Customer Success has never mattered more. By some reports, the average eCommerce customer who cost $9 to recruit in 2013 now costs… $29.
Customer acquisition cost is growing on average 13% per year, far ahead of inflation at 3%.
And, a lost customer has never been more likely to never give you another chance.
It has never cost more to lose a customer.
The traditional knowledge is that customers leave because they’re seduced by a competitor’s marketing, or a sweetheart price, or because they just don’t “get it”. We tend to write them off as unrecoverable.
What does the research say? Anything but.
In this article, we’ll explore the reasons customers stay and leave, what you can do about it, and how at the end of the day, customer success, sales, marketing, and product are all chasing the same dream: product education.
Let’s dive in.
Why Customers Leave
Maybe a competitor offered your long-time customer a deep discount. Or, they promise a custom integration that you know they can’t possibly make money on. You’ve met their sales team – there’s a solid chance they didn’t represent their inferior product as truthfully as they could.
Maybe it’s even worse – maybe the customer’s the problem. They’re not being upfront about their needs.
Or the nightmare: They just don’t get it.
Whatever the reason, your team is sure that it’s not their fault. After all, you have the best product, reasonable pricing, and great support. The customer was onboarded and always supported. Didn’t Entrepreneur Magazine just say that you’re the best?
What went wrong?
The real reasons customers leave may be surprising. The hard truth? Every reason is your responsibility.
The customer doesn’t need your product anymore
As straightforward as it is painful: the need went away.
This could be because their business changed, their finances changed, or they solved the problem permanently. For whatever reason, they just don’t need you anymore.
How can great customer support and education fix this? By engaging early and often, you can know in advance to help create the ultimate customer experience.
You can’t help if a customer’s business changes, but you can know it’s happening. Frequent and meaningful discussions focused on delighting the customer instead of meeting a quota can uncover looming changes.
Sometimes, this gives you the chance to show the customer how you can still help them. It could be because they don’t fully understand a feature of your product, or because they’re not aware you can help modify their account to something more affordable.
Other times, you can be the one to help them offboard, creating a positive experience they’ll share with their network.
A competitor recruited the customer away
Easily the most frustrating, because the customer and dollar lost to you went straight to the competition. Given all the tactics you’re sure the “bad guys” used to win your customer over, how is this your responsibility?
With relationships focused on their benefit, they’ll be a lot less willing to cancel their account before talking with you. In fact, they might even turn to you first with a chance to save them the hassle of converting to a new product.
The customer had bad experiences with your product
You’re only responsible for a tiny piece of the customer experience. That may be a single feature, a specific function inside Customer Success, or sales in a single region. How can you possibly influence the whole business?
This can be tough. Most of the time, it’s better to show Engineering, Product, Marketing, Sales, Customer Success, or the C-Suite team exactly what’s going on than to tell them. They’re just as busy as you are.
With a tool like Extelli, it’s as easy as point-and-click for a customer to show you exactly what’s wrong.
Finding those points of friction requires talking with your customers early and often. A great customer discovery interview is a leading indicator. A lost account is not only a lagging indicator; it’s also the end of that relationship forever.
The customer had bad experiences with your team
We saved the worst for last. Why is this reason the worst? Two reasons.
First, it’s completely preventable.
No product is perfect – that’s why Customer Success teams exist. And customers don’t expect a perfect experience with your team. What they do expect, though, is to feel heard and a fast time to resolution.
What they won’t tolerate is being ignored, resolutions that only favor your company’s needs, or worst of all, a rude support team. They’re paying you, after all.
Second, this reason is shockingly high on the list of reasons customers quit products. In fact, it’s frequently cited as a Top 2 reason.
This means a bad Customer Success experience actually annoys customers more than changes to features and pricing, and loses them faster than a competitor’s great offer.
Feeling overwhelmed? There’s good news – creating great customer experiences with your team is completely within your control.
How to Create the Ultimate Customer Experience… and the Benefits
You can’t control the whole company, so let’s focus on what you can. Here’s how to create an amazing customer experience.
