Over 14 years ago, All Saints inadvertently outlined the perfect support non-renewal analysis strategy in their UK number 1 hit “Never Ever”. Whilst most support providers rock back and forth muttering under their breathe as they continuously wring their hands about their renewal rates; far fewer actually do something systemically to try and understand why their customers are no longer feeling the love. Non-renewal occurs for many many reasons as described in my previous post “There are holes in your bucket”. The key to minimizing the outbound flow of the life giving support annuity is to routinely seek to understand exactly why your customers are leaving you. Some defections will be beyond your spheres of control or influence. Most won’t be.
As Melanie Blatt, Shaznay Lewis and the Appleton sisters propose:
A few questions that I need to know
how you could ever hurt me so
I need to know what I’ve done wrong
and how long it’s been going on
Was it that I never paid enough attention?
Or did I not give enough affection?
Not only will your answers keep me sane
but I’ll know never to make the same mistake again
You can tell me to my face or even on the phone
You can write it in a letter, either way, I have to know
Did I never treat you right?
Did I always start the fight?
Either way, I’m going out of my mind
all the answers to my questions
I have to find
But exactly what questions should you try to find the answers to?
Obviously, a simple “Why?” would be a very good place to start. But beyond that, you need to attempt to understand the specific circumstances and contributory factors that lead to their decision to leave. Remembering that there may never actually have been a formal decision to “leave” as the decision “not to stay” is sometimes far easier to take. Can you put in place process steps and procedures to make the manifestation of such circumstances less likely for other customers? Non-renewal prevention is as important (if not more so) than incident prevention and yet it is often neglected as it is considered to be inevitable. It isn’t. Non-renewal is a result of behaviours, circumstance and perceptions. All of these influencers must be understood and addressed if non-renewal is to be avoided.
Compare and contrast the service usage profiles of organizations that renew against those that don’t. What levels of engagement do they have? What are the types of interaction that they experience most frequently? When do they engage? Is there an optimum window within which interactions should be positively encouraged? What is the mix of contact points you have within their organization? What are their roles, priorities and drivers? How can you change your engagement profile so that you are seen to be adding value more regularly?
How much advanced warning did you get? Do you contractually enforce a notification period for contract cancellation? Is this notice period sufficient to mount a rescue bid that has the potential to avert defection? What actions were taken to try and resolve the situation and keep the customer onboard? Who within your organization engaged with the customer and with whom did they interact? What was the approach strategy? What counter-offer (if any) did you present? How was it received? Too little too late? Or had the train already left the station? Is there anything that you could have done to salvage the situation? Would the costs of mounting a viable rescue attempt have outweighed the potential future lifetime revenues for the customer?
Were there any warning signs that you failed to see that are now blindingly obvious with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight? Did your customer satisfaction monitoring procedures flag up there was a potential issue? If not, why not? Do you need to revise your satisfaction measurement process? Who are you talking to? Are you talking to the right people? Are you talking to them at the right frequency and right times?
Yes, there are more questions than answers. And the above are only a small sub-set of all that could be. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid asking the questions!
Investing time and resources into trying to understand why your customers leave you is non-discretionary. Without it, you will continue to be surprised by “happy” customers that don’t renew. It is far too easy to confuse loyalty with apathy. Remember that every one of your customers is a potential customer for your competitors. They know it. And they want them. It is essential for every support provider to take steps to protect their customer base proactively. Failure to do so is definitely negligent and practically criminal.
Never ever forget that customers need to be cherished. If you don’t do it, someone else will…
Yes. Your head’s spinning. Yes. You’re in a daze. And Yes. You feel isolated and don’t wanna communicate… But please please please do! It’s the only way you’ll find peace of mind. The happy mind you once owned, yeah!
PS: Off topic – This is the first blog entry I have written on my brand new shiny Raspberry Pi. It arrived yesterday and I spent longer rummaging around for a spare SD card than it took to get it up and running. For the money, it is amazingly good. I am a fan. I admit it. My little boy is a fan too. You can keep your fondleslabs… Raspberry Pi’s rock!