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THE KEY TO RETENTION UPLIFT: VOICE OF THE CUSTOMER

SAVING AT-RISK CUSTOMERS:

PART 3 OF 3

This is the third blog post in a series focused on preventing “at-risk customers.” (We recommend catching up on Parts 1 and 2 if you haven’t yet.) This piece focuses on the project roadmap for a “voice of the customer” project, in which you conduct primary and secondary research on your customers. The goal here is to better understand customer sentiment by getting to the root of what drives value and retention, and what causes dissatisfaction and churn.


WHY SHOULD I CONDUCT A “VOICE OF THE CUSTOMER” (VOC) PROJECT?

A “voice of the customer” project is returning to a customer-centric mindset. It is about creating or nurturing a virtuous cycle of communication. The objective is to understand what customers are thinking – to give them a voice.

The output shouldn’t be a report; it should be a diagnosis with the most effort put into operationalization. The work here should be leveraged cross-functionally to improve OKR achievement – in your product roadmap, product marketing, sales, marketing, customer success – to improve revenue generation and retention.

You should answer:

  • Who are the users?
  • Who are the decision-makers at my customers?
  • What are their primary needs?
  • What are our primary value propositions? Do we drive hard ROI?
  • How can we sell better based on those value propositions to decision-makers?
  • Why do prospects drop out during the sales cycle – what is within our control?
  • What most interests current customers?
  • How can I re-engage at-risk customers?
  • Why did customers churn?


IS THIS RIGHT FOR MY ORGANIZATION?

Every organization should conduct a VOC project at least annually, regardless of whether you’re experiencing major churn or a decrease in client usage. For more on this topic, refer to Parts 1 and 2 of this blog post’s series.

You can also gauge whether and how you should conduct a VOC project by your current level of go-to-market maturity. You may already take steps to close the loop on customer feedback – these are components of “VOC.” Consider using the simplified maturity levels below to understand where you are currently at, and what you can do to “up your game.”


HOW SHOULD I CONDUCT A “VOICE OF THE CUSTOMER” PROJECT?

The context and project approach will be different for each company. Factors will determine:

  • Extent to which you want to evaluate the go-to-market engine (only sales, only customer success, entire funnel)
  • Scope
  • Budget
  • Whether to involve a third party

Even if you think the root of the issue lies in one function, such as customer success, it’s good to get an end-to-end view of the entire go-to-market engine to understand the holistic customer journey better. As such, the example project outline below covers an example for evaluating beyond solely customer success.

Involving a third party (e.g., consulting firm, your investor’s value creation team, etc.) isn’t necessarily warranted but can be helpful. Some pros to using a third party include:

  • Conducting a diagnostic/baseline
  • Securing less biased feedback
  • Uncovering gaps in your blindspot
  • Setting up infrastructure to give customers a voice on either a one-off or ongoing (recommended) basis
  • Bringing in expertise to help you mature

It is also possible to accomplish this in a “DIY” version, but success will largely be dependent on cross-functional buy-in and project ownership. Some companies conduct this regularly (recommended); others are more reactive when high-impact churn is imminent.

We conduct VOC reports on a quarterly basis by gathering feedback across a variety of channels. Our goal is to tell a more cohesive story; when there are a lot of complex things happening, you need to distill the feedback down to key themes.”

-JULIE EDWARDS | VP of Client Success, BoomTown

1. Conduct secondary research to understand the competitive landscape

The scope should include:

  • Competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, and differentiation
  • Pricing & packaging

2. Interview accounts

Your sample (and percentage of the sample) should include:

  • Current customers (60-80% of the sample)
  • Churned customers (10-30%)
  • Potential customers lost in the sales cycle (10-30%)

Consider the following as part of interview topics (adjust as appropriate for users versus decision-makers):

