After the results were analyzed,  company founder, Timothy Murenzi, sent a communication to all customers informing them that updating the knowledge base was now a top priority.  Only after  sending the communication did they learn that, even with available customer support,  nearly 22% of their customers were considering leavingbecause the knowledge base was so poor.

Don’t make the same mistake by underestimating the consequences of hosting stale, inadequate, or cumbersome customer help resources. Create a plan to update all your knowledge base pages, either as a sprint or simply as part of a weekly routine. Methodically examine  each page and note needed additions or deletions. Then make those changes.

Updating your knowledge base may seem insignificant  upon first glance, but as you see, it has  a big impact on customer retention. Not only does it  make the customer experience better and increase user adoption, but it also takes extra pressure off your customer support team, giving them  more time and energy to focus on complex customer issues and concerns instead of trivial ones.

 

#3. Get a 360-Degree View of Your Customers  

Investing in customer relationships has always been a central focus for  leaders, but now more than ever, those relationships need to be expanded and nurtured.

With accounts undergoing massive furloughs and layoffs — often affecting or displacing key players — maintaining relationships has become a serious challenge. 

David Ellin, chief customer officer at Centric Leadership Strategies, recommends expanding relationships as much as possible:  

“Given the already high number of layoffs and furloughs, a next wave could likely bring more of the same. With one of the underlying reasons for churn attributed to loss of a key contact/decision-maker, expanding relationships (and showing value) becomes critical.”

Will, head of customer success at a website personalization software company, is also taking the same approach.

CSMs at Will’s company are reaching out to end-users, champions, and decision-makers to build a 360-degree view of the account.

CSMs find reaching out to the different people in the account difficult at first but when they persist, they develop deeper and more meaningful relationships with those customers.

According to Will “While it’s difficult to begin with, it’s given deeper, and more meaningful relationships with customers. Our CSMs know them at their worst and they know them at their best. The pandemic offers a unique chance to have one common thing with everyone else in the world. That commonality can really help develop that relationship into something deeper and more meaningful.”

 

Conclusion

No one knows for sure how this pandemic will change our lives.

One thing for sure is that your customers will want to know that they will be supported and offered the right solutions for their business when the next wave hits.

Pandemic or not, one thing is for certain—companies that focus on improving their customer retention and giving the best support to their customers now and into the future will be better prepared to cope with whatever the next wave will bring.

And in Will’s words: “We’re with our customers on the journey to change.”

 

To learn more about how to manage during these uncertain times, read this previous article written by Anita on three strategies to help your Customer Success team feel supported and led in these trying times so they can continue to give excellent support to your customers. 


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Fighting Churn is a newsletter of inspiration, ideas and news on customer success, churn, renewal and other stuff and is curated by ChurnZero.

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