In a downturn, priorities shift. Buyers start getting cautious. They stop purchasing new software and reevaluate their current spending. Naturally, this puts extra pressure on customer success. After all, it’s the customer success teams that drive growth through retention and churn mitigation.
So, what’s the best way to drive retention and mitigate churn in 2023?
We hosted a panel of customer success experts this month. We asked them for their strategies and tactics on how they mitigate churn in the short term and improve retention in the long term.
Six lessons in customer success to boost your retention
- Analyze your churn data for any patterns
- Identify who your best-fit customers are
- Extend your cash runway
- Develop a customer health score
- Build customer feedback loops
- Conduct exit interviews
The Spotlight Is on Customer Success
People have changed what they care about. Before, it was all about retaining talent and fighting in the talent world. And now it’s all about keeping that money in the bank and making sure that every investment you make actually pays off. – María del Mar Mitjavila Bedmar of Ledgy
Customer success leaders have noticed that tech companies started getting more cautious and vigilant when it comes to spending. They are reevaluating their budgets, limiting how much they spend on software, and even cutting down their staff. The industry is expecting this trend to continue. As a result, businesses try to extend their runway and put even more focus on tracking ROI.
A lot of the spotlight is on customer success and customer-facing teams to deliver value and demonstrate that value throughout the duration of the customer journey. – Parker Moore, Vitally
For SaaS companies like Ledgy, Loomly, Vitally, and SaaSync, an economic downturn means that suddenly customers and prospects are much more sensitive to pricing. The task of customer success teams is to make sure customers are deriving value from the product and understand why it’s worth the investment.
There are no shortcuts to improve retention, but our panelists shared a few pieces of advice that help them tackle churn.
Analyze Your Churn Data for Any Patterns
First of all, you need to understand churn to mitigate it. So look at past churn data and investigate where the problem area might be. Is it a customer success problem? Or a product shortfall? A positioning problem?
Have some type of churn analysis in place to determine the reasoning for churn. And then with that, you’re able to uncover what processes are broken. It also gives you some direction on what cross-functional teams you may need to work with. – Parker
Customer success teams need to determine which inputs or product events are consistent between customers that churn to mitigate it.
However, our panelists advise avoiding getting distracted by wrong-fit customers.
A few years ago at ChartMogul, we lost many legacy customers when migrating them to a new pricing model. However, the highly engaged good-fit customers enabled ChartMogul’s continued growth. Read our pricing migration story.
Identify Who Your Best-Fit Customers Are
Luckily, it’s also the role of customer success teams to learn which events and characteristics drive best-fit customers.
Understand what brings value to your customer, and track that. And make sure that whatever place you have, whether it is onboarding or adoption, you configure your customer journey towards that value and towards helping your customer. – María del Mar
Make sure your customers have a clear path to success when using your product and derive value from it at each step of the journey.
Extend Your Cash Runway
In an economic crisis, securing cash flow is an immediate reaction for many SaaS companies. You can try several practices to guarantee revenue: experimenting with reactivation campaigns, offering trial extensions, or moving customers to yearly contracts at a discounted price.
For our business, it’s better to have a yearly subscriber than a monthly one. It’s less risky. So we do sometimes try to incentivize them to upgrade to a yearly plan by offering a discount that will be available for seven days. (…) We are not giving discounts to everybody all the time, but we try to be flexible. – Mirana Dufour of Loomly
If you’re offering discounts on yearly plans, you must be aware that you’re giving up MRR. In return, you’re getting cash flow that’s guaranteed that you can spend wisely over the next several years. Any special advice from our panelists? Get creative with your offers and introduce some type of gamification to incentivize your customers to move to a yearly plan.
Increase your cash flow to extend your runway and gain stability in uncertain times.
Develop a Customer Health Score
At the end of the day, you want your customers to get the most value out of your product. Sometimes it’s hard to predict if customers will stay with you or leave. But if you can assess when customers are successful, you’ll be able to predict it too.
