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Did you know that 60% of SaaS companies reported a negative impact on customer retention and upsell deals due to the pandemic?
Customer retention, along with new customer acquisition, has been challenging for most companies once the pandemic hit. The second quarter of 2020 was chaotic. From home offices hastily created in closets to figuring out new operations to scrambling to retain customers or learning to handle the tsunami of new customers, everyone struggled.
But as the initial wave of the pandemic winds down and everyone prepares for the impending next wave, there is rising uncertainty for businesses around what that next wave will look like and how it will impact them.
This article shows you some successful approaches B2B SaaS companies took to retain customers in the first wave. The goal of this article is to show you options and maybe trigger some thoughts or new ideas around different customer retention strategies once the next wave hits.
#1. 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 next wave.
Just like you’ve changed your business strategies and goals, so have your customers. If you haven’t already, start having more in-depth conversations with your customers about their new goals and strategies for the remainder of 2020.
“I think showing understanding and being a business partner rather than just a software company, goes a long way in times like these.” Kalo Yankulov, Founder Encharge
In talking with their customers, Encharge—an email automation SaaS—found two distinct buying changes when the first pandemic wave hit. First, many customers requested to pause their accounts for a few months until they figured out a new normal. Second, potential customers postponed the decision-making process until they understood the new budget trade-offs they have to work with.
“March and April were slow months for Encharge. Fortunately, we didn’t lose any customers, as we tackled churn by offering three-month account pauses. Demo calls in that period went down by 50%, but in June the pipeline velocity went back to normal. We also managed to re-activate the paused accounts successfully.”
Altered payment methods such as deferrals, pausing accounts or new pricing plans were one of the most used approaches by businesses to retain customers versus having them churn. However, most payment and plan changes were made in haste and likely could have performed better. With the benefit of hindsight, what could you add or subtract to your payment and plan offerings based on what you learned from the first wave that would better retain customers in the next wave? Creating different payment methods and plans for a set of ‘next-wave worst-case scenarios’ can help your team quickly offer different options depending what actually happens. Not only will more customers be retained but the team will also feel more confident in offering these new plans and payment methods.
#2. 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, creating a window of opportunity for serve customers in new ways. If the next wave is anything like the first, there might be opportunities to create new features, products or services that align with your customer’s changing needs and goals.
When the first wave of the pandemic hit, GaragePlug—an ERP for auto repair shops—made a bold move. Since all their users—auto repair garages—were forced to close and had no revenue, GaragePlug released a product that not only allowed garages to operate in a completely touchless manner but allowed them to offer new pre-paid products to bring in revenue while their businesses remained closed.
“The COVID situation forced many of us to start thinking about how to succeed in the tsunami. Being a strong believer of providing value in SaaS, I have always inclined towards building products which provide high value to the customer.” Rohit Bhatnagar, Co-Founder, GaragePlug
This new touchless product was so popular that GaragePlug merged it into their base platform betting on a post-COVID world where touchless experiences would become the norm.
Their bet paid off.
Demand for GaragePlug is so high that revenue increased by over 50% of pre-pandemic numbers.
Not every company will be able to hit on product that suddenly has huge demand. By listening to the new challenges your customers are experiencing, ideas for new products, features or services might come to the surface. Ask customers directly by survey or—better yet—have a call with some of them to see if you can identify possible product, feature or service opportunities that will help them have greater success when the next wave hits. Most customers are happy to speak about their challenges if they know you’re considering building or expediting new products, features or services that can help them solve their problems.
#3. 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, can be great if done right.
However, most companies never consider regularly going through their knowledge bases to remove or update old reference pages as a way to decrease support minutes and make the customer experience even better. And, as you know, better customer experience leads to better customer retention.
We’ve all experienced an incomplete or out of date knowledge base that that forces you to take even more time reaching out to support for a simple answer. It’s frustrating for you as the customer—wasting your precious time—and it diminishes your experience.
“When COVID hit, our support volume increased for things that weren’t typically in our knowledge base”, shared Matthew Serel, AccuPoint’s Founder.
AccuPoint leveraged their Facebook user group to answer those questions not found in their knowledge base. It was the fastest and easiest way to get those urgent questions answered. The Facebook user’s group has also become one of AccuPoint’s more effective Customer Support tools. If a user has a question that is already in the knowledge base, the Facebook group moderators put a link to the help page in the comments. This has effectively trained AccuPoint’s customers to first go to the knowledge base to see if there is an answer already there.
“The more you educate your customers on the platform, the more they become advocates and refer your platform for you” Timothy Murenzi, Founder, GoAnalyze
GoAnalyze had phenomenal results updating their knowledge base. They saw a 60% drop in support tickets and prevented nearly 22% of their customers from churning.
In an intensive 2-month period, GoAnalyze reached out to directly to customers that had submitted support tickets on particularly issues in the six months prior. They asked these customers to take a 32-question survey to really understand how they used the knowledge base and what they did when the answers weren’t available.
Once the results were back and analyzed, company Founder, Timothy Murenzi, sent out communications to all customers that updating the knowledge base was now a top priority. It was only after they sent that communication out did they learn that—even with available customer support–nearly 22% of their customers were considering churning because the knowledge base was so poor.
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 upon first glance, but as you see, it can have a big impact on customer retention. It not only makes the customer experience better and increases user adoption, but it 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.
One thing for sure is that your customers will want to know they will be supported and offered the right solutions for their business when the next wave hits.
Pandemic or not, 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 next wave will bring.