As a Customer Success Management professional, having a customer tell you that they’ll no long be working with you, your company, or using your service can be heart wrenching. You had a decent relationship, things seemed to be going OK – even great, and now you feel like you’ve been blindsided by this news. What just happened? Why did your customer churn?
If you’ve been in this position before then you know it’s a difficult discussion to have with management about why that customer you put in your forecast to renew at 95% has now decided to go with a competitor or no longer use your solution.
There’s a seemingly never-ending list of reasons this happens but I’ll be focusing on the ones that we as Customer Success Management professionals address early on instead of being blindsided.
Ask More Questions
Just like our organizations change constantly – our customers and their goals do as well. If you’re not regularly asking where their priorities are this month, this quarter, or this year then you’re likely to face this customer retention issue regularly.
It is our duty as Customer Success Management professionals to ask questions and listen to what our customer says. Did they just get a new supervisor? Ask what that supervisor cares about and don’t be afraid to ask if you can get them on the line to begin forming a relationship today.
Just because your solution solved their problems last quarter or year – it doesn’t mean that it solves their problems today. It could simply be that we’re not celebrating and shining a light on those customer successes. By asking questions you can remain relevant, adjust their path to success, and even introduce other features that could help them meet their new goals.
Right the Ship Early
When your customer comes onboard – they have a certain expectation on how your solution is going to help them achieve their personal or organizational goals. If they stop using your SaaS Solution in a way that leads them to those goals then it is your duty to intervene immediately.
A drop in engagement or activity within the solution can be a big indicator that they’ve either run into a roadblock using your solution or their initial expectations are not being met. If their expectations are not being met then we need to right the ship immediately and work on setting better expectations with our customers upfront. It’s possible (not always) that their current investment could impact their new goals and they simply don’t know about the creative use that other customers of yours are using to meet those same goals.
By setting up your Customer Success Software or other solution to alert you when your customer has either fallen beyond or become completely stuck in their journey you can right the ship early instead of attempting to save the account 30-60 days from renewal. If you want your customers to stay with you then you earn their business regularly.
Me, Me, Me
Your solution, your goals, your KPIs, and your company’s goals are not the same as your customer’s. Period. As Customer Success Management professionals we get so wrapped up in meeting a personal goal of getting them to adopt a feature or meet with you for the quarterly business review that we don’t focus on what they need or expect from the partnership.
When you truly put yourself in your customer’s shoes – it allows you to position the value for them to adopt that feature (if appropriate) or want to attend that quarterly business review. By focusing on your customer, most of the time, you can achieve your own goals as a result.
You need to shift your focus to the customer and question whether those communications you’re sending are for your benefit or theirs. By doing this, you’ll begin to find that they pick up the phone a bit more often, return those emails, and begin to reach to you for further advice as they begin to see you more as a partner instead of a vendor. This can make conversations surrounding renewal much more candid and fruitful.
Own Your Mistakes
Whether you personally made a mistake that impacted the customer or your organization did – you need to be immediately transparent with your customer, own the situation, and make it right. If you don’t do this – it can leave a very bad impression on your customers. By owning the situation immediately, we’re able to break down the barrier of frustration between us and the customer.
They’re likely upset in this scenario not because of you but because their day-to-day is being impacted. Let them know that you understand and respect this and that you want to do everything you can to make it right. You’ll not only gain the respect of your customer – but become a trusted resource for them. This positions you to be a trusted guide and work together during their renewal period to outfit them with the solution that will make them successful in the upcoming months and year.
There are quite a few indicators that customers may churn early, however, the main focus is to figure out how we can address this today and position ourselves to be a trusted resource as a Customer Success Management professional to help them early on. This will lead to better individual results and a healthier bottom line for the company in the end as a result.
Customer Success Around the Web
- Big Companies Don’t Churn. They Quit You. The problem with the term “Churn” with Big Customers is that is makes the whole concept sound blameless and unavoidable. This isn’t what happens in the enterprise. Read on at SaaStr about why big companies don’t churn.
- Grow Fast or Die Slow: Focusing on customer success to drive growth: Technology and software companies spend millions acquiring new customers, yet customer retention is what separates top performers from their competitors. An older but still relevant post from McKinsey&Company about how CS fuels growth.
- How To Create a Process People Actually Use: Productivity is a serious challenge for Customer Success Management professionals. It’s easy to get caught putting out fires every day. Read on at Glide Consulting about creating processes people actually use.
Word to the Wise
What Does A Customer Success Team Do? David Ashton of Seal Software discusses this over at Business Computing World.
“A CS team must always be keeping a close eye on the customers’ desired outcomes, and ensuring the entire team, including Sales, Professional Services, Support, and Executive Management, are supporting that outcome through every interaction. It also means knowing how to measure the success, and when to declare victory on any given business initiative or project.” – David Ashton, Seal Software