This is Article #7 in the Customer Retention series.
This 9 part series teaches you how to build a predictable customer retention strategy. By the end of this series, you’ll be on your way to confidently increasing your customer retention.
- Why Customer Retention Is So Hard to Improve
- 3 Tools to Improve Customer Retention (only 1 is software!)
- The Best Customer Retention Strategy for Growing Companies
- How to Build a Predictable Customer Retention Strategy
- How to Use Small Customer Insights to Get Large Customer Retention Wins
- Improve Your Customer Retention: Launching a Customer Retention Strategy
The company where Seth works had new goals to increase bottom line efficiency in order to raise profits. It was Seth’s responsibility to operationalize this new goal for his post-sales team. Seth’s company has a very low churn rate. His challenge was how to make a dedicated customer experience team meaningful so his leadership team would support his project. It’s hard to put priority on something that isn’t viewed as a need. In fact, Seth’s CEO once stated that he didn’t think the customer experience team was necessary. Fortunately, the CFO bought in relatively easily. But Seth’s biggest challenge was in convincing the CEO.
Seth needed to make a case that when the customer experience improves, customers will buy more because they’re happy. This growth in expansion revenue means profit margins increase. And profits were something the CEO was interested in.
Seth had some ideas but wanted to speak with his customers first to see what they thought. Given that his time was limited, Seth decided the best way to speak to as many customers as possible was to run a customer focus group. And he chose to segment that group to include only his company’s top customers.
Once the group had assembled, Seth began facilitating the group by asking pre-written questions. The bulk of Seth’s questions were about the areas where customers had the biggest issue with their experience. The 90 minute focus group format allowed customers to not only share their individual experiences but also to weigh in on ideas for improvement. At the conclusion of the focus group, Seth knew where the biggest opportunity was to better the customer experience. No surprise, it was with customer support.
Seth found the focus group experience to be incredibly insightful. It not only confirmed some things he thought he knew, but it also allowed customers to connect with each other and feel a common bond. One person would talk about an experience they had and other customers would jump in and say how they too had experienced the same issue. It was helpful for the customers to see they weren’t the only ones struggling with those experiences. And it was helpful for Seth and his team to see the value they could bring to these customers once they made changes to the customer support service.
The focus group highlighted how much pain their top customers felt when using customer support. Seth chose to focus on making the support process more efficient. This would not only bring cost savings for the company, but it would also make their customers happier and more satisfied with their overall customer experience.
At the end of this article, you’ll find out what happened with Seth and his challenge to convince the CEO that investing in better customer experiences is a smart move.
Right now, we’re going to focus on a very specific part to get buy-in from your leadership team for your customer retention project – your presentations to them. This is where many people need the most help.
You’ll learn how to frame your presentation to increase your chances of success. What you’re about to learn is the combined experience and best practices of 10 presentation experts + expertise from over 30 articles on how to create winning presentations.
Step 1. Choose your focus
The best presentations have a central theme or story. This helps keep the presentation focused and makes it easier for the audience to follow along.
The best themes or stories are simple:
churn is rising
the cost to serve is growing
employee turnover is increasing
customer satisfaction is decreasing
the lack of data or insights is causing issues
You need to decide which theme or story you want to tell. Everything you include in your presentation will support this theme or story.
There are 3 things to consider when deciding on a theme or story:
- Pick whichever speaks to you the most. The more you want to tell the theme or story, the stronger your presentation will be. Your enthusiasm for your theme or story will come through in how you structure your presentation. Choose a theme or story that speaks to you.
- It must align with your company’s priorities — profits, growth, cost-savings, etc. Make sure your theme or story can tie directly to one of your company’s high priority goals.
- You’re now going to choose how that theme or story is told – with a positive spin or a negative one.
A negative focus will show the ‘pain’ of the current problem you’re proposing to solve. Things like churn is rising, customer satisfaction is decreasing, or inefficient expensive processes are focused on a ‘pain’. And pain is one of the biggest motivators for change.
A positive theme or story is about increasing something good – like customer satisfaction, revenue growth, customer advocacy, and process efficiency gains. The best time to use this focus is when you’ve already got momentum and you’re looking to take it to the next level.
