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Shayla Price

Churn, Offboarding, Product Management, SaaS, Startups

How Transparency in SaaS Offboarding Reduces Churn

Too often as marketers, we consider churn a bad thing.

So we design our SaaS offboarding process in a way to trap our customers into staying. However, there’s a better way to do it. And that’s with transparency.

You can use offboarding to your advantage by discovering why customers weren’t meeting their desired outcomes. Lincoln Murphy, a customer success consultant, explains:

“The beauty of the SaaS business model is that you have visibility into the behaviors of your customers… and you should use this to reduce your SaaS churn rate. Specifically, you should be looking for signs that your customer is getting ready to leave and then do something to