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4 Ways Business Leaders Can Improve Their Customer Retention (Even In A Pandemic)

Chuck Ciarlo

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One of the most important business metrics during a recession is customer retention.

Of course, getting new customers is vital to growing a business, but keeping and growing the accounts you already have is equally important—otherwise, you’re just churning through your market. According to CNN, the United States officially entered a recession back in February, right as the coronavirus was beginning to have a global impact. Since then, small businesses have floundered, huge retail chains have filed for bankruptcy, and some of the world’s leading tech companies have declared they are moving 100% remote until 2021—some remote forever. 

The next few years are going to be a turbulent time for companies in every industry. Which is why, as a business leader, it’s crucial for you to work hard to keep the customers you currently have happy, look for opportunities to grow those accounts further, and have a well-thought-out customer success program in place.

Here are 4 ways you can improve customer retention within your own business.

1. Define the customer’s journey by setting proper expectations.

The moment a lead becomes a customer, it’s your responsibility to grab them by the hand and show them the path forward.

According to a study by Gartner, “89% of businesses are expected to compete mainly on customer experience.” This means that customers are largely defining “success” by how well they feel taken care of by you and your staff—and if they feel deprioritized, ignored, or taken for granted, they will happily take their business elsewhere.

A few ways to define each customer’s journey:

  • Establish clear measures for success and key milestones
  • Clarify decisions and next steps as often as possible
  • Have consistent check-in times between both teams 
  • Over-communicate and address problems proactively instead of reactively

2. Provide personal attention and “white-glove” support

I firmly believe there are two types of companies: those that do the job they were hired to do, and those that go above and beyond for the customer.

Obviously a key aspect of running a profitable business is not going too far “out of scope,” but there is a lot to be said for companies that give their clients an extra hand when they need it. 

This is especially important in times of uncertainty like the one we currently find ourselves in. Customers want to know you’re a partner, not just a vendor. They will remember how you handled business and whether you offered discounts or flexible payment terms, for example.

“White-glove” support means providing special care and attention to each and every customer, but especially high-priority customers that make up a larger chunk of the company’s revenue, or have been incredible referral engines for the business. 

When does “white-glove” support start?

The moment that customer walks through the door.

It’s your responsibility to take it upon yourself to find these opportunities, and not wait for the client or customer to tell you they need some extra help. 

3. Schedule “customer health” check-ins

You always want to be monitoring the status of your customers, so that you can not only get a better sense of upcoming churn and how that will impact revenues, but also so that you can have the opportunity to remedy the situation before the customer chooses to leave.

For scheduled “customer health” check-ins for 1-year contracts, consider touching base:

  • At kickoff
  • 60 days from contract start
  • 270 days to renewal
  • 180 days to renewal
  • 100 days to renewal

In addition, you should always be tracking your customer satisfaction score. Hubspot has a terrific guide on this, but essentially you want to group customers in categories based on their score: 100 is the highest and represents the lowest risk of churn, and lower scores mean lower satisfaction and, therefore, a greater chance of churn. You then add or take away points for things like check-in call results, responses, changes in product or service usage, etc. 

By closely monitoring customer satisfaction, you will better be able to solve for retention before it becomes an unsolvable problem.

4. Monitor customer usage and look for ways to re-engage the customer

Activity trend monitoring is crucial to understanding the happiness of your customers.

For example, is your customer’s usage steady? Going up? Going down?

How often are they logging into your software? How long do they stay in the application? What features are they using—and which ones are they ignoring?

All of these data points can tell you a lot about how customers are using your product or service, and will usually reveal where they need the most help. For example, if a customer isn’t using a primary feature or benefit of your service, they might not know it exists. Or maybe they need some education around how to get the most out of it. This is why going above and beyond, and being proactive instead of reactive, is crucial to getting your customers to stick around longer.

In addition, you should also look for other signs the customer maybe needs something different. For example, sometimes the product or service is exactly what they need, they just don’t “click” with the individual responsible for their account. Or maybe they need someone with a different skillset on their specific account. 

These are easy fixes—so long as you’re always paying close attention, and looking for small ways to make the customer 10x happier.

For the past 40 years, I have been starting and building service and technology based businesses—two of which were successfully acquired. My first venture was a full-service direct marketing company called U.S. Business Services. This business ultimately inspired my second venture, 800 Direct, which was a BPO that provided 24/7 contact center and customer relationship management services for Fortune 1000 companies—including Sprint, Hallmark, Bose, Barnes & Noble, Hasbro, and many others. After learning the ins and outs of the BPO world, I saw an opportunity to bring a workforce optimization solution to the market to make contact centers more efficient. So, in 2002, I founded Monet Software to do just that. For the first 10 years operating Monet, I identified partners and outsourced software development to companies located in India and Bulgaria, where I traveled frequently. I then decided to launch my own engineering and development center in south eastern Europe. Over the next two decades, Monet became a global provider for contact centers of all sizes and, with Monet WFO Live, delivered a complete cloud-based suite to automate workforce management, call recording, quality assurance, agent analytics, and more. In 2019, Monet was acquired by enterprise leader Verint Systems, where I continue to run the day-to-day operations of Monet. I am a passionate entrepreneur, senior executive, and investor.

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