Recognizing Signs of Churn

It’s not always easy to identify when your customers are packing their bags and getting ready to hit the road, but there are some telltale signs we can look out for.
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It’s not always easy to identify when your customers are packing their bags and getting ready to hit the road, but there are some telltale signs we can look out for. Depending on the available metrics you have at your disposal, this can come with a varying degree of difficulty. 

Let’s explore some indications we as CSMs can look out for and that as a director or VP we can help coach our teams on identifying and how to handle those situations. 

Change in Cadence 

Do you normally hear from your customers every day, once or twice a week? Regardless of why you hear from them, you hear from them, you know they’re doing the things they do and coming to you for [hopefully] strategic advice.

If you suddenly notice a change in cadence with how often your customer is reaching out it could be an indication of churn, but it could also just be someone on vacation and didn’t bother to tell you. 

Change in Team Members

Either your day-to-day contact has left, been fired, or repositioned within the company. A senior stakeholder may also have changed and has altered the focus, making your product less important [right now]. 

If a change of team has occurred, you will need to engage with the new people early. Show them the value of your product, get them on board and get them up to speed on how to use it, this means retraining and re-establishing the value and benefits. 

Change in Objectives / Direction

For whatever reason the objectives and direction of your customer has changed. Perhaps it’s just a single project or temporary diversion from their primary goals, but maybe it’s a major shift in how they operate or what they’re trying to accomplish.

Either way, you want to know what’s changed and why, so you can position your product as a valuable resource in their journey to success. This may mean shifting the benefits and focusing on other aspects of your product or completely selling it to a new stakeholder to get them onboard.  

Money and Contracts

Depending on the invoice period of your product you may be talking money regularly. As soon as the customer asks about contracts, costs or fees it might be an indication that you need to look deeper. 

Customers may ask what the terms of their contract are, end dates, or renewals periods ect. This could just be them wanting to get ahead of potentially lengthy internal battle to renew their subscription and keep happily marching forward. But it could also be a sign that they’re unhappy and want to leave you in the dust. 

Keep on top of contracts and renewals to ensure adequate time is always available for both sides to get things done without rushing or needing tedious service extensions. Be honest and frank, if your customer comes to you asking about dates probe more to understand where it’s coming from.

Position the conversation around ensuring they’re getting value, there’s a good chance they don’t want to go through procurement all over and this is their way of telling you something is wrong. Seize the opportunity to find out what and fix it. 

Upset Customers

Obviously an upset customer can be a clear indication that they might consider churning. If you’re collecting any data such as a regular NPS for your customers a decrease in their NPS could be a sign that you need to have a chat with them to uncover why they’ve become less engaged.

The problem [I find] with NPS is that it’s very basic, it acts as an indication when you ask, but by the time you ask it could be too late, and it doesn’t exactly tell you why they’re displeased, just that that are. 

Try implementing other systems that can give you an idea of a customer mental state into your product. Having access to usage logs and login data will give you a much quicker indication of decreased usage.

Be Proactive vs. Reactive

It can be easy to slip into the idea that Customer Success is a reactive role, but by steering away from this an being proactive you will likely find that churn becomes less easy for your customers. By providing and demonstrating value constantly and getting ahead of potential issues you’ll give your customers more reasons to stay than to go. 

Don’t wait for your customers to tell you what is and is not working, ask them regularly and invest in developing metrics that give you a yellow alert before things get to full-blown battle stations. 

It’s easier, more effective and stickier to keep a customer happy instead of bringing them back from the brink of churn. 

What aspects of reducing churn do you find most challenging? Is there a tool or process you employ to be more proactive? Or something you wish you had? Let us know in the comments!

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