Post-pandemic, customers have and continue to re-evaluate what’s important to them. At a time when consumers are more willing to switch brands or try alternatives, how can brands ensure customer satisfaction to reduce churn and increase loyalty?
Lead Forensics recently held a webinar on 20 October 2021 with a panel of tech leaders who share valuable insights and opinions on this hot topic!
Our experts discuss why it’s more important than ever to understand your customer, the value of building strategic relationships, how to exceed expectations across touchpoints, why software is pivotal, and finally, their top tips on how to improve customer retention.
Transcript – ‘Strategies for Success in a Transformed World’
Hi everybody, welcome to the webinar with Lead Forensics. We’re just going to give everyone a couple of minutes to join, and then we’ll be with you imminently.
Okay, hi everyone, I can see a few people have joined, and I think we’ve got some more on their way in as well so we’ll go ahead.
First of all to introduce myself; my name’s Tim bond. I’ll be your chair for this webinar. I am the Director of Insight at the Data & Marketing Association here in the UK, which means I oversee a lot of the research, both industry, and consumer, that we run as part of our kind of role as a membership body for this sort of space. But I’m here to chair this session put together by Lead Forensics, so thank you very much to them, around Customer Retention and Strategies for Success in a Transformed World.
So with that as a bit of an introduction really, I think we’d all agree that the pandemic has really changed the way that we all live, work, play, and shop, in all our ways, and all the kinds of parts of our life.
From our own customer engagement research, which has been running since back in 2016 when we first started it and it’s an annual piece, we’ve seen that the pandemic has actually accelerated some of the key trends that we’ve been tracking over that time, as well. Particularly, unsurprisingly, given where we all are today around this kind of digital and virtual communications channels, in particular, they were always sort of growing there in the background over recent years but clearly, the last, well nearly two years now, has just accelerated that much faster than we may have expected and brought up some new channels as well. It’s fast becoming something now that people and a lot of our customers actually expect as the norm, and not just a kind of a good add-on to have.
In addition, we’ve seen customers re-evaluate what’s important to them and change accordingly whether that’s in the B2B or B2C context, as well. In our consumer research, we’ve seen switching actually reduced slightly over the last two years but it’s still over half of the people who were asked, who have switched something of one of the categories that we asked about in the last 12 months. And of them, 40% said that they did that because they had a bad experience. So not giving customers the experiences that they expect is still, you know, a big risk to brands even in the pandemic when people maybe want to stick with the ones they see as more reliable.
So within B2B in particular, with all the changes to work practices as well as coming out of the pandemic and potentially starting to re-evaluate suppliers with more scrutiny once again which maybe might have been parked or paused over the troubling times when other issues were being dealt with; building trust and loyalty within this space remain a key challenge for many businesses, so to build this trust there are a few things that all brands need to do and lots that brands can choose to do as well, and a lot of the research and conversations I have we always see that these ideas of functional drivers and price are really and clearly hygiene factors that all businesses must be aware of. That’s the old run seal line of doing what you say on the tin, and it’s also about being the right price – not necessarily the cheapest but right for what you’re providing in the service that you’re providing as well.
However, in the last two years, we’ve also seen an acceleration in the need for brands to be things like compassionate and values-driven as a possible differentiator. That can be anything from just treating customers and staff well, to good corporate citizens and CSR (corporate social responsibility) programs, or sustainability, or supporting local economies as well, in the last year that’s been a popular one. Also the potential to prove their reputation either through customer testimonials, recommendations, referrals. Those are not just really powerful acquisition tools, but really good ways of showing that you are the kind of brand that should be sort of stuck with as well.
Then also customer experiences; so things like free trials, good customer service, and a big one in B2B which I think is often overlooked actually in the B2C space, is this idea of tenure and actually looking after those long-standing customers. Not just giving the best deals to the new customers which we see a lot in the consumer space, actually rewarding those customers that stick with you and have that length of service and making them feel as valued as they really are.
So how can B2B brands ensure that customer satisfaction, reduce that churn and increase loyalty? And also how’s that changed over the last two years?
Well, I’m glad to say that I’m not the one who’s expected to have all the answers today. I’ve got five lovely panellists around me who I’m going to introduce you to in just a moment, and then start firing some questions.
Just to say we’ve got our own questions box as well, so if anybody in the audience has any questions they’d like to pop to either specifically or to the group at large, do pop them in there. I’ll be checking that throughout the conversation.
To introduce everybody and in no particular order, we’ve got:
Karin O’Grady who’s the Global Head of Customer Marketing at Cognism, where she focuses on driving strategic initiatives to support retention.
We’ve also got Molly O’Hare the Director of EMEA Operations at G2, where she spent nine years in a variety of different roles helping grow the business from the ground up.
Johnny Adams, who is Principal Consultant at SBR Consulting, he specializes in delivering sustainable sales change focusing on strategy, people, and processes.
We’ve got Orla Walsh, who’s Customer Success Manager at Panintelligence, she is a self-confessed absolute fanatic when it comes to the tech industry and also really passionate about building those customer relationships as well.
And then last but by no means least, from our host today, Owen McIntyre who’s a Retention Marketing Manager. He’s got over 10 years of experience in-house as a B2B marketer overseeing customer comms and lead generation campaigns.
So a real sort of variety, but with a lot of B2B expertise in there as well – so really excited and welcome all. Thank you all for your waves!
So, first of all, I’d like to go with a bit of a round-robin if we can quickly, just start around, well, so, why is it more important than ever to understand your customers? And within that, sort of how have customer needs and objectives maybe changed over the pandemic, over the last couple of years, and what are some of the new expectations placed on brands as well. Maybe Molly, if we could start with you.
