This is Article #1 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.
When I ask potential clients why their customers churn, more than 80% of the time I hear ‘PRICE’ as the top reason. I’m telling you that’s wrong. Price is the justification for churning. But it’s not the reason why customers churn.
Why customers churn
In 2006, neuroscientists discovered that humans make decisions based on emotion first and then rationalize those decisions second.
This means your customers leave or stay based on how they feel. If customers feel they’re getting value and are happy with your company, they’ll stay. However, if customers don’t feel they’re getting value or they’re frustrated with their customer experience, they’ll use price to justify those negative emotions.
Think back to the last time you purchased something and were happy with the decision. Before purchasing, you were hopeful that it would solve your problem or help you get a result you couldn’t get on your own. Because you got the result you were looking for, you were satisfied or happy.
Now contrast this with a negative experience – a time when you purchased something where you weren’t happy with your decision to buy. Were you unhappy because of the price? No. If the price was too high, you wouldn’t have bought it in the first place. Your regret with your decision to buy was because your expectations weren’t met – you didn’t find the results you were hoping to get or your experience didn’t live up to your expectations, which lead to feelings like disappointment, frustration, anger and impatience. Depending on the situation, you may have experienced some or all of these feelings at a minimal level right up to the maximum.
Your customers are no different!
When they became a customer, they were hopeful. Hopeful that your product or service could help them in some way. Their emotional peak was at its highest when they purchased. But if they don’t get the results they expect or it takes them a long time to get there or they can’t get sufficient support to help them, they go from being at a hopeful peak to a disappointed, frustrated, upset valley. We’ve all experienced this low valley. It’s called Buyer’s Remorse.
Buyer’s Remorse is an emotional state. When customers are in this trough of remorse, they are looking for a rational explanation to pin their decision on – this is where Price enters the picture. Suddenly, the price for your product or service is ‘too high’. Just reflect back on your own experiences. You’ll see that your unhappiness with the price only came after you didn’t get the results you were looking for.
Feelings first. Rationalization second.
After running thousands of customer interviews, I’ve found that approximately 97% of customers leave because of how they feel. The other 3% is because of outside factors like mergers & acquisitions or the company has adopted a new strategic direction.
Here are some of the most common ways customers express their negative feelings around products and services:
- The price is too high.
- Customer support was lacking.
- It took too long to see results.
- The results were below their expectations.
- The product had missing features.
I’m sure you’ve heard of all of these.
I’m sure you’ve used some of them yourself.
I know I have.
These justifications are created from emotional points in the customer journey. We call these emotional areas ‘Churn Factors’ because they factor into the decisions customers make around staying or leaving. Our research found there are 25 Customer Churn Factors that have a positive or negative emotional element that customers use as rationalizations to stay or leave.
We divided the 25 Customer Churn Factors into 5 groups: Product, Other, Value, Service and Expectations. With the exception of the “Other” category, every single one of these Churn Factors is something you can control, influence or change. Market conditions, mergers & acquisitions, champion or strategic direction change, or loss of a sponsor are outside your company’s ability to control, influence or change. The remaining 22 Churn Factors, however, are fully within your company’s control.
Of the 4 categories in your company’s control to change, the most straightforward groups are Product and Value. Product changes, pricing, renewal negotiation and terms of payment are clear in what they are. In other words, there’s no ambiguity as to what they are and what they mean for both the company and the customer.
The Service and Expectation categories, on the other hand, are more nebulous. Customers and the company can interpret each of these 15 Churn Factors differently. And the greater the difference between those interpretations, the greater the chance for negative experiences to slip in.
Yet, it’s precisely these 15 Churn Factors that are the most impactful emotional points along the post-sale customer journey. If any of the 5 Churn Factors in the “Expectations” category are not met, customers will have a negative sentiment. Similarly, if a customer perceives that the value they received isn’t what they expected, they will have a negative feeling.
And this is why customer retention is so hard to improve:
You’ve got to uncover and change all these emotional points in the post-sale customer journey that tie to the 25 Customer Churn Factors. These emotional points are the critical areas that affect your customers’ decision whether they want to stay or leave.
The challenge is that there are so many of them!
You might be feeling a bit overwhelmed when you look over the Churn Factors that are within your company’s control. There are a lot. And many don’t have an obvious or straightforward solution. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start taking control and making changes. All you need to know is where to start.
How to start retaining more customers
If you look back at the Customer Emotional Journey diagram, you’ll see that Buyer’s Remorse happens very quickly after purchase. More than any other part of the customer journey, onboarding is the place where the seeds are churn are planted. And most often, those churn seeds are planted when expectations don’t meet with reality.
The first place to start retaining more customers is in onboarding. It’s the ideal place to find out what customers are expecting. Using the 25 Customer Churn Factors diagram, ask your new customers about their expectations around some of the factors listed under Service and Expectations categories. You can do this through emails, a survey or during your kick-off meetings.
Very quickly you’ll start seeing patterns in those expectations from the responses you receive. And it’s those patterns that will show you what you can start changing. There are a few ways you can prioritize which change to make first:
You can focus on changing the Churn Factor with the biggest gap between expectations and reality.
You can focus on changing the Churn Factor which leads the most customers to churn.
You can focus on changing the Churn Factor that’s the easiest to change.
Pick whichever works best for you.
Retaining more of your customers is a constant work in progress. There is no finish line! However, you can look to points in the post-sale customer journey where your customers’ emotions are more likely to change sentiment – from positive to negative. Buyer’s Remorse is a phenomenon that everyone has experienced at some time. And it happens shortly after purchase when there is a big gap between expectations and reality.
Using the 25 Customer Churn Factors, you can discover the expectations your new customers have as they start their journey. Use the data you collect to help you decide which Churn Factor to change first, second etc. This is the ideal starting point.
In the next article, we’ll cover the solutions you can use to improve retention – there are 3 big ones we’ll cover including one that you’ve probably never thought about before.