Step 2. Choose your metrics
Now that you’ve chosen your theme or story and you’ve chosen a positive or negative focus, it’s time to collect your supporting data.
You’ll need to collect metrics to show:
- where your company currently is with respect to your theme or story
- the projected impacts of your project (to customers & the company’s priority goals)
- the cost of your project
#1. Collect a wide range of data.
This will allow you to showcase how your project impacts the company more broadly. The more positive impacts you can show, the more likely you’ll be successful in getting a budget for your project. (In case you’re wondering, you can use this data in later presentations or in an appendix that you can send out after the meeting.)
#2. Your financial team is your asset.
Reach out to your financial team. Let them know that you’re creating your presentation and if they can give you supporting numbers. Most people are happy to help, especially if it will help the company in a positive way. Make a few key contacts in your financial team. They’ll make your job much easier!
Step 3. Use stories
Customers are the heart of any business. We get so caught up in business metrics that we forget this. There are 3 stories you want to tell in your presentation:
Collect 1 or 2 customer stories that really highlight the pain or the benefit you’ve chosen to focus on. You can get these stories first-hand from the customers or you can ask your team to share the stories they’ve heard from your customers. You want to focus heavily on the impact. In article 1, you learned how humans make decisions based on emotion first. Lean into the emotional side of the story.
Your company is a customer too. Talk about what it’s been like when your company has either experienced the same pain or benefits you’re telling with your theme or story. By making it personal, your leadership team will be able to ‘put themselves’ into your presentation. Feel free to focus on emotions like frustration, disappointment, anger or happiness, relief and pride.
Each person on your leadership team will be motivated by different parts of the story. The CFO will be more interested in the metrics part of your customer or company stories. Make sure to include that ‘data story’. Your CEO or COO or CCO will also want to hear stories that tie directly to the work they do. Add specific metrics, goals, and emotions that you know will impact them.
Step 4. Objections
Instead of waiting until the end of your presentation to answer questions and objections, include them in your presentation. You’ve been in meetings and know the types of questions each individual in your leadership team typically asks.
Now ask yourself these questions:
What else would your CEO want to know about this project?
What else would your CFO be curious about regarding this project?
What else would your CCO or COO or any other executives want to know?
Put the answers to these questions in your presentation. This allows the Q&A session to have a greater focus on creative questions which allows for more in-depth discussions. An in-depth discussion increases your chances of success.
Step 5. Anchor your ask
This step helps to ensure that the right costs are highlighted for maximum impact. When making decisions, humans need to compare options to decide which choice is better.
To increase your chances of buy-in, use this formula when you’re summing up your costs for your project:
cost of the status quo
cost of your project
Cost of the status quo
Add up every line item for the status quo + the future costs into 1 big number.
Cost of your project
Add up every line item + future costs into 1 smaller number.
This approach highlights the value of your project relative to the status quo. Showing the costs this way makes your project more desirable.
If you use the structure, steps and tips from this article, you will increase your chances of getting a successful outcome. It takes practice. And likely more than one presentation is needed to convince your leadership team. Stick with it, especially if you believe in your project.
Let’s end this with what happened to Seth. The CEO wasn’t really interested in a team focused on customer experience when their customers churned so rarely. But bettering the customer experience was important to Seth. He was committed, despite the CEO’s reservations.
Seth had an opportunity to focus on the benefits of increasing the customer’s experience at a weekly all-hands meeting for the heads of their business units. Over time, Seth was able to show his reluctant CEO that investing in a better customer experience is a wise business decision. Seth was able to run the customer focus group and make those impactful changes.
Not only had Seth and his team made the customer support process better for customers, but they also saved a lot of money in both efficiency gains and time saved. Seth was surprised how this new process change had freed up a lot of his time too. And, as an added bonus, Seth was able to show how this process change could be extended to sales. A double win!
The next article will look at whether it makes sense to run your customer retention strategy in-house or to hire a third-party expert. Sometimes running your project or strategy in-house is the best option. And other times running your project or strategy in-house is the worst choice. You’ll learn 7 questions you should ask yourself before launching any project or strategy.
Get Buy-In For Your Customer Retention Project (all the steps from this article + extra bonus tips)
Steve Jobs’ Lesson About Storytelling