Yeah certainly, thanks Tim, and thanks Lead Forensics for having me. I’m excited to talk a little bit and not just about G2’s own experience with our customers, but also what we’ve been seeing across the B2B landscape. And what we’re seeing is that the balance of power continues to shift toward buyers, so our customers have never had more choice when it comes to the kinds of solutions that they have available to them, nor have they had the kind of access to information to do their own research and come to their own decisions about what’s right for their business.
G2 recently released the results of a survey on buyer behavior and we found that 67% of B2B buyers usually engage a sales team after they’ve already made up their minds about what they’re going to purchase. So two-thirds of your customers are doing their own research coming to their own conclusions about your brand, about your product, and then they’re only speaking to you when they’re ready to buy or when they’re ready to renew your product or service; which is probably a little bit scary, and the pandemic has only accelerated this trend.
Teams are more distributed, we haven’t been getting together in person at things like conferences or networking events, even around the proverbial water cooler where people are trading information about products and services. So where do people go in the absence of these events? They’re going online.
They’re doing their research online, and so like at G2, we saw huge spikes in traffic at the outset of the pandemic back in Spring 2020. As you might imagine people were scrambling to find the right tools to help enable remote working and now that we’re firmly sort of in this new reality, we’re continuing to see not only you know with us at G2, but our customers as well, a kind of continued demand for any kind of digital content that can be consumed, referenced, and then is easily shareable within teams.
So this kind of content is so important if you’re going to be part of that process for the 67% of customers that are researching. Tim mentioned in the opening about the importance of building trust when buyers are doing this research, that’s when they’re first forming those opinions about you, about your brand, about whether you can meet their needs, and then they’re going to come to you with those opinions.
They’re going to come to you when they’re likely ready to buy, and then they’re going to expect to be able to sort of seamlessly transact with you from that point, so in this new buying environment, it’s really up to the sellers to meet the buyers where they are, give them the right information based on where they are in the buyer journey, at the right time, in order to optimize conversions and retention.
Fantastic yeah, really interesting. Orla, can I come to you next, what are you seeing at Panintelligence?
Yeah sure. So yeah, I think lots has changed for customers and it definitely is more important now to understand and understand them truly. I think I’m going to come at this question from kind of a customer success angle, obviously, I’m biased and it’s obviously comparably quite a new area as well in lots of businesses, and I think things are changing constantly so customers are forever re-evaluating what is important, so actually, from a business perspective, it’s quite difficult to keep up with that sometimes and to truly understand the customer.
We actually made a transition earlier this year in our team from an Account Management function to a Customer Success function, and I learnt that it’s actually really easy to think that you know what’s important and you understand your customer, but really you don’t understand that at all, and we had a lot of box-ticking exercises that were very much designed you know, it was a meeting-for-meeting sake, or we thought that we were doing something that was really beneficial for the customer and it actually wasn’t, and that’s kind of been a real change in thought for the whole business. And part of this was the handover process; so we didn’t really have like, the new business to customer success process down at all, and I think that that’s the part where you really get from your customer what is important for them and you understand kind of their compelling reason to buy, what first value looks like for them, and how you can deliver that, and I think also what their timelines are, because often we know, you can’t move those and they’ll kind of do it at their own pace and you need to work with the customer to understand what that looks like.
So I think if you have that bad experience in onboarding and you’re not making sure that that is completely right, then that really shapes that first experience, and it’s a massive risk because then obviously you know there’s a greater risk of churn as well after that. We’ve also seen and particularly in the kind of business that we operate in, there’s been a real rise in data literacy, so I think Molly touched on this briefly as well, so people had that data insight, but previously didn’t really understand I don’t think so much how to use it and particularly at the sea level there wasn’t a data strategy, whereas that’s completely changed with the pandemic, or has definitely been accelerated. So people have been implementing data strategies whether otherwise there weren’t any, and they’re making decisions a lot quicker as well, so because they’ve got that insight available to them they understand exactly what metrics they are looking for and actually it also means that there is that kind of higher risk, so you need to make sure that you can understand exactly what it is your customers do need and get to the bottom of it, and I think there’s a greater expectation on the time taken to reach first value.
So we’ve seen that a long implementation timeline isn’t acceptable anymore at all, and customers really want to get a return on investment if they have to justify spend internally, then they need to kind of have a good reason in order to do so, and they’ll be less forgiving if there’s a bad experience, so in terms of brands, you need to make sure that you’ve got that right from the very outset, and you’re kind of transparent, and you’ve managed the expectations.
Perfect thanks, Orla. Really interesting! Johnny, have you got anything else to add in there?
Thank you, Tim and all. Molly thanks for sharing your thoughts, and it’s interesting and I’ve just got one key thing to share really and it corroborates Molly’s research at G2. I’m a Sales Consultant, so I firmly work within the sales funnel, but I know that marketing and sales are intertwined very heavily as we all can be aware of if you’re a marketeer or a sales professional, and back in 2017 Forrester brought out some research around the “Death of the B2B salesperson”.
Now that’s quite close to my heart. If anyone’s read or watched the video it actually corroborates with the research about G2 about 68% of B2B buyers are looking online before going to see a sales professional for their opinion. It’s fascinating because working with an organization recently as a consultant, one of my clients is a unicorn within the SaaS space and they sell HR performance software to organizations, and what we focused on was over the last 18 months is the complexity of the current competitor landscape is just ever-growing.
