Ever since the boom of the SaaS industry, customer retention has become the top-most priority for business owners as they realized the immense benefits of it. Unlike earlier companies whose main focus was on acquiring new customers, the SaaS based companies are increasingly putting their efforts on retaining the existing customers because of the difference in cost they realized. It is becoming ever more expensive to acquire a new customer because of more and more competition in marketing your company, hence a churn of even a smaller percentage of existing customers is seen as a major loss when observed from the point of view of a customer’s lifetime value.
Customer retention specialist is the new breed of professionals who are being specifically brought on board to tap on the opportunities that lie behind customer retention. Every company has different strategies they put across for customer retention and that also depends on their niche. Thus the processes followed by customer retention specialist could be very unique depending upon the kinds of companies they work for, the customers they deal with (B2B or B2C) and even the kind of products or services they sell. So, there are chances that the process followed by one cannot be applied to others. Nevertheless, we have researched through the best practices followed by many professionals in the Customer Success teams and found out few common practices that can hold valid for every other CS professional in different fields. So here we go!
1. Align Your Organization Towards Customer Retention
The customer success department is no longer siloed in a SaaS based organization. Customer retention is more of a value than a phenomenon when seen internally in an organization. And this value has to be imbibed by every individual of an organization.
It is the CSMs job to bring everyone on the same page with a final motive of building a long-term relationship with customers. This change in objective demands change in their respective strategies of their functional areas.
E.g. The marketing teams have to create their plans to market the product around those features which are chosen by the company’s existing long-term customers that they found out through customer surveys.
Similarly, the product’s UI design should be made according to the customer’s ease of adoption of the product to the core features so that once they stick to the usage of those features, it becomes difficult for them to switch to any other similar product.
2. Onboarding Process Should be as Smooth as Possible
Even though the process moves from one team to another in an organization as the customer proceeds from one stage to another, the customer should never be able to feel the difference in their customer experience. Everyone in different departments should be aware of the customer profile and hence should deal with them accordingly. The kind of experience customer had during the marketing and sales process because of which they decided to purchase the product should be continued in the same manner without any glitch.
The workflow behind the customer onboarding should be well tried and tested with the beta testers to ensure there are no complexities involved during the purchase of the product. The time taken for processing the purchase should be as minimal as possible involving the least number of steps.
After the purchase comes the most crucial part of customer Onboarding when the customer gets to know more about the product. Hence, the orientation process should be well planned and executed without any confusion. Do they need introductory video tutorials or just textual user manuals are enough? Do they need manual guidance from a customer representative or the online automated guidance is enough? These are few of the questions that a CSM should consider and act upon while onboarding a new customer. A comprehensive list of steps for Onboarding a customer can be seen in the below exhibit.
3. A Customer Engagement Model Should be Followed
Based on the complexity of the product or service you are offering, a high-touch or low-touch engagement model should be followed by the CSM. It is one of the core responsibilities of the CSM to constantly ensure that the customer is deriving value out of the product. Different customer retention metrics can be used to know if the product adoption has taken place by your customer or not.
The real-time usage data of the product should be fetched from the customer’s platform to know what features they are using. For instance, if the customer is using only 5 out of 20 features of the product then you should know this in advance and take appropriate actions towards it. A mail can be sent to the customer highlighting other features to recommend them for using those features or even better, a meeting can be arranged where the CSM can give a walk-through of the product demonstrating other unused features to the customer.
4. Reward Customer with a Loyalty Program
If you can gamify your customer’s adoption journey of your product through giving them timely incentives then it can prove quite useful in customer retention specialist in the longer run. Research shows that when customers are tied to the milestones they can reach while engaging with your product then they tend to become more loyal to your brand.
Cisco designed a Cisco social rewards scheme for encouraging users to actively participate with their blog posts and videos by sharing or commenting on them. This is a brilliant scheme as it allows users to get automatically drawn to your company’s customer retention strategies by making the engagement process more fun.
Similarly, Dropbox incentivizes their customers with more storage spaces when they refer it to their friends. When one user of Dropbox refers it to a friend then they get 500GB space for free. When customers are given timely incentives like these by the service providers then their relationship tends to get more strong and healthy over a longer period of time.
5. Humanize Your Brand
There is always an element of connection your customers would feel when they are introduced to the faces behind your organization. Introducing them with the people behind your product development team, your testers, your customer retention specialist or any other areas of your organization builds their credibility towards your organization.
The best place to highlight your achievements, your team’s milestones is on social media. Connect with your customers on social media platforms, like through your organization’s page on Facebook or Instagram, and make them feel an active part of your growth journey. This way they would not only be loyal to your company but will also popularize your brand among their own social circles.
Customer Retention is the Outcome of the Customer Experience
The above listed ideas are all only valid as long as your core offerings of the product and services are solid. While these strategies are quite helpful in retaining the customers but until the customers are fully satisfied in every aspect of their interactions with your product, right from the first time they heard about it to the time they have got habituated to using it, you have an immense scope of improvement to apply in every area of your organization. Remember that in a SaaS based organization of this era, every individual in a company is responsible, though in varying degrees, to foster a fruitful and long-term relationship with your customer.