How to effectively use check-ins to increase customer retention rates
Is conducting check-in phone calls or sending e-mails to your customers part of your customer retention strategy? If so, you may want to reconsider how effective those phone calls and emails are in reaching your goal of retaining and growing your customer base.
Consider the following phone call scenarios
Scenario 1: an unscheduled check-in call during Implementation
CSM: “Hi, Customer. It’s CSM. Just calling to check in and see how things are going in the platform.”
Customer: “OK, I guess. I haven’t had much time to fully familiarize myself with it. I don’t really have the time right now to chat, but maybe you can just help me with resetting my password.”
CSM “Of course. I can do that. Can we schedule another time to connect to identify the most useful features for you?”
Customer: “Sure. Send me some proposed times by email.”
CSM: “Will do.”
Scenario 2: a scheduled follow-through call during Implementation
CSM: “Hi, Customer. It’s CSM. Thanks for setting aside the time to walk through how you’re using “Feature A” of our platform so far.”
Customer: “Hi. Yes, I’m definitely having some challenges with using “Feature A” to complete “Task 1”. I’ve been looking forward to this call.
CSM: “Great. Let’s take a look. I recall that you said you wanted to be able to complete “Task 1” for the purpose of _________________ (fill in the blank). How are you currently approaching this task?
Customer: [Explains approach.]
CSM: [Instructs proper approach to completing task.] Then says, “You also identified ____________________ as another goal for yourself in using our platform. Have you been able to make progress toward this goal?”
Customer: “Not yet. I just haven’t had the time. And, honestly, things are changing around here, and I have another list of priorities now.”
CSM “I get it. What’s top on your list of priorities right now? Can we set another call to work through that? I know exactly how you can be using our solution for that purpose.”
Note the difference between checking in and following through.
Scenario 1: “Check-in” is a passive, reactive approach to Customer Success Management. It forces the customer into a leadership role, when their priority is not figuring out how to use your platform. It’s getting their job done. Check-ins are distractions, rather than productive and focused sessions that move adoption forward. These meetings do nothing to promote customer retention. In fact, they can have a deteriorative effect if they persist.
Scenario 2: “Follow-through” is a planned, agenda-ed, call that is goal-oriented. The CSM takes the lead in facilitating a specific effort that has been previously identified and then defines the parameters for the next time they will convene. When the next goal has already morphed from the original list of priorities, that’s ok. The CSM is agile in being able to reset (scrum with the customer) to plan for moving forward. These meetings are productive and contribute to the goal of customer retention.
If you are responsible for conducting phone meetings that promote adoption (and, therefore, retention), you may want to consider some of these suggestions:
- Have an objective for the call. Don’t be vague, forcing the customer to waste his/her time thinking about your platform instead of his/her work. Make sure the objective is aligned with the customer’s goals, even if those goals have shifted. Shifts are opportunities to demonstrate your agility.
- Calls should be scheduled (almost all of the time) and have an agenda. People don’t want their time wasted just to “chat”. Occasionally, you will have opportunities for brief calls, but that should be the exception to the rule.
- Keep a continuous log of all touchpoints with your customer so that you can fully contextualize every call in alignment with your customer’s desired outcomes. When those outcomes change, document how your suggestions shifted to accommodate their new goals.
- Be encouraging, complimentary and positive. Your tone is your handshake. Customers want to remain engaged with people they like. Be likeable.
- Always be thinking of ways to establish more independence for your customer. Listen for opportunities to use training modules or templates to augment your meeting.
- Confirm next steps before ending the call. Identify any changes in priorities or needs, and suggest objectives and timeframes for next meetings.
Using email effectively
What about the email check in? How effective is that in impacting your customer retention rates? While an email doesn’t immediately disrupt a customer’s work, a generic “checking in” email isn’t productive either.
Consider an email you receive with the subject line “Checking In”. What prompts you to open it? “Checking in” is very personal. The recipient of a checking in email is likely to open the email if they have a relationship that they actually want to check in on, or if they have a problem and are eager to reply.
Rather than generically checking in on your customer, consider alternative subject lines and approaches:
- Be specific about why you’re checking in and capture that in your subject line. For example, you might use “Checking to see how you’re feeling about new feature X” or “How’s it going using the X feature in the platform?”
- Use email to schedule a call. If you want to engage in more detail, use email to schedule a call. Be sure to be concise about what you will discuss in the call and suggest specific times you are available to do so.
- Know your underlying agenda. Checking in to advance adoption is different than checking in to explore expansion. While both types of communication are part of your overall customer retention strategy, you don’t just check in to see if a customer wants to expand their licenses. Checking in for adoption is tactical. Checking in with the goal of enticing them to expand is more strategic. Use targeted content to provide value to your expansion-focused check-in emails.
High customer retention rates are dependent upon creating, sustaining and standardizing positive customer experiences. Phone calls and e-mails are the cornerstones of this relationship, and should not be conducted in an ad hoc, unprepared way. Being deliberate and strategic in preparing agendas, knowing your own goals/intentions, and being mindful of how your customer will receive your communication are foundational to conducting effective check-ins that don’t make your customer want to check out.