So how do you cut through that? By making sure that you first map your client and your customer’s buying process prior to then going into the sales process. I think that’s a unique element towards the way that sales professionals should focus on things to ensure that we can understand our customer much more about how we should act, rather than actually thinking ‘this is the way we should do it’. We should first and foremost understand how our customers buy, and then match the way that we can then service those through marketing, great nurturing campaigns, and on towards the sales team. So I just wanted to corroborate what Molly mentioned as well. Thank you, Tim.
Karin, do you have anything to come back or Orla as well?
Yeah I think everyone said some very interesting things there, and I think just at least from my perspective to go back to what Orla was saying, I think yeah, we need to for us at Cognism, we really have to focus on the onboarding process because onboarding can make or break a customer ultimately.
So if you can map out your customer journey and really identify all the areas that you need to resolve and improve to make sure that you are delivering a meaningful and memorable experience to your customers. That is certainly something we are we’re looking to achieve, so that’s at least from a Cognism perspective, that’s where we’re at and we’ve made some really good progress on that, and yeah that’d be good.
Yeah, I’d like to second that actually, I think picking up on what Orla was saying about kind of time to value and people wanting, you know, they want a more personalized journey at the beginning of their onboard.
So actually once you purchase a piece of technology, you purchase the SaaS, you get a subscription, all of us these days, there was a time when it was acceptable to take three months to deploy, now people want it as quickly as they can.
Us at Lead Forensics, we used to have a 12-step, 12-call onboarding process which took 12 weeks, but actually, we recently surveyed our customers, well I say recently the last 18 months, and that was just taking them far too long and many people weren’t getting to the end of it. So now we’ve got a three-call process where actually you can get to value within less than 48 hours, and that has actually helped improve our retention no end, and actually our customers are much happier as a result of it.
I think when we talk about how the pandemic and how different things in the modern world changed people’s expectations, that’s just it, people expect things to be faster. You purchase software, you expect to be an expert within an hour, and we’ve got to meet those expectations in order to retain our customers. So yeah, all good stuff.
Yeah interesting, I’m hearing a lot of that expectation of speed and just getting up to and understanding those customers being really key, so I guess if we move on from that and ask about, think about, maybe why should brands focus on building strategic relationships with all of their existing customers? As well you know how can this, doing things like I don’t know, improve customer satisfaction, as well as loyalty; and how do those loyal customers differ and how or why is it important to understand that? Also, you know how can that it potentially turn into brand advocacy and create that sort of negative churn, where you’re actually also kind of growing through that as well.
Let’s go with Johnny, should we come to you first this time?
Brilliant thanks Tim, and I’m sure some of my peers will have some great comments to mention as well. It’s an interesting topic, I suppose if you on one hand first of all to answer the question “why should brands focus on building strategic relationships”, well it costs about six times cheaper to win that first pound than it is to obviously go out and find and hunt your new accounts, right. So first of all cost of client acquisition is critical towards building strategic accounts.
I think there’s also that element around, let me just break the question down, and I’m looking from a sales perspective here, so an account-based selling model, if we want to look at that and then if we move on to retention, is that you use the word “all”, and I’m not not knocking you, Tim, for being the Director and the host of this, but the word “all” is is a question in itself.
Should we be building a strategic relationship with all?
My perspective as a consultant would be no. So first and foremost what we want to be able to identify is who are those, what I call lighthouses, and who are those wreckers? And then if you go back towards the philosophy around that is identifying some of your key strategic partners through segmenting your account base, identifying some of those tier one, tier twos, and then the rest is tier three, is through what is the potential growth, the share of wallet, what’s the opportunity that they’re currently spending with you, and then once we’ve got that built-in that segmentation, then we can go forth and build and focus on those particular brands, and it ultimately comes back to investment of resources.
People’s resource, i.e you know we have a certain amount of headcount in the business in the CSM team that can provide that benefit towards the right accounts, and you might look at that from an enterprise-level, so you have more time and more touchpoints spent with them, which will enable you to retain and create better customer loyalty, and ultimately if you’re in a SaaS model for example, you can drive the amount of upsell throughout that period of time. Now if you’ve got mid to smaller enterprises, you might spend less time with them, but you can only do that by identifying what is a strategic account to you as a business, and clearly, you can’t focus on everyone because then the business might not be as economic as that case.
I think just to touch upon what I mean by lighthouses and wreckers, and then I can pass over to maybe one of my peers, but there was a bit of an analogy back in the day that you know wreckers wanted ships to come on towards the corals to make sure that it crashed in there, and then they would go and take all the valuables out of there; that could be seen as one of your one of your clients. They might not be the right client for you, and therefore investing the time into those wreckers might not be the right way forward.
However, we might want to invest our time into the lighthouses, and if you’ve got a trajectory as a business and you’re going forward in terms of reaching your goals over the next three or five years, then those lighthouses are the ones that you want to invest your time in because they will guide you through the seas, up towards that endpoint, and there’s a bit of a poetic ending towards that statement so I’ll pass back to you Tim.
No, perfect. Yeah, I think you picked up there on the “all” the yeah they’re not an amorphous group, and I think that’s why that understanding is really key right? And actually having the, I guess, what you said there, is having the confidence to identify the ones that maybe strategically you don’t want to put the time and resource into, is a it’s a pretty bold move for most businesses to make because your natural instinct is just to try and retain everyone as you say.
Karin, can we move to you on that? What do you see as kind of that importance and why should brands look at understanding, or maybe not all, but understanding their customers?
