If you run a business, you’ve probably been going through it a bit recently. The pandemic has turned your, and pushed many companies to the edge. Those  companies, if they are not as lucky, nor as socially distant as ones such as Zoom, will lose a fair share of clients.

No business has never lost a customer; not one brand in the world is immune to the churn. The bad thing about losing the customers is that it costs money. Growth strategists have calculated that acquiring a new customer can cost up to five times more than retaining an existing one. Customer retention essential, especially as the crisis bites.

Churn (or attrition) rate is calculated when a user cancels their subscription or stops using a company’s product or service. It is a vital metric for companies to consider because that customer takes their money with them, which in turn, downgrades your growth and profits.

The current crisis is not going to end any time soon; Q3 and Q4 will bring each business a lot of new challenges. Thus, they need to focus on securing existing customers. Here are the ways to reduce the churn.

Implement a culture of customer retention

Your customer retention rate is the percentage of customers who have stayed with your product by the end of a given time period. A strong retention is a key indicator of product-market fit, which is what you are trying to achieve. If you have a high retention rate, it also means that your processes around activating, onboarding, and engaging your users are successful. You need to focus on retention during the crisis because it’s so difficult to predict the buying power of new users. A steady revenue stream to keep your business afloat becomes an absolute priority.

There are a couple of ways to address a not-so-perfect retention rate:

  1. Put your current customers under a spotlight and understand who they are, why they are with you, and how they use your product. With this information, you can seek similar users.
  2. Focus on users who have already churned and try to understand what went wrong.

At NetHunt, we’re committed to the first approach. We conduct interviews with current customers, delve deep into their problems, and figure out what they lack from our product. Once we’ve figured out everything about our current users, we proceed with an analysis of the churned ones.

If you want to improve retention, you must consider usage frequency.

Build a ‘use case map’ for every buyer persona your company targets; analyse their use case frequency spectrum.

A use case map is a visualisation of how different buyer personas interact with your product in order to address problems, business requests, and specific cravings. One buyer persona may have multiple use cases. A typical use case map contains the buyer persona, a problem, a use case, why your product is better for this use case, an alternative product to solve this problem, and the usage frequency. Usage frequency is something that we should closely consider at the moment. It helps determine how often your product is used by each audience segment.

If most user segments are sticking to a product less than once a month, you start moving into the ‘Forgettable Zone’ aka the ‘Pain in the Ass Zone’. It’s important to take action; think about the creation of new touchpoints, features, and satellite products that can get users into the habit of using your product more than once a month.

Originally, Zillow was a real estate company specialising in buying and selling houses. While on average Americans change their homes once every five and a half years, realtors generally find it difficult to get customers to develop a habit of using their service. Should they send newsletters for five years to stay on customer's radar? Probably not.

Instead, Zillow created Zillow Rentals and Zestimate. These two new branches helped them to create a use case of yearly and monthly habits respectively. In turn, this helped increase usage frequency to month.

Low usage frequency also affects viral loops. This means less referrals, and that is the last thing you need during a crisis.

Make your product sticky

Product stickiness is the ratio of daily active users to monthly active users. A product can be especially stick when it has unique functionality or first-class customer support.

With the development of new features being so time-consuming, excellent customer support is something that can be implemented much more quickly. So, even during these volatile times, you can still improve the stickiness of your product. Invest in the right tools, like CRM, and train your customer support agents to become irreplaceable assistants.

At NetHunt, we don’t like the phrase ‘customer support’. We don’t want our team to simply follow scripts and fire out links to articles in our Help Center in order to satisfy the client's request. We prefer to go above and beyond, so instead we  employ ‘customer success’ agents. Our customer success team are dedicated product experts, who try to completely understand a client’s business and their workflows before they bend our product to fit their specific needs and processes. If we feel that our product is not the best option for the prospect, we tell them honestly. Obviously, just renaming your customer support department won’t make the difference. Your business needs a high-touch customer relation mindset and passionate employees.

If you are an enterprise-sized business that can afford to have separate technical support and customer success departments, awesome. But if you are an early-stage startup that counts every penny, we strongly recommend to switch to a customer success model. Let customer success agents conduct product training for customers, personally show which new features are implemented, demonstrate value to customer’s business, and advocate their needs.

Once you bring your customer success to a new level, you should start thinking about how to add more value to your features. You can either improve deliverability of the features that your customers appreciate, or improve adoption rates of features that are not used by target customers. Again, your customer success team plays an important role in conducting product training for clients.

Users churn when they do not feel value and your retention efforts fail. Dig into your analytics and identify the main stages where most users churn; fix them! Set aside the development of killer, new features to both attract new customers and focus on existing ones. Turn your product into an asset and embed it into the everyday workflow of your customers.

Bear in mind that any changes, improvements, or new features can be risky, so be sure they are valuable.

We listed the most common reasons why your customers may churn.

Implement a CRM system

You need to develop stellar client relationships before they decide to cancel their subscription. However, it’s challenging to maintain excellent customer relations without having a single system in place to store client-related data. This is where Customer Relationships Management (CRM) systems come into their own.