Create a Bridge
Marketers spend billions of dollars every year trying to reach new customers, surveying current customers, or scrambling for 5-star reviews.
Engineering spends even more money building, scrapping, and rebuilding products to delight customers. They work from their own ideas, market research, or the CEO’s direction.
Along the way, the CS team is working diligently to maximize the impact of your other teams’ work. They spend every minute of every working day talking with the people you care about most: your customers. This communication fosters customer retention and positive relationships with your product as it evolves.
Change your perspective to become an advocate for customers to your business, and your business to customers. After all, who else in your company knows more about your customers?
Turn Feedback into Innovation
Piggybacking on the first point, your deep experience with your customers can do a lot more than just connect the company and the market.
That experience can actually become fuel for innovation. Whether you’re providing rapid feedback on old or new features, co-creating new value with customers, or actively searching for complaints, this wealth of proactive feedback can fuel Product, Sales, and Marketing at a fraction the cost of the most popular method: guessing.
Integrate into Every Business Function
The CS team should be plugged into everything to be as effective as possible. They should have some say in marketing communications and always need to know about product releases and new features. They can also assess the voice of the customer, customer feedback, and how that flows into the product development life cycle.
The CS team should also have a voice in product design. In other words, the CS team doesn’t just act as an external bridge – it also becomes the connective tissue of your business.
It takes buy-in from everyone, not just the CS team. Unfortunately, a lot of teams ignore feedback from customer success. You can give your team a competitive advantage to achieve ultimate customer experiences by bringing the CS voice to the leadership table.
Create Great Product Education
Who owns product education? Some say Sales, or Marketing, or Product, or Customer Success. We argue that it’s all of the above, because each team owns a piece of the puzzle.
If it’s not being done, step in to make it happen. Document processes using simple tools like Extelli. Test the documentation with customers. Study common problems, compare those to the support resources you provide, and figure out why customers aren’t “getting it” from the guides you provide.
Most importantly – never assume the work is done. Whether it’s inactive accounts, lots of support tickets, or high churn, there is always more product education to be done.
Proactively Teach Other Teams
There are several ways the CS team can keep everyone else updated.
- Summaries of customer discussions
- Connecting other teams directly with customers
- Source low-risk, highly engaged reference customers
- Share lessons learned across teams
Imagine being the Engineering team. They live inside code all day. Their backlog is years-long. They haven’t talked to a customer in… maybe ever.
The secret is to be proactive. Don’t wait for the next review: document the issues and find the right people to fix them.
An effective Customer Success team can have a broad impact on your overall financial well-being as a company. The impact of CS on the top and bottom lines is clear:
- A 2% increase in customer retention is the same financial impact as a 10% cost reduction (Leading on the Edge of Chaos)
- More than half (55%) of customers will pay extra to guarantee better service (Defaqto Research)
- It costs at least five times more to acquire than to retain a customer… (Forbes)
- … and repeat customers spend twice as much per year with you (McKinsey)
Disproportionately lower costs, a higher willingness to pay, avoiding disproportionately higher customer acquisition costs, and doubling the average customer annual value — all by providing great customer success.
Become a Culture Champion… Internally and Externally
Customer Success teams carry the pain, frustration, joy, and success of the customer. They can become very good at bringing the voice of the customer to the table.
This impacts the entire company culture by making everyone more customer-centric.
This level of commitment also champions your culture to customers, as they see their problems resolved both right away and forever. By turning customer feedback into product improvements, you’re recruiting lifelong customers who are resistant to persuasive competitor offers.
Leading the Customer Experience
In a world obsessed with customer acquisition, customer success is an unsung hero. Leading this team may require a transformation in how your company culture thinks about your role.
Take the lead in transforming how your company views your team away from a cost center and to an essential partner for Product, Sales, Marketing, Engineering, and the C-Suite.
So What’s next?
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Extelli lives in the world we’re discussing here… and we would love for you to join the conversation. Check out our post about this topic on LinkedIn.