Absolutely. Absolutely agree with what Johnny said, I think you can’t as much as you’d like to focus on developing strategic relationships with all your customers you know that’s you got to prioritize so you’ve got to break down and segment your accounts you know, and that can be based on you know, the ARR (annual recurring revenue) they spend with you, whether it’s the breadth of use case, or even which customers are advocates of yours, you know, which ones are taking part in case studies, are getting involved in speaking opportunities, and are vocal in the market about your products and services.
So there’s really something you need to focus on prioritizing and once you’ve you know established how you want to prioritize your accounts, really focus on delivering the greater value and bringing them in through the customer life cycle and fostering them to becoming advocates and loyal customers of yours so that you they’re not churning and they are renewing with you year on year, because ultimately you know higher retention rates means that you’re also increasing your expansion opportunities and that is only good things you know for your business later on.
And I think there’s probably something to be said as well about how you build the strategic relationships, and I think as there are increased vendors out there and you’re really trying to stand out, you’re really having to deliver a message, and that is perhaps more human to your customers, and that you’re really delivering the value that they expect from your from your products and services but trying to also go beyond that and trying to form a more human feel to a relationship, so that they’re not just having an impression of you as a company, it’s really the engagement and the customer experience that you are delivering on top of that, so I think there’s there’s something to be said about that as well.
Yeah definitely. Orla, I’m intrigued to get your perspective as a business that’s just kind of transitioned from that account management to success model, how’s that kind of building of strategic relationships and understanding those customers kind of played out as part of that process, was that a kind of key driver?
Yeah so I think actually picking up on kind of what both of Karin and Johnny said as well, so I think that a strategic relationship means that there’s value for both brands. So it’s not kind of on one side or the other, and actually sometimes as still managing customers, I find that really difficult what you were talking about previously in terms of you know, looking at objectively at the ARR or MRR (monthly recurring revenue) and actually you know, I think customers can bring tangible and non-tangible things, and I’m glad that you mentioned that Karin about kind of case studies, and when I think about the customers I could call on to speak at our customer conference, or I know will always do a reference call for me, those sorts of things. They may not kind of pay the most in revenue but actually, that is just as important for a business, and as you’re growing, you need to bring those people along with you as well as your highest value customers, and kind of the more corporate customers that you’ve got; and I think as well if because we’ve got such a breadth and depth of customers, there’s so many different sizes, and they do all sorts of different things in different industries with amazing products, and sometimes it’s really hard to look at all of them and capture the voice of the customer.
So are we doing anything in the product that actually would maybe be detrimental to a segment of them, or is that gonna kind of work for everyone? Is it something that is going to drive us to the growth in those most important accounts? And so if you’re if you have those strategic conversations, even if maybe you don’t have as much time to invest in the lower value accounts, but at least you have an appreciation of kind of where their strategic goals lie, then I think you can make sure that the voice of the customer shines through and it’s kind of for everyone, rather than just for some; and I always kind of have that in the back of my mind thinking right across the breadth “how does this affect everyone” essentially.
So yeah it’s a difficult one, but it’s definitely an interesting one, and I think it’s the job of the customer success team to drive those strategic relationships as well, and make sure you’ve got a breadth of stakeholders in the accounts as well, so that you’ve got the different disciplines and they’re coming at it from completely different angles.
Perfect. Thanks Orla.
So I guess next, we’ve got how can brands and B2B businesses, in particular, go on to exceed those customer expectations. So we’ve talked about kind of our understanding that the ones to keep and the ones potentially to, at least put less effort forth for, or put less resource into, how can we exceed those expectations and across all touchpoints. We also talked about that need to be quick and understand them quickly and deliver quickly as well, and where does sort of personalization of experience fit into that, and is that an important factor? How about omnichannel now, in a world that has a myriad of digital channels, let alone the kind of prospective returns to face to face and in-person attendance. Why is it essential for, is mobile-friendly now a must-have in B2B, or has it been for years and people have just been sort of overlooking it? And then where does self-serve fit into this as well?
Owen I’ll come to you first just to give you a word of warning, but you mentioned already there that, that move to actually getting people to have value within a couple of days within Lead Forensics, was a real big game changer, where does self-serve even start to play into that where people can start to get that benefit by themselves and then just have the success kind of follow in after that as well?
Well, I think when we’re talking about how do we exceed the customers’ expectations, for me that starts with understanding the customer’s expectations.
So we kind of we’ve talked about the voice of customer a little bit, Orla just referenced it there, and I think we want to know what it is that our customers want, and truthfully we can ask them questions and we can survey them, but we can also kind of go “what would I want in their shoes”, and what I would want is everything for nothing, and I want it all now.
So we kind of want to try and deliver as much as we can, as fast as we can, like as you say, Tim, we had our onboarding journey which was very very long very very thorough, and it was excellent for some customers and it really got them through to a point where they were really strong with our software. But not everybody’s got the same kind of view.
When we did survey our customers one thing that came back was “we really love the product, but your resource library could be improved”, so you know I’m the customer marketer here, and I was like right this is now my baby, this is my project, what can we do?
And we built a whole new resource library about our product, how to use it, what we can do with it; we launched a brand new community for our users which actually big milestones today we’ve just passed 8000 members so I’m going to take that as a celebration, you know going less than a year it’s great, but we put that live and actually, we started to see that people were using it to self-serve, so even before the onboard call and even before the discovery caller they’re going “actually I want to learn about how to use the software” because that’s their expectation. Their expectation is I’ve got this new piece of software and actually I should just be able to use it myself, it should be intuitive, and where it isn’t intuitive we’ve got to kind of teach them how to do it and promote it.
