When companies wait to put customer retention strategies into action until after churn becomes an issue, they essentially write the script for their own demise. Look at once-industry leaders Blockbuster, Kodak and Sears. Each failed to adapt to an evolving market. Almost as quickly as they skyrocketed in popularity, they lost their customers and fell well behind their competitors. While these are B2C examples, we’re all familiar with B2B companies in our industries that are slipping down and to the right. Now, their logos collect dust while churn-savvy companies collect revenue.
At the other end of the spectrum are companies that prioritize customer satisfaction and get ahead of churn before it eats away at their bottom line. Churn-proof your organization and you become, in a word, timeless! Apple and Amazon are prime examples—both surely had growing and retaining a loyal customer base baked into their business strategy from the outset, making the case for early churn prevention and regular churn reduction.
The results are in. Reducing and preventing churn is an absolute must-do for successful, sustainable business growth.
Identifying customer churn
Customer churn (aka attrition or turnover) is the amount of customers that stop using a product or service over a period of time.
High churn rates substantially decrease revenue, but having a strategy in place to act on early can change the odds of tipping the scale too far too fast to recover. A hopeful statistic: According to research from Bain & Company, just 5% increase in customer retention positively impacts profits by 25% to 95%.
Left unchecked, however, churn will lead to a decline in revenue, lower profits and decreased market share. Identifying the warning signs of churn, then, is critical to sustaining a business.
Traditional red flags for churn include: decreased engagement, declining usage, customer complaints, late or missed payments, low Net Promoter Score (NPS) and lack of response to outreach. There are quieter signals of churn as well—harder to spot at a glance and, therefore, detrimental to revenue growth. When a company experiences office closings or a reduction in workforce, security concerns, or fail to adapt their product or processes to sudden change (global pandemic, anyone?,) they may start the slow march to annihilation without warning. When the signs of churn are identified too late, it becomes difficult to pinpoint the reasons why your customers are churning, resulting in missed opportunities for improvement.
Think of your last lost customer. Was the problem poor customer service, lack of perceived value or inconsistent product quality? Did you provide a poor user experience, or was it a lack of communication that drove loyal customers away? Did reducing your workforce to cut costs actually hit the end user where it hurt the most? Having strategies in place to spot and address churn early–before the possible reasons pile up and become impossible to identify (let alone correct) enables companies to remain competitive.
How to reduce churn
Monitoring six touchpoints in your customer experience will help nurture and maintain your customer base. Relationship-building throughout the lifecycle is crucial to reduce churn. Have a strategy that supports customers during:
- Product usage
Steps to take at each touchpoint are detailed below.
1. Improve your onboarding experience
Your first defense against churn is to help new users quickly and easily learn how to use your product or service, understand its value and achieve their desired outcomes. And remember, keep it simple. Some tactics for doing so include:
- Providing clear and concise instructions
- Creating a personalized approach
- Presenting your value proposition
- Being interactive and engaging
- Allowing for progress tracking
- Offering ongoing support
Another way to optimize user experience and grow a loyal customer base during onboarding is to drive home your company values and beliefs. To do this, you’ll need to first define them. Craft a clear and concise statement that describes what your company stands for and what you want to achieve. Your values should be aligned with your brand and mission.
Next, find ways to incorporate those values into your company culture. This can include hiring practices, employee training and internal communication.
Showcase your values in your messaging. Ensure that they are prominently featured throughout your website, social media and marketing materials. Use language that reflects your values when communicating on behalf of your brand and products or services.
Engaging in social responsibility is another way to show you don’t just talk the talk. Supporting local communities, environmental sustainability and charitable causes that align with your company standards.
Finally, always engage with your customers and stakeholders in ways that reflect your company’s values and beliefs. This can include responding to customer inquiries and feedback in a timely and respectful manner, and showcasing examples of how your company is living its values in the community.
2. Educate your customer
Once your customer is onboarded, they need to be educated. Education is typically focused on building relationships and loyalty—critical to reducing churn and retaining your customer base. It builds trust and credibility and increases customer satisfaction. Provide information and resources about the features and benefits of your products or services, model how to use them effectively and reiterate your value proposition while educating your customer.
A mini-guide to instructional content
Expert tip: Use different mediums for customer education. Here are some examples to inspire offers that teach while keeping people engaged.
To illustrate the features and benefits of your products or services, consider creating how-to videos. These videos can show step-by-step instructions on how to use the product, how to solve common problems or how to take advantage of advanced features.
User manuals and guides can also provide detailed information about a product or service in various formats, such as PDFs or physical books.
Tutorials and online courses provide structured learning experiences for customers. These can include interactive lessons, quizzes and other tools to help customers master a product or service.
Webinars and live events offer customers the opportunity to learn from experts and ask questions in real time. These events can cover a wide range of topics, from product updates to industry trends and best practices.
Additionally, infographics and other visual aids can be made to simplify complex information and make it easier for customers to understand key concepts, compare features or provide other educational information.
Give customers a hands-on experience to teach about what you do in a more interactive way. This can include product demos and/or free trials or samples.
Take advantage of opportunities on your website to help customers learn. Consider creating an easy-to-find knowledge base: A resource library or frequently asked questions (FAQ) section on your website provides easy access to information about your products or services.