Vitally’s Parker Moore recommends developing a health score. His team looks at three dimensions when determining a customer’s health score.
1. What is your customer’s relationship to the customer success team?
How often do they engage with their customer success manager (CSM)? What are the types of engagements with the CSM? What types of support tickets are coming in?
2. What is your customer’s relationship to the product?
Customer retention depends on usage. Make sure that usage is going up by tracking metrics like daily, weekly, or monthly active users.
3. What is your customer’s relationship to their own performance?
Make sure you understand your customer’s goals and KPIs. Can you see if they are getting closer to achieving them?
So if we know their goals, we know their KPIs, we know their baseline on where they’re starting from, we should be able to see if they are getting closer to or farther away from those things. If any one of those relationships is going in the wrong direction, our health score can catch that with all those different inputs. And then it auto-assigns a prescriptive and sequential set of plays to run to address those inputs to better that particular relationship to really impact the overall relationship with us. – Parker
Build Customer Feedback Loops
When you’re planning to improve customer onboarding, ensure that the entire customer success organization is clear on why a customer is using the product, what problems they’re solving, and how they’re measuring success.
Every CSM should know goals, they should know metrics, and they should know how their customer’s going to use the product. Parker
To achieve that, talk to customers, understand their requirements, and then translate that into processes. Make sure to deliver value at every stage of the customer journey.
For example, Loomly built their product exclusively around customer feedback. In a competitive space of social media management, they need to be very quick to react to market updates.
We are working in a very competitive environment. So we created a very tight feedback loop to make sure that the CS team can actually advocate for what our users want and customers need to the product team and our platform. – Mirana
Conduct Exit Interviews
To deliver value at every stage of the customer journey, includes the last stage – cancellation. So consider rethinking your offboarding process. Are you conducting exit interviews? Those are opportunities to get valuable feedback too.
We really want to talk with each and every customer that doesn’t find the necessary value in our product to understand what it is that we could be doing better. – María del Mar
Use every opportunity that brings you closer to customer loyalty.
Are You Providing a Vitamin or a Painkiller?
The customer success leaders on the panel remind us to provide value at every step of the customer journey: to understand where customers are at in their onboarding, adoption, and retention journeys.
SaaSync’s Travis Todd pointed out that in a time of uncertainty, we need to understand your value proposition and focus on the things that we can control.
Are you providing a vitamin or are you providing a painkiller? If you’re providing a vitamin, are there things you can do to your product to move towards being a painkiller? – Travis Todd, SaaSync
Thank you to our panelists
María del Mar Mitjavila Bedmar, Head of Customer Experience, Ledgy
María joined the customer experience team at equity management platform, Ledgy last year, and has been an important piece of their growth story since. As Head of CX, María is helping growing startups get their cap table and employee participation plans right from the start. Raising a $22m series B earlier this year, María’s focus is on scaling CX to support Ledgy’s growing customer base.
Parker Moore, Head of Customer Success, Vitally
Since joining Vitally as Head of Customer Success, Parker has grown the CS organization by 5x and been part of incredible customer growth. Vitally is a best-in-class Customer Success Platform for B2B SaaS companies, so Parker brings expertise as both a CS practitioner and expert. Prior to Vitally, Parker worked at HubSpot and Eventbrite, where he helped build out the Customer Success function.
Mirana Dufour, VP Success, Loomly
Over the past five years, Mirana has scaled Loomly’s Customer Success and Operations with a customer-centric approach. The direct feedback loop Mirana has established with Loomly users helps drive product development priorities, has created a tight-knit Loomly user community, and allows Loomly to consistently and swiftly deliver new value to customers.
Travis Todd, CEO & Co-Founder, SaaSync
Travis is passionate about optimizing the levels that impact key growth metrics at SaaS companies. As CEO and co-founder of SaaSync, Travis focuses on helping his customers integrate their billing data into advanced analytics platforms such as ChartMogul. With over a decade spent in tech, most of which as co-founder of SaaS-based startups, Travis has a wealth of experience in customer retention.