So I’m a marketer, some of these guys are very clever; they’re account managers, they’re salespeople, they’re great talking to people. I hide behind a computer screen and I do a lot of things digitally, and we’ve got some great tools which allow us to communicate with our customers in portal, and in order to exceed expectations I’m always testing with new communication styles. It’s never enough to rest on your laurels and presume that your current comms work, A/B test and try different things.
Like do customers prefer a bit of a comedic tone of voice or do they prefer a professional tone of voice? or actually we segment customers down by enterprise size and by user type, actually do we try different TOVs (tone of voices), do we try different engagement, who prefers email, who prefers it in-app; and I think if we want to talk about exceeding customers expectations, then it does come down to that personalization, mapping the customer journey, understanding who our customers are, how they want to be engaged with, and trying lots of different things, and never presuming we’ve got the answer, but always just having a baseline and going okay, I’m going to try something else, I love that experimentation side of my job, I love that experimentation side of just seeing what different people interact with, and I think that helps us get to a stage where we are constantly improving on our customer experience and exceeding their expectations exactly.
Exactly, sorry I’ve done the classic lockdown thing and forgot to unmute myself and I was about to start talking.
I thought I had stunned you into silence. I thought it was just that good of an answer. There we go, yeah. (laughing)
(laughing) That’s great. Karin, can I come to you next about that idea of exceeding those customer expectations and you know, how we can do it and how you what your guys’ experience is there?
Absolutely. Yeah, I think to Owen’s point you really have to map out the customer journey and understand all the touchpoints that you have with your customers, and through the variety of channels that you might have and really find, try and find consistency in all those communications. I think you know that it just brings together the whole experience, but really going back to the customer journey, mapping out at from onboarding through to adoption, and value realization, you really want to be mapping out all the touchpoints and also mapping out, you know, some of the other things like the pain points that they might experience at each stage of that journey, all these sorts of opportunities and goals they might have. Also trying to think about the emotions and the feelings that they are going through throughout each stage of the journey and really trying to action and find ways to improve the experience that you’re delivering to them at each point.
You’ll have to obviously have to prioritize those things, but yeah I think bringing, creating consistency across your touchpoints, but also you know having more of a, trying to try enhance that personalized experience, you want to be thinking about the language that you use as well, so you know you know you don’t want to be saying “our” as opposed to be using “your”; you want to be talking with them and as opposed to them. It’s just like little things like that that can be quite important, but yeah there’s ultimately a lot of different ways that you could look to improve each touchpoint, but you just got to find out where to start and at least in Cognisms’ case, we really are focusing on the onboarding process and really enhancing that and making them feel, you know really welcome and excited to start using our platform, and starting to see the value that it can bring to the organization and getting ROI (return on investment) just within a couple of weeks or even months, so that’s at least what we’re doing at Cognism.
Fantastic. Johnny, can I come to you as well?
Absolutely and just did my mute button check as well there Tim. So there are two points of reference and it’s on the back of what Karin’s just spoken about and the first point I think from a more strategic element, when we work with our clients and we work through strategy towards process then towards execution, so top to bottom, and some of the strategic sort of goals for organizations, around how do we then exceed the customer expectation is around account plans.
How often do we sit down to build a strategic account plan with, rather than for; and I think that goes back to your point there Karin, around you know let’s do it with someone rather than for someone, that the element of buy-in that you get is incredible, but equally within those account plans and I’m talking about that strategic element at the start of the year, that then you go through your QBR’s with that client at whatever enterprise level they’re at, it enables you then to highlight key clear objectives.
And I liked what Orla I mentioned earlier, there’s got to be value in it for both right? And what are the objectives for you Mr. customer and Mrs. customer, what’s the objectives for us as a business to help you reach that? And I absolutely love that statement. And with that in mind is, who do we need to bring on the journey and when do we need to achieve that? so in that account plan and then ultimately if we can identify those 3, 4, 5, 10, 15, 20, depending on how big your organization is, in that segment one, and build those strategic account plans out, then you can really add and exceed the client expectations throughout that year, after onboarding and through to client retention through the life cycle.
I did say there were two points, just my second point it and goes back Tim to what you said at the start, and I’ve written it down, switching is around about 50% and 40% of those is because of bad experiences is that correct? Was that your statement at the start, yeah?
And it’s such an interesting fact around customer retention because there’s something called the peak-end rule, and I’m going back into execution here and if any of you who are watching today’s webinar is aware of the peak-end rule.
The peak-end rule is where people judge an experience largely based on how they feel at its peak, okay so if you think about this now the end of the webinar people are going to judge it based on its peak, the most intense moment whether that’s good or bad, but also they will judge it at the end. So whoever’s concluding webinars like this needs to make sure they’re great towards the end so that people are buying in towards that experience, and if we’re delivering great customer experience or having our qbrs with our clients, just be you know cognizant around the peak end rule; how do we make them feel at the peak? and how can we end each conversation? Because that’s what people are going to remember from an experienced perspective. So those are the two points.
Fantastic. Just a quick reminder to our audience today that you can pop any questions you have in the Q&A section in the tab there, and we can pop them to our esteemed audience, but in the meantime, we can carry on with the next area.
Now looking at sort of software as a service, and actually how can companies start to use this kind of trend, or specific kind of SaaS solutions they might have actually as a kind of customer retention tool in themselves?
