This post was originally posted on The Success League.
“I can’t believe that customer is going to churn! Their usage looks great and we’ve met a few times recently. This was a complete surprise.” This conversation happens too often within many Customer Success (CS) organizations. The root cause of churn is typically a failure to understand and achieve your customer’s business outcomes. How do you overcome this and prevent the cycle of churn from reoccurring?
By business outcomes, I’m referring to the reasons why your customers have purchased your product or service in the first place and the reasons they continue to work with you. There should be quantifiable goals that you have jointly defined with your customer. A few examples can include increasing revenue, saving employee time, and improving the customer experience.
There are typically a few ways that CS teams are tracking business outcome achievement:
- The traditional account management method where you meet with your customers regularly and confirm with them directly.
- The hands-off method where you monitor usage data as a proxy for business outcome achievement.
- A combination of the two.
All too often there isn’t a systematic approach to tracking business outcome achievement, which results in surprise churn or something akin to it. A way to combat this is to create a coordinated engagement approach with your customers that is truly meaningful. It’s designed to uncover the business outcomes of your customers and ensure they are achieving them. This is something I’m defining simply as “meaningful engagements” and it can be very impactful to your overall customer success strategy.
There are three components to implementing a meaningful engagements strategy:
- Define what meaningful engagements are for your organization and how they differ based on how you segment your customers.
- Set goals and determine how you will track and report on meaningful engagements
- Outline how often you will review the impact of your meaningful engagements strategy so you can adjust it over time.
STEP 1: DEFINE MEANINGFUL ENGAGEMENTS
Customer Success teams have many interactions with customers. These include emails, calls, support tickets, surveys, face-to-face meetings, etc… but which ones are truly meaningful engagements? As part of creating a strategy, your CS team needs to ask this question with the goal of defining which engagements build upon each other to achieve your customer’s business outcome.
As a starting point, I recommend that you take some time as a CS team to map out all of the different types of communication that you have with your customers. This can start with the kick-off call that you have with customers and can also include QBRs and renewal discussions. You need to keep asking the question, “does this engagement help define the customer’s business outcome or ensure we are helping them achieve it?” or simply, “is it meaningful?”. There should be items on your list that you can simply cross off such as your customers opening a monthly newsletter email. While this type of engagement is important, it’s not meaningful.
Once you’ve defined what a meaningful engagement is, start to break out the impact level that these engagements may have so you can determine which types of engagements you should allocate resources on.
Here is an example of what this may look like for customers in the higher tiers:
- High impact: kick-off call, in-person meeting, QBR, renewal or expansion discussion
- Medium impact: product training, webinar attendance, responses to specific questions (do you feel that you are achieving X goal?), advocacy (testimonial, reference, case study)
- Low impact: increased breadth or depth adoption metrics, survey responses
Your meaningful engagement model may also differ based on your segmentation strategy. For example, the lower tiers may include other forms of engagement or variations in contact frequency.
STEP 2: TRACK AND REPORT ON MEANINGFUL ENGAGEMENTS
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” — Peter Drucker
Now that you’ve defined what your meaningful engagements are, you need to create targets and a means to measure them. For example, let’s say it’s expected that a QBR will be delivered quarterly to all clients in tiers 1 and 2 and bi-annually to 75% of clients in tiers 3 and 4. These engagements should be part of milestones that are part of the overall customer journey. You may also have a way of tracking certain client training registrants or flagging certain key email responses that demonstrate a meaningful engagement. These will help you determine if your engagement strategy is moving the dial on your customer’s business outcomes. But there are additional benefits.
It is critical that you have a CRM or CS Platform that will allow you to track and measure these engagements and roll up the data in reports and dashboards that allow you to track your progress. Aside from your customer’s business outcomes, you can also determine if these defined engagements have improved top-level metrics such as customer retention, expansion, adoption or customer loyalty. In addition, meaningful engagements can be a measure of CSM performance and part of your performance management process.
STEP 3: REVIEW THE IMPACT OF MEANINGFUL ENGAGEMENTS
It is important to create a regular review process to measure the success rate in achieving the goals that you set out in step 2, and to ensure that you were able to execute the planned meaningful engagements strategy. As an example, were your tier 1 and 2 CSMs able to deliver QBRs to 100% of their clients? If they weren’t, you need to dig into what happened. Were the CSMs too busy? Was it too difficult to create the QBR deck or book the meeting? Did your CSMs have the training they needed? Did clients feel that these engagements were impactful? Setting up a quarterly retrospective is a core component of the meaningful engagement strategy.
In addition, you need to determine if the defined meaningful engagements actually achieved your customer’s business outcomes. You may decide that certain engagements weren’t helpful and should be dropped from the “meaningful” list while new types of engagements may be important to add. As an example, at Eloqua we created a “10 point inspection” where we reviewed various aspects of how our clients were using our product. This was important in assessing whether our clients could achieve their business outcomes. Your CS team will need to review and modify your engagement strategy over time to maximize your resources and achieve your business goals.
Once you have defined meaningful engagements, established goals and tracking systems, and started to regularly review your meaningful engagement strategy, your CS team is ready to make a true business impact. You’ll know how and when you have helped your clients achieve their business outcomes. You’ll reduce the number of “surprise churn” notices that come in. Your CSMs will understand the impact that their efforts are having. Executing a meaningful engagements strategy can have a real impact on the perception of your team and on your overall business. There is no better time than now to get started.