To Reduce SaaS Churn, Help Your Customers 24/7
By Anna Talerico
Jun 27 2019
Sometimes big questions get floated like, “What is the meaning of life?”, “What’s my passion?” or “How can we reduce our SaaS customer churn?”
If you have ever dealt with customer churn, reduced customer churn, worked in customer success or run a SaaS company, you know the enormity of this question.
It takes a village to reduce churn
Customer churn is impacted by product, first and foremost. But it’s also how we market, how we sell and how we support customers. It’s a big tangled ball of customer retention fun. It’s never as simple as “Change this one thing and retention will improve overnight.”
You simply can’t isolate single variables to find one magic bullet to improve your customer retention. Improving retention takes time. It takes a multi-pronged approach. It takes data, insights, patience, and intuition. It takes a village.
To fight customer churn, you have to hit it from a variety of angles. Product, marketing, sales, and customer success have to come together to actually make an impact.
One customer success yarn in the tangled ball of churn
Here’s an example of where customer success and support can make an impact on churn: Make sure your customers can learn and access help on their terms.
This doesn’t mean you need to staff a call center of customer success reps 24/7 (but it might). What it means is you have to be “available”, when and how they need you. And by available, I don’t really mean your staff. Believe it or not, I mean your content.
In the olden days (yep, I wrote the phrase “olden days”) before software was available as a service and everything was installed, customers were forced to work with you on your schedule and availability.
They couldn’t get started without you, and so would happily attend kick off and training sessions with you and follow your methodical approach to getting them up and running. They willingly started at your step one and followed to step two and step three. You were in control of how customers were onboarded and how they experienced your software.
Things are different now. A customer can do a google search, spend five minutes on your website, sign up for a free trial and start using your software right then and there. Even if they can’t—even if your customer has to go through a sales process and contract negotiation and you have to spin up an instance of your software for them—the expectations and norms of working with software have fundamentally changed.
If you want to delight your customers and retain them, it’s not enough to force them to access training and support on your terms or your agenda.
You can’t expect customers to learn, explore and adopt your product on your timetable. These things are happening all the time, in real-time.
Schedule-based learning and support are too limiting for the modern customer who is working on their own variable schedule, coordinating colleagues in different time zones. And, they are pressed for time, all the time.
When it comes to improving SaaS product adoption, improving the product is always the first step. But it’s not enough. These types of SaaS training and support initiatives work well to align with your buyer and how they want to work.
- Offer a variety of training types. Live online training, on-demand recorded training sessions, spot training sessions, “office hours”, long format training content, short format content, long video, short videos, infographics. You name it, you need it. Especially in an enterprise SaaS, you need a wide variety of training materials to hit different types of learners. Make your training resources easy to get to—via emails you send, via your product, or via your support site. Make sure customers never have to wonder, “Now, how can I see that training video again?” or “Now when are office hours?” or even, “Now how can I schedule a training session for my new team member?” Don’t assume your customers know. Put your training resources in their face by making them available everywhere they interact with you and your product.
- Launch in-platform “walk me” functionality. When your users are in your platform, help them. Create (or better yet, install a third party) “walk me” assistant that helps users through key features, first-time step, etc, while they are in your product. Short, simple explainer videos and links to relevant support content can help increase adoption significantly. Create a series of “walk me” prompts and help content for users who first log in, or first hit a feature. And then have a secondary set of “wall me” content or support that’s available within a click after they are up and running. This works on the simplest of SaaS product to the most robust.
- Provide in-product chat. An in-platform chat feature can help solve customer questions, problems, and challenges right in the moment so you don’t disrupt their workflow. Yes, you need this in addition to the first two bullets above. You can’t control what customers pay attention to, or even if they pay attention to. A customer might sit through a bunch of personal, live training sessions and yet retain nothing. Or attend to little of the presented content. Everyone learns differently, and everyone retains information differently. Heck, you can’t even control if users view any training sessions. Some will skip any learning step you put in front of them, log right in, and expect to know how to do everything instantly. In-product chat helps reduce this friction. Don’t let customers get frustrated, and don’t make them stop their workflow to jump over to some help content. Be there right when they think, “Now, where is that setting?”. You don’t have to staff chat 24/7, just staff it during peak hours, perhaps 10-12 hours a day to account for most timezone shifts in your customer base.
- Create use-case content. At a high level, customer case studies specific to how they used your SaaS product to achieve specific business results. At a more granular level, “Did you know” content on key or unknown features, snack-sized content that can reveal a new use or application for a feature. Post it everywhere—email, your blog, your support site, your Instagram account, and Twitter. You never know where your customer wants to, or will, tune in to your message, so be where they are with your content. This will inspire action, which will help lead to product adoption and usage.
Just do it
No matter how simple or complex your product is, these ideas will help. And no matter how small, or lean, your customer success, support and product organizations are these initiatives can be rolled out. Don’t be afraid of what it will take to get them off the ground—counterintuitively these recommendations will save you time and resources (and customers!) as they start to take root and your customer becomes better trained and supported.
And recognize that one strategy isn’t a magic wand
Of course, customer retention takes a village. None of these initiatives alone can reverse high churn numbers. But they will absolutely help, and in some cases can help dramatically.