So customers have, we’ve all sort of touched on it already, they’ve moved to that digital-first, they’re keen to potentially to start to leverage tools themselves as well, and actually bring them into their own businesses.
So how can SaaS offer both benefits, maybe offer unique insights into those kinds of behaviors, deliver value to customers while also sort of actually helping the business by being a bit more sort of self-delivering as well? I’m not even sure if that’s a word, but let’s come back to Molly, we haven’t heard from you for a while, so can I call on you first?
I think it was Orla who brought this up at the very beginning, but when it comes to retention, it’s important to remember that the buying cycle doesn’t end when you close a sale. You are constantly having to resell your product, your service, to your customer throughout their life cycle. So back to the same buyer behavior survey that I referenced earlier, another finding there was, “60% of buyers always research and consider alternatives, when the product that they’ve purchased is up for renewal”.
I was particularly surprised by that, from my own perspective, I feel like if something I’m using, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it sort” of mentality, but I think you know, people and brand, companies, are very concerned about getting value; is their investment in their tools paying off, and so they’re constantly evaluating is this worth it? Is this worth the investment?
And so for better or worse, you have to keep selling, it’s going to look different when you’re talking about a customer than when you’re talking about trying to secure a net-new prospect, but I think you do that by staying focused on the customer needs, and this is where I think some of the SaaS tools that we’re referencing can come in. So there are so many new types of tools that are out there, that can help brands stay connected to their customers, to demonstrate that value, to understand what’s important to them at different points, so you know Johnny mentioned the buyer journey and understanding that, it’s the buyer journey as well as things like usage of your product. There are tools out there where you can measure and maybe some of these already built into different SaaS products, but how many users do you have logging in? how many people are are taking, actually using the licenses that they’ve purchased? things like that, data that you can then feedback to your customer, to show in hard numbers, “here’s the value of the tool and here you can see it right here”.
Things like automating updates, automating tips on here’s what else you can do in our product, a feature you’re maybe not taking advantage of, or credits that you haven’t used; basically helping the customers help themselves to get the most out of the product that they’ve bought from you.
And then things like you know intent data, understanding the broader behavior online of your customers as well, so getting alerts like are they, is your customer potentially shopping around, looking at something else, a replacement perhaps, those are, if you have those kinds of data points available to you that will help when you combine that with your customer success team and sort of the tech plus the personal touch, I think is really where the kind of the sweet spot of where we can make sure that we’re again meeting customers, where they are, giving them the right messaging and tools to help them understand what is the value of our product, how can they get the most out of it, regardless of where they are sort of their customer journey.
Perfect. so I guess next, Owen can I come to you. How are companies, and how are maybe Lead Forensics using SaaS to help retain their customers here as well, some of whom I’m sure are in the audience?
Yeah, well I’m pleased to say that we’re doing most of the things Molly’s talked about. She’s absolutely nailed that. I think 100% it’s all about kind of, listening to what your customers are doing and assessing it. So actually SaaS tools give you great insight, we have more insight than we’ve ever had before. We can see when customers are logging in, we can see how much data they’ve got, we can see what communications they’re engaging with, and it’s about listening to that and understanding it.
So for us, we’re quite big believers in net promoter score, and we run NPS surveys relatively often, but that also helps us to see if a customer starts trending downwards. At the beginning they were 10, they loved us, hooray! Six months in, ooh, they are a 6, that’s less good, but actually you know what, we’ve got time, let’s reach out, find out what’s going on, what’s the pain point, and let’s start mapping it through.
Obviously, that example doesn’t happen often with Lead Forensics customers, they go from six to ten, rather than tens to sixes, but you know I think it’s very much about actually assessing customer health scores.
They are a big thing and we start using those within the team, actually which customers using SaaS tools and using data and insights, actually which customers are actually really really healthy which customers are coming back and using your tool day in day out and therefore are engaged with it, but also then identifying those ones where you go actually, as Jonathan mentioned earlier there’s good customers, sometimes there’s good customers and bad customers like lighthouses and wreckers and actually, if you’ve got a lighthouse who actually has been logging in every day for six months, and then for a month doesn’t log in, well actually that’s a really interesting signal and you need to reach out and find out what’s going on there.
For us, with Lead Forensics we often talk about our customers using Lead Forensics to see if any of their existing customers come onto their pricing page or any of their cancellation pages on their website, because that’s a really interesting intent signal then, and then account management team or a customer success team can reach out and find out what’s going on.
I think SaaS can provide you with some really interesting insights to help you retain customers, you can now know when they are thinking of churning before they tell you they’re going to churn, which is really interesting. It makes me sound very much like I’m snooping on everybody I’m not, it’s just very very interesting, analysis is great. Yeah.
You are going to have to tell me.
I think it’s really interesting to say about NPS, that they’re almost the kind of big three of that like customer satisfaction, customer effort which I think is one that’s potentially underused quite a lot, actually how much work do they feel they have to go through, to your point right at the beginning Owen, about actually making it really easy to get to value, and that’s a really nice way of putting it, as well as well as NPS. The other great thing I have been asked for for years is okay, this is our NPS score, what’s somebody else’s?
No, that’s not the point. The point is to do better, right? It’s the same as any benchmark, yes yes I can find you benchmarks elsewhere in the industry, or from other industries that might be akin, but ultimately you are your own benchmark, so do better.
That’s it. 100%, isn’t it? You do your survey, and you don’t go “what does this do compared to anybody else?”, you go, “actually this is where we are now, and let’s try and improve on that”.