CRM helps businesses to visualise their pipeline, capture leads and qualify them, assign responsible managers, automate routine tasks, and generate reports, to name just a few of the common features. Some CRM functionality is essential during the downturn.

  • Up-to-date information at your fingertips. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, many businesses have quite rightly realised that personalised, regular communication is the basis for successful, long-term customer relations. In order to personalize their messages, companies should have accurate, real-time data about clients. You don’t have the time to match notes in spreadsheets to a bunch of emails received from a client. CRM does the heavy lifting for you.
  • Segmentation for smart cross-selling and upselling. CRM allows you to tag customers and segment them by certain criteria. You can add new tags and segment customers based on how affected they have been by the crisis. For example, if you have clients in the travel or hotel industry, you might understand that their business probably isn’t in the best shape. Whereas businesses in healthcare or delivery are booming.
    With proper segmentation, you can dedicate communication to offering additional features for companies who benefit from the crisis in the long term, while offering discounts or split payment options for the clients in trouble.
  • Bulk emails. While we insist on personal communication during crisis, it’s not always possible due to the sheer ratio of clients to account managers. A CRM system with extended email functionality allows you to create email templates, send personalised emails in bulk, analysing their performance. Moreover, it helps to cut costs and use your CRM as an email marketing tool. I believe that it’s more effective to send email campaigns via a CRM, as these emails are enhanced with client data.

CRM brings with it a load of other churn-busting features. This includes automated alerts for common pre-churn events such as low account usage. You can also set these alerts up for when a customer doesn’t pay on time. This category of the user needs to be communicated with through your customer success representatives. That's a great opportunity to predict and reduce churn rate.

While you are now reading this post on NetHunt CRM’s beautiful, informative blog, you might realise that ours is actually the best system to maintain long-lasting relationships with your customers. Being a Gmail-based CRM system, it gives you the ability to access customer profiles, deals, opportunities, the funnel, data filters, bulk email campaigns and loads more, right next to your emails. Having a visually intuitive interface, NetHunt has a minimal implementation and adoption period. NetHunt offers a 14-day trial period with no feature limitations and expert guidance from our Customer Success team to set up the system according to your specific business processes. If you’ve been searching for the ideal CRM system, look no further!

Implementing a CRM might feel like a low priority in the given circumstances. However research from Nucleus shows that for each $1 spent on CRM technology, an extremely attractive $8.71 return is generated. Think of it as an investment. Worth it.

Stay flexible to customer requests

As you fly through this turbulence, you need to understand how customer expectations and needs have changed. Your customers might face drastic drop-offs and feel uncertainty about their future. As a service provider, it is your job to be flexible with their request and win their trust for the future. In a crisis, it’s easy to go into short-term survival mode and cancel user subscriptions when they don’t pay on time. Don’t. In a crisis, good businesses think long term.

If you receive a subscription cancellation request, don’t simply accept it without a second through. Offer your struggling customer discount, an option to split their payment, or a ‘payment holiday’, if you have the profit margin to do so. However, be careful and selective about the users who you offer discounts to; don’t undervalue your product.

Some vendors add friction to their cancellation process. I don’t believe that this is good business practice to make the cancellation process hard for users, but I do believe that they shouldn’t churn silently. There needs to  be an opportunity to communicate, to offer an escape route, and to retain them.

This is how Buffer, an automated social networking tool, implemented their cancellation process during Covid.

Source: Buffer website

They don’t let their users cancel their subscription without a fight. They try to engage them and offer help.

Buffer Subscription Cancellation

Along with their extended trial period and waiving of due payments they also offer extended functionality for free to support their customers. Offering free features can have positive, long-term effects because users can become reliant on those features and be upsold to once they get back on their feet.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re saying that you treat your customers in the best, possible way. You already provide discounts and postponing payments but you, as a business, also need to survive. True. So, here are a few things you can ask from your customers in return for your goodwill.

  1. Ask your clients to act as an affiliate and to recommend your product to partners and friends. This will help you to increase the virality factor, known as the K factor. In this case, it’s going to be an artificial increase of the metric, but you might consider implementing a fully-fledged referral program afterwards.
  2. Host a partner webinar. First of all, this strengthens your relations with a partner and decreases the chance of them churning. Secondly, it expands your reach in acquiring new leads. Partner webinars require less preparation because you split the responsibilities. Most of all, it influences awareness of your brand, which is essential for surviving the crisis.
  3. Ask your clients to post a success story on their blog and share it on social media. Let them explain how they benefit from your product and the results they achieved. In this way, your customers serve as brand advocates and attract potential buyers to your product.
Thanks for reading this piece 💙

Act on it!

So much has been said, but we haven’t mentioned half of the techniques on how to reduce churn. All in all, I’d recommend suspending expansion activities at the moment, whilst focusing on retention and customer-centricity. Regardless of whether you operate in a B2B or B2C industry, we are all in B2P; Business-to-People.

Treat your customers like partners; with empathy and solidarity. Help your clients cut costs without increasing churn rate!

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