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Strategy

Don’t Let it Churn Against You

Churn is inevitable, but you can find your way around it. Here are a few strategies to win back customers on short- mid- and long-term

Gabrielle Sadeh
May 15 2018

Winning back churned customers is a special kind of challenge. Changing the impression of a dissatisfied or apathetic customer can often be harder than making a first impression on a new prospect. But they’re worth the focus, especially when existing customers may be significantly more profitable. So don’t skimp on experience when trying to win back churned customers. You’ll want to customize your approach based on factors such as the nature of your relationship with them, which product or service they first purchased, the time between now and their last purchase, what channel they originally found your company through, etc.

For example, convincing a relatively recent buyer of a $9 video streaming service to come back is quite different from repairing a relationship with a high-spending, five-year business air travel customer. These relationship parameters have a lot of influence on how customers view their vendors, so how long someone’s been your customer is a key factor in considering your win back approach.

If you’re ready to get smart with segmenting your churn prevention, we’re digging into insights on three longevity-determined tiers of the customer relationship and the best practices for winning each cohort back.

Winning Back Short-Term Customers

The details of when “the honeymoon phase” ends will differ significantly depending on your product, but in general, newer customers are still in a sort of testing period. Your marketing and positioning has apparently worked on them, but your product is still making its first impression. And you’re only at the beginning of building a relationship with rapport. As you don’t have that personal relationship or history to leverage, your best chance of winning the customer back before they churn is to completely prove the value of your product service. It’s time to get them to that “aha moment.” For many businesses, that can be done with intensive customer onboarding and education and by focusing on pain point your product solves. If you can personalize that content to the customer’s use case, even better.

This is also one scenario where a discount offer can pay off in the long run. If your product engagement rates are low with newly onboarded users, instead of trying to speed up customer activation, you can give them a push in another way. This is one of the few times a discount can be worthwhile. NinjaOutreach saved over $18,000 by offering “churn detours.” Instead of cancelling after a free trial, they offer customers options like a discount or extended free trial to give them more time to see the product’s value. And contrary to popular perception, not everyone jump at the offer for a discount.

(Image source: http://blog.lesschurn.io/customers-ninjaoutreach/)

Fighting Mid-Term Churn

When someone’s at that stage between a new customer and a loyal one, your approach should shift. At this point, they’ve seen the value of your product enough to make the conscious decision to continue using it. You may also have started to build a relationship with the customer, but they’re not yet 100% sold. Your business is at the risk of falling into the “easy come, easy go” bucket. To fight your way out and prove your worth for the long-term, you’ll need to hone in on and improve that value you proved in the “new customer” phase. Re-engage them if their usage declines suddenly – before they churn. Ask for feedback and give them a stake in the company’s future, or share upcoming features to give them something to look forward to. ConvertKit’s sharing what’s ahead transparently lets in on what customers should be excited about.

(Image source: https://convertkit.com/roadmap/)

But if you don’t manage to catch them until they’ve left, you still have options. Some effective tactics might be offering a more personalized experience, such as more one-on-one contact with your customer success team, or offering for your team to co-manage the user’s account as a value add. If you sell premium content downloads as part of your business, you can offer mid-term churners free access to certain product selections. But if they left because you under-delivered, no matter what you offer them to get them to come back, make sure you own your shortcomings, apologize, and pledge to make it good.

Keeping Long-Term Customers Loyal

Long-term, brand-loyal customers on the verge of churning can be a bigger problem, because it takes more to convince them to stay. At other stages, churn is more about winning someone over in the first place, so you can rely on your product’s value a bit more. In this case, it usually requires a bigger change or wrongdoing for a long-term customer to stop investing in your business. That might be a change in your products or services, or in their own needs over time. Service- or relationship-based considerations can also come into play. To restore brand loyalty, you’ll need a highly personal approach that focuses on leveraging your relationship with the customer and helping them to feel heard and appreciated. After all, they’ve seen enough value in the product to use it long-term now – repeating and reinforcing the value likely won’t be your strongest tactic.

Focus on the contrast between the relationship they have with you vs. the time it would take them to build that kind of trust with another vendor.

(Image source: http://blog.sumall.com/journal/the-importance-of-repeat-customers-2.html)

Perhaps the best tactic for keeping a customer at this stage is offering prioritized support, special access to events, surprise gifts and regular check-ins with customer success. Or, if you’ve got an offline business, using a digital loyalty program allows you to receive push notification alerts as soon as your best customers complete a purchase, so you’ll know to make a point of greeting them in person. They’ve earned VIP status with you, and you’ll want them to feel like it.

Retain All The Time

Experience is at the core of retention and win back strategies. Specifically and personally appealing to customers on the cusp of churning, allows you to optimally reach out to them based on the relationship you’ve built.

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