You know it’s the same with sales, isn’t it? I’m making a million pounds now, Apple are making billions, but I can’t do that tomorrow, but actually next quarter I’ll make another million, and it’s just we all improve iteratively. I think that’s excellent, Tim, yeah.
Yeah so on that one Johnny, do you have anything else to add around that as well I know it’s a big topic for you.
Yeah I mean in terms of, I think it’s an interesting topic isn’t it I mean we it could be debated probably for another hour, but I know we can’t keep people on much longer than that, and I mean how do companies use SaaS to retain customers?
I think it’s twofold; you’ve got a choice first of all right.
So first of all, do I use a SaaS Product, service you know as a software, software as a service sorry, or do I use a perm on perm you know piece of software that is you know out out the out the shelf and plug it in, and then it doesn’t upgrade over a period of time.
Well firstly I think that the SaaS the SaaS opportunity is that there’s some amazing benefits of that, and Molly’s mentioned about this and Orla has mentioned about this, around the change of the way that the consumer buys. So as a business if you’re running a SaaS product then you can change quickly and become more agile towards your consumers, great point right? So my project roadmap can change very quickly. Whereas if you’re just off the shelf and you plug in, then you really don’t have that agility and you’re very much that sort of one-stop shop that doesn’t carry on evolving.
So that’s that’s the real sort of key benefit to me from a SaaS perspective, and so I mean that’s the that’s the general logic potentially that you could focus on there, Tim, from that element and why you might like to purchase SaaS is from that roadmap perspective, and I think there’s that tendency towards if you are running a SaaS product and you are a SaaS firm then you have you have to make sure that you’ve at the forefront of the buyer’s mind, you have to make sure that you are changing and becoming agile towards the marketplace, so there’s just my my thoughts on that topic.
Fantastic. Orla, did you want to comment on that as well?
Yeah, is that okay to jump in? Sorry.
I was just gonna say I think that in customer facing roles sometimes we’re really guilty of having this gut instinct, and we’re like we know that about that customer, and you know I could tell you what their NPS score would say, that kind of thing, but actually having the data in the metrics is so important because you do need that data behind that got instinct, and sometimes you know that can be wrong, as we all know because that would be great if we could read our customers minds, and I think yeah having the data is great, but then what is the action, once you’ve got that data so what’s the process that you’ve got, that then it me immediately triggers; so you know do you get on the phone to the customer? Do you book an executive business review? What are the steps that you take?
I think yeah and sometimes I know, I’ll yeah say “oh no I know that about that customer”, but I think having it there in black and white is really important and you need to make sure that you’ve got that built within your business, and people know what it means.
Perfect so we’ve had a couple of questions in from the audience as well, so I’m just going to pop a couple of those to you.
Can we start with Owen, so somebody’s written to say you talked about experimenting in your style and messaging in particular, what do you think has had the most impact when you’re within that sort of tinkering, that’s their word not mine, within that tinkering is there anything that’s worked particularly well?
Ooh, that’s a really good question. What’s worked particularly well, I think, we’ve tried, actually tell you what we have done, so before when we started messing with, messing with, playing with, in-app engagements and kind of promoting messages to customers, we very much did it on a basis whereby we thought we knew best, and we would say actually when you visit this page, we’ll give you this message, when you visit this page we’ll give you this message; we’ve recently started bringing in a tool that actually is more of a bot, and it allows people to interact with it as they so choose, and we’ve seen much better engagement figures off the back of it because actually, sometimes if you give someone a pop-up in a portal, actually that’s just annoying, and we should all know that, as much as our intention is we want to help you, sometimes customers think stuff it I just want to do this.
So I experiment between pop-ups and dialog boxes at the top dialogue planners at the top, which are far less intrusive, but actually now that we’ve brought a bot in people are actually interacting with it more and more, because it’s on their terms, oh that’s down in the corner, great I can see that, and I think that’s really nice. And again that comes back to that self-serve element and that customer’s expectations, customers just want to be able to get to the data when they want it, not when you want, it’s not on your terms, it’s on the customer’s terms. So anything that you can do to actually help the customers interact with things on their terms helped, and that’s what I’ve seen.
I know I’m reminded of an experiment, the best experiment I’ve got in terms of changing communication-based on customer behavior actually goes back to an old job, we did an invite for an event and we thought personalizing meant spoofing coming from the account manager, so we sent an email that looked like a direct message from their account manager, it just looked like it came from outlook, inviting them to an event and we sent it to all our customers. We got no sign ups because actually the tone of voice didn’t sound like their account manager at all; they knew these people, they worked with them day in day out, so actually all of us were panicked, we were like “ah our email hasn’t worked we’ve got no signups”, but then actually a week later we sent a really nice invite, it didn’t necessarily spoof anything anymore, we didn’t pretend to have that relationship, we admitted that actually we’re the marketing team, here’s a nice invite, filled out for one email send, and I think it’s about not pretending to be something you’re not, being honest and being transparent, and actually letting customers kind of interact with you in a native way, that, that’s a really nice, I hope that’s a helpful answer.
Yeah yeah that’s great so we’ve got another one which I think is probably for Molly, because I think it references the research you mentioned at the beginning where around the 67% of customers are not reaching out to a salesperson until they’ve actually basically made their sales decision already, so how can you use, how can you enable those customers I guess to actually choose your solutions? And what are the steps along the way that you can do to help them, to help your salesperson, be the one that they actually reach out to?
Yeah and apologies in advance they’ve started doing some building works here so if you hear a loud noise I’ll try to mute myself as quickly as possible, but hopefully we won’t get interrupted.