Finally, offer training or workshops. Engage users with in-depth knowledge about your products or services and how to use them to maximum impact.
Educating customers about your products or services is an ongoing process that requires a commitment to clear and effective communication. By educating strategically through multiple mediums, businesses create a broad approach that both attracts new customers and builds strong relationships with existing ones, setting themselves up to knock the main goal out of the park: buh-bye churn!
3. Work the feedback loop
Open lines of communication are key to customer retention. Collecting feedback is essential for understanding how customers feel about your products or services and identifying areas for improvement. Here are some steps you can take to collect feedback and measure satisfaction:
- Define your goals: Determine what you want to achieve through customer feedback. Are you looking to improve a specific product or service? Do you want to identify customer pain points? Focus your efforts to collect the most relevant feedback.
- Choose your feedback channels: There are many channels you can use to collect customer feedback, such as surveys, feedback forms, social media, email or in-person interviews. Choose the one(s) most appropriate for your business and audience.
- Create a feedback survey: Keep it short, easy to understand and ask relevant questions. Use a mix of open-ended and closed-ended questions to gather both qualitative and quantitative data.
- Analyze the data: Once you have collected feedback, analyze the data to identify patterns and trends. Look for areas where customers are consistently satisfied or dissatisfied and identify opportunities for improvement.
- Take action: Use the feedback you have collected to make improvements to your products or services. Communicate with your customers about the changes you are making based on their feedback.
- Track customer satisfaction over time: Regularly measure customer satisfaction over time to track trends and identify areas where you need to make further improvements.
By listening to customer feedback and taking action based on their insights, you build stronger relationships and improve the overall customer experience, reducing the risk that they will seek alternative products and services.
4. Integrate retention hooks
In-product retention hooks encourage users to return to you. They’re a great way to keep existing customers engaged and reduce churn.
Think about your favorite products and apps. The ones you keep coming back to. They likely integrate some mix of the following:
- Easy-to-use interface: Simple and user-friendly
- Personalization: Aligned with your preferences, behavior or history
- Gamification: Including points, badges or levels
- Frequent updates and improvements: A demonstrated commitment to quality and satisfaction
- Social proof: Customer reviews or endorsements that build trust
- Customer support: Help should be available to those who ask for it
- Exclusivity: Unique benefits or access to a product or service
The key to using retention hooks to keep customers engaged and loyal is understanding their needs and preferences. Enhance the effect by continuously evaluating and improving retention strategies to ensure they remain effective in an evolving market.
5. Incentivize engagement
Offering a discount, promo, loyalty program, etc. gets customers to stick around. You may want to personalize offers based on a customer’s purchase history to help them feel understood. Provide excellent customer service and promptly address any issues or concerns that customers may have to earn trust and loyalty. Offer exclusive access to products, services or events so they feel valued. Then, regularly communicate with customers through email newsletters, social media or other channels to keep them engaged with the business and aware of new offerings or promotions.
6. Follow up, check in, re-engage
Retention emails provide your customer with ongoing value, keep them engaged, reduce churn and increase customer lifetime value.
Personalized messages to inactive customers are a great way to get feedback on why they aren’t using your product or service and rehook them.
Retention emails can also be used to encourage active customers to make repeat purchases. For example, businesses can send emails that highlight new or popular products, offer personalized recommendations based on past purchases, or provide special discounts or incentives for repeat purchases.
And don’t forget to check-in with your customer base with product updates and education. Make offers of exclusive content and promotions that are not available to the general public.
By staying in touch with customers and offering relevant content and promotions businesses increase customer loyalty.
How to avoid churn in the first place
Stay ready and you don’t have to get ready, right? This philosophy applies to business beautifully. If you avoid churn in the first place, you don’t have to scramble and spend costly resources (and risk your foothold in your market) attempting to reduce it.
Prevention begins with spotting the deep signals that churn is brewing. Superficial indicators are external or observable factors, often based on actions that customers take or do not take, like decreased engagement, declining usage or customer complaints. Deep indicators of churn, on the other hand, are internal behaviors or traits that may drive customers to abandon a product or service that no longer serves them. In B2B, deep indicators can include changes in team structure or staffing, challenges with scaling, substitution or replacement in key roles, expansion or pivoting to new markets, and more. When a company makes adjustments to the way they operate (adjustments that aren’t apparent in their demographics but impact the behaviors of the organization) churn becomes more and more likely.
Superficial signals of churn
Deep signals of churn
Deep factors are difficult to observe directly, but not impossible. In fact, keeping tabs on your customers’ deep signals may save your business from going the way of the dinosaurs.
Behave like a churn-proof company
Only by focusing on both superficial and deep indicators of churn can businesses develop a most comprehensive understanding of customer behavior and take targeted actions to increase retention and loyalty.
And those deep signals of churn are only revealed to those with a handle on exegraphic data. Exegraphics are the quiet and early signals of your customers behavior. Understanding exegraphics—insights into how companies operate, like their investment level in customer care for example—makes swift and early intervention possible.
Exegraphics are your churn-proofing magic wand.
Mitigate future turbulence with retention. Preserve and protect your existing revenue stream with the pattern-predicting power of exegraphic data plugged into Rev’s Sales Development Platform. Want to see the exegraphics behind your best customers—and the ones churning? Contact us, and we’ll show you.