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This is shocking.

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 when 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 3 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 that you can look to employ before the next wave hits.

CS listening

#1. Train to listen

Just like in the first wave, your customers’ lives are going to be turned upside down once the next 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.

Customer Success teams are in a unique position to listen to the challenges customers are having. While the temptation might be 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.

As you know, when people feel they are heard, they’re more open to listening to suggestions on how you can help them and are 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 where the person was more interested in the sale than truly helping me find the right solution. I’m sure you have too.

To increase customer retention in the next wave, work on training your Customer Success team to listen to what the customer says they need and how to find the right solution for them. One of the best ways to do this is to practice a specific type of roleplay that focuses on having difficult conversations.

Will, Head of Customer Success at a website personalization software company, had his team role play as a key training tool for CSMs during the initial wave of the pandemic. The task associated with the role play was to understand how COVID affected the customer’s business and to figure out what the impact was.

 “Doing the role play allowed CSMs to practice getting better at having difficult or awkward conversations. The goal is to help CSMs feel more at ease with having difficult conversations while learning to ask the right questions that get those answers they need so they can offer the right solutions.

 

“You want to hear what the customer’s pain is about so you can address it directly. Focus on the negatives but always steer the question toward how the customer sees the situation moving forward. The key is always moving the conversation into the future and then tying the product’s outcomes that can be delivered to that future place. Don’t labour on the pain, always move the conversation toward the future”, says Will.

According to Will, this specific type of role playing has helped his CSMs develop stronger and deeper relationships with their customers. It’s also built a new level of trust and respect between the customer and the CSM.

Checklist

#2. 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.

#3. Get a 360 view

Investing in relationships has always been a key focus for CS Leaders but now, more than ever, those relationships need to be expanded as well as nurtured.

Key players in accounts have been furloughed or laid off in large numbers for some vendors. This makes maintaining the relationship challenging.

David Ellin, Chief Customer Officer at Centric Leadership Strategies, recommends expanding relationships as much as possible:  

“Given the already high number of layoffs and furloughs, a next wave could likely bring more of the same. With one of the underlying reasons for churn attributed to loss of a key contact/decision-maker, expanding relationships (and showing value) becomes critical.”

Will, Head of Customer Success at a website personalization software company, is also taking the same approach.

CSMs at Will’s company are reaching out to end-users, champions and decision-makers to build a 360-degree view of the account.

CSMs are finding reaching out to the different people in the account difficult at first but when they persist, they’re developing deeper and more meaningful relationships with those customers.

According to Will, “While it’s difficult to begin with, it’s given deeper, and more meaningful relationships with customers. Our CSMs know them at their worst and they know them at their best. The pandemic offers a unique chance to have one common thing with everyone else in the world. That commonality can really help develop that relationship into something deeper and more meaningful.”

Conclusion

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.

And in Will’s words, “We’re with our customers on the journey to change”.