But you know at G2, we use this analogy, of well being on G2, but you can extend this to the broader online landscape as well, but a virtual trade show, so think of the concept of a trade show you’re there you have your booth you have all your materials you’re ready to have conversations with everybody online in your presence online, your presence on sites like G2, where buyers are doing research, that is your virtual 24/7 trade show, that’s available for customers to come find you, walk up to you have conversations with you, via some of the tools, maybe that like that Owen mentioned, but really it’s about positioning yourself and understanding where are those places that buyers are going to research you?
So if you haven’t, if you don’t do this regularly, something we always do with our customers is Google yourself. Google your brand. Google your brand, plus reviews. Google your brand plus some other common terms; and again there are tools that help tell you what are some of those terms that buyers are searching for, but what are those top results that come up?
Yes some of them are going to be your own web properties, but a lot of them are not, a lot of them are going to be sites like G2, like other marketplaces, maybe partner marketplaces things like that, but places where you can control your presence. You can, or can have some element of control, over your presence. That’s where you want to put your materials, that’s where you want to have everything that represents not just what your product does, but some of the other points we touched on about trust, who you are as a company, all the different factors that buyers are now taking into consideration when they’re deciding “is this a brand that I want to work with, not just a product I want to buy, but a brand I want to work with?”
So every and anything that you can do to put your best foot forward on those places digitally, primarily, where buyers are doing their research, that’s what you want to focus on and throughout sort of the different stages of the journey, the different touch points and places where buyers might encounter your brand, might encounter a competitor, or just your space in general, so that’s what I would recommend focusing on, so that they have as much information and accurate as you would want your brand to be represented, available to buyers when they’re doing that research on their own.
Fantastic, thanks Molly.
So before we come to the final question and I go around the whole group again, I just wanted to let everybody know that a poll will be coming out in the next few minutes from our hosts Lead Forensics where you can find out a little bit more about some free trials and the services they offer as well. So don’t be alarmed if you get a pop-up, we are still here and we’re going to finish out the time.
So I guess to finish off, each of you, what’s sort of your preferably one, if we can try and keep it short, I might let a second one go, so what are your tips or what’s your tip for building relationships with customers and improving that kind of customer retention? If there was one thing that you wanted the audience to take away, and I apologize in advance, Molly you’re going to be last, so you’re going to have everyone else’s to try and contend with.
So Orla, let’s come to you first.
So I would probably say make customer success an organization-wide priority, and any insight that you do collect, make sure that it’s actionable.
Fantastic. Karin, can I come to you next?
Yeah, I think certainly creating a customer retention mindset across all employees from in the in the organization from you know pre-signature, all the way through is, is highly important, and I think just to kind of advocate for customer marketing, I think there is a lot of value to be gained from a customer marketing team, so if your organization doesn’t have such a department within marketing, I would strongly suggest you know investing in that because it really bridges the gap between marketing and customer success, and I think there a lot of value adds from a retention advocacy especially in an expansion perspective that customer marketing can add to that.
Because we can also help you out with customer satisfaction, and running survey, and things.
Should I shoot there, Tim? Yeah, being very short and concise, so Robert Cialdini did a piece of research around the six principles of influence and persuasion. One of the principles around consistency is my tip. If you’re consistent to whatever account, whether it’s tier one tier two tier three, that consistency builds trust, it builds loyalty, and it will reduce the negative churn.
Yeah,some of the things that Molly was saying earlier about Googling yourself and that Orla was talking about don’t always trust your gut instinct, reminded me of something I was told very early in my career.
We had a chairman at one of the businesses I had who said to me, “Owen as a marketer, you’re to be our advocate for our brand and you’re always going to be promoting us” he said, “but you should never believe your own BS”, and I think that’s kind of something that’s always stuck with me actually.
We always think that we can do no wrong, but actually, our customers will sometimes be quick to tell us where we can improve and I think my one tip for improving retention would be we’ve got two ears and one mouth; and just make sure you’re listening out to what your customers are saying, because they’re going to be your greatest source of insight.
And then Molly?
Yes so I think one of the biggest wins that you can have in terms of building relationships, and helping with retention, is allow your customers, your happy customers, those lighthouses that we’ve been talking about, get them in a position to help sell for you, set them up well to be your advocates, to service references, to leave you glowing reviews on websites like G2 where you can then amplify that, you don’t have to be calling them all the time for reference calls or things like that, but put them in a place and take advantage of the great experience that you’ve been able to deliver with your lighthouse customers, and use that to tell your story, not from your own, you know don’t take it from me take it from these happy customers that are really satisfied and would be glad to tell you about why you know we are so great, it’s a strong message to send to your prospects, and really feel confident that they are making the right choice when they decide to to to work with you.
Yes it’s really good place to finish I think that that that point also has almost that double-edged kind of benefit of both reassuring people along the journey, but also we’ve in some consumer research we did a couple of years ago and so less in the B2B space, but I think it still holds true, we saw those customers that come in through kind of referral programs they’re stickier, they stay longer, they spend more they spend more on that like all of these good benefits of those customers that come from those as you say this sort of lighthouse style, and so it’s just about enabling those happy customers to voice that is yeah really really powerful as well. Fantastic.
Well, thank you all very much for your time Orla, Johnny Molly, Owen, and Karin.
Thank you to Lead Forensics for hosting us and yeah I think, I hope everybody has enjoyed it. Apologies to the one question we didn’t quite get time to get to, but we’re heading about three o’clock on the dot. hopefully not overrunning either.
Have a good rest of the day everybody and thank you again.
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