1 2 3 TOPIC EXAMPLES

GOALS
  • What were/are your goals, and what would success look like?
  • What pain point were/are trying to solve? Has this has changed over time? Why would this product or service solve that problem?
SALE
  • What were the critical criteria in selecting the product or service? (price, value, UI, functionality, integrations, etc.)
  • What competitive solutions did you consider?
  • Who were the finalists, and why?
  • Who did you select and why?
VALUE
  • Was your pain point/problem solved with [company]? If yes, how long did it take?
  • How long did it take for you to see value/ROI? (post-purchase, post-onboarding)
  • How much value have you gained as a result of [company’s] product/service? Are you able to quantify it?
  • How many people use the product within your company, and how frequently?
  • Does our current price point make sense? Is our pricing tied to value?
  • (If churned) Why did you leave? (usability, value, onboarding, engagement, product features/roadmap, price, etc.)
  • (If churned) When did you decide to leave? When did you begin the sales process with another firm? When did you inform us?
  • (If churned) What could we have done differently to keep you as a customer?
  • (If churned) Are you happy with your new vendor? Why or why not?
ENGAGE
  • How effective have our QBRs/methods of engagement been?
  • Renewal cadence: When do you decide on renewal? What is the process for that decision? (criteria, stakeholders, etc.)

1 – Customer

2 – Churned

3 – Lost



3. Interview “important customer stakeholders”

As mentioned in Part 2 of At-Risk Customers, specific stakeholders can be the swing vote for new sales, renewals, and expansion. Put the extra effort into getting to know these stakeholders early and often.

Important stakeholders can include channel partners. Partners tend to have a broader lens on the landscape through expert networks and relationships with former executives from your competitors (within the constraints of their confidentiality agreements) to understand how you are perceived.

We placed a greater focus on relationships – specifically by expanding to new personas. In the past, while day-to-day contacts were happy with us, those at a strategic level (e.g. CHRO) didn’t necessarily have exposure to us or receive direct value from the partnership. This was contributing to customer churn. We realized we also needed to do more to add value to influential strategic personas. This led to improved post-sales transition processes, investment in brand, and a focus on creating value around our partner ecosystem.”

-ADAM FEIGENBAUM | SGE Advisor & Former Chief Customer Officer, iCIMS

4. Synthesize findings

What themes arise from the data? Are there themes to probe, research, or clarify? Aim to:

  • Understand the fundamental pain points and value delivered
  • Diagnose drivers of churn and relative impact
  • Connect the findings cross-functionally (i.e., how are learnings on product relevant to sales enablement, customer success, etc.?)
  • Synthesize competitive positioning, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Quantify ROI based on your primary value levers (can formalize this in an ROI calculator)

5. Restructure and revamp as needed

Translate the findings into a strategy, and execute it with the right people, processes, and tools. Examples – including actual initiatives we have seen in the Susquehanna portfolio – are below:

PILLAR RESTRUCTURING
Strategy ✓ Prioritize X vs. Z on the product roadmap

✓ Adjust departmental objectives and key results

People ✓ Address hiring, roles/org, and enablement

✓ Check team mandates and expectations for issues uncovered

✓ Adjust incentives

✓ Boost net retention by shifting resources to cross-sell

Process ✓ Redefine metrics and reporting

✓ Refine underlying go-to-market motion and associated materials (e.g., sales collateral, value proposition)

✓ Revise training

Tools ✓ Check your systems (e.g., CRM) to formalize and automate process changes via new or adapted systems and tools

VOC is impactful to the product team and can influence roadmap items.”

-JULIE EDWARDS | VP of Client Success, BoomTown

6. Measure outcomes

Establish the right KPIs to track early on, then democratize the data/dashboards on which you visualize your results. Example KPIs can include the following:

GTM FUNCTION KPIs
Sales
  • Pipeline (value by stage and conversion %)
  • Pipeline velocity
  • Average revenue per account
  • Bookings by land versus expand
Customer Success & Onboarding
  • Gross and net retention (value and logo)
  • NPS
  • Time-to-value
  • Product or key feature usage

One of the most game-changing learnings was more internally (vs. customer) focused – that taking the time to educate the company on why their work matters to the customer helps connect the dots. In return, that helps boost productivity and morale.”

-JULIE EDWARDS | VP of Client Success, BoomTown

Customer success is both a science and an art. While it’s important to be data-driven and automated in your customer success efforts (see parts 1 and 2), it’s also essential to surface insights that may get buried in the data. Thoughtful customer data gathering and asking the right questions can identify those insights, allowing you to make the necessary changes to accelerate growth.

As always, we look forward to your feedback. Send us your customer retention stories!

SERENE PAPENFUSS

SERENE PAPENFUSS

Chocolate addict, distance runner, bookworm, banned from Hogle Zoo for hopping the fence to pet a giraffe


JOSH ELSER

JOSH ELSER

Proud Pittsburgh native (and sports fan), Mars colonization enthusiast, and aspiring tennis player who won’t stop talking about self-driving cars


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