Customer retention, business and life has been challenging in 2020. From home offices hastily created in closets to learning to wear a mask in public to scrambling to retain customers or handling the tsunami of new customers, the first half of 2020 was chaos.
But as the initial wave of the pandemic winds down and everyone prepares for the impending second wave, there is rising uncertainty for businesses around what that second wave will look like and how it will impact them.
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 second wave will bring.
To help you prepare for the uncertainty of the second wave, here are 5 solid strategies.
#1. Train to listen
Just like in the first wave, your customer’s lives are going to be turned upside down once the second wave hits. As they struggle to adjust and manage, they’ll want to know their struggles are being heard by the businesses they interact with.
Sales and customer success teams are in a unique position to listen to the challenges your customers are having. While the temptation is high to try 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.
When people feel they are heard, they’re more open to listening to suggestions on how you can help them and more receptive to what you offer. You and I both know how awful it feels to have someone disregard what we’re saying and focus on their end goal instead. I’ve had a few situations with salespeople where they were more interested in the sale than truly helping me find the right solution. I’m sure you have too.
To increase your customer retention during the second wave, work on training your sales and customer success teams now to listen to what the customer says they need and how to find the right solution for them. To help with this, try practice role-playing and don’t forget to update your playbooks as a way to reinforce the focus on the customer’s needs.
Sales, renewals, upsells and cross-sells will happen. But you know as well as I do that when someone pushes you into a sale you don’t want or need, your poor experience makes you much more likely to churn. On the flip side, when someone takes the time to genuinely listen to you, and helps you find the right solution, your good experience makes you much more likely to stay as a customer. It’s the exact same with your customers – listen and genuinely offer to help and retention and revenue will naturally increase.
#2. Identify new buying patterns
Everyone’s buying patterns changed with the first wave of the pandemic from stockpiling toilet paper to buying even more items online. Now that buying patterns have stabilized, it’s a perfect time to start looking at how your customers might change their buying patterns in the second wave.
Just like you’ve changed your business strategies and goals, so have your customers. Take the time now to start having more in-depth conversations with them about their new goals and strategies. If your Customer Success team is already gathering this data, great! But don’t stop there.
Is your Customer Success team seeing opportunities where shorter-term payment options would retain more customers? Are there emerging patterns where customers are requesting specific features as add-ons to their current plan without having to purchase a higher tier plan?
If Customer Success is seeing these patterns, it’s a good time to talk about changing pricing strategies for the short-term to help customers cope with the uncertainty of the second wave. You’ve likely already had these discussions when the first wave hit. Now is the best time to start considering new pricing models to retain customers based on what Customer Success is seeing and hearing from customers.
As you know, retaining an existing customer at a lower-tier plan or on a new payment plan is preferable to having them churn.
#3. Discover the difference and act
Think of your best customers. What is it about them that puts them in that category? Now think about your customer that churns quickly. What is it about the quick-to-churn customers that is so vastly different from your best customers? Now think of your largest customer group – those that are neither your best nor quick-to-churn customers. How do they differ from the other two segments?
The goal is to find customers in your largest group—that middle group– who have some of the characteristics of your best customers but are lacking key elements which could elevate them to your best customer group. These customers–with a bit of focused support— could become part of your best customer group.
The quickest way to discover what those lacking key characteristics are is to interview 12-15 of your best customers and 12-15 of your customers in that middle group.
Create a standard list of questions your Customer Success Managers can ask and compare the results. Or designate one person to do the interviews. Either way, record and transcribe the conversations. (You can find out more details on how to do this in the Ultimate Guide to Customer Feedback.) Then look for commonalities and differences.
The data you’ll get back will not only identify the key characteristics that differentiate your customer groups, but you’ll also discover ways to strategically help your middle group customers to be more successful and subsequently upgrade to become your best customers.
And companies that effectively utilize data to prioritize prospects and to find new opportunities with existing customers grow at a substantially faster rate than those who do not.
#4. Consider new products, features and services
Periods of crisis create opportunities to consider new products, features and services. Everyone’s needs changed during the first wave of the pandemic. If you’re looking to identify how your customers might change their buying habits for the second wave (see point #2 above), there might be opportunities to create new features, products or services that align with those new buying patterns.
It’s no surprise that I’m going to suggest speaking directly to your customers to find out what they need in the next few months to be successful as this second wave hits. Surveys are a great way to find out what’s changed for them and their new goals. At the end of the survey, ask if they’d be willing to have a quick conversation so you can get deeper data and be in a better position to help them and your other customers achieve greater success.
#5. 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, not only give quick answers but they take pressure off your customer support team.
Most companies never think to regularly go through their knowledge bases to remove or update old reference pages. I’m sure you’ve experienced this when you’ve been looking for a quick answer in a knowledge base and instead have to take the extra time to reach out to support. It’s frustrating for you and it puts pressure on the support team to deal with trivial or small requests instead of focusing on handling more challenging or difficult issues.
Create a plan to update all your knowledge base pages, either as a sprint or simply as part of a weekly routine. Methodically go through each page and note what needs to be added or deleted. Then make those changes.
Updating your knowledge base may seem trivial, it has a big impact on customer experience. If the customer cannot easily find the answer they’re looking for and has to frequently reach out to customer support for a simple answer, their experience will be diminished.
Take the time to update old knowledge base pages. It makes the customer experience better and takes extra pressure off your customer support team, giving your team more time and energy to focus on customer’s complex issues and concerns instead of trivial ones.
No one knows for sure how this pandemic will change our lives in the next few months.
One thing for sure is that people will continue to seek to be understood, to be listened to and help that supports them. Businesses that listen to their customers
Companies that take this golden opportunity to collect specific customer feedback now that will improve the customer experience in the second wave, will set themselves up for greater customer retention.
Pandemic or no pandemic, improving customer experience will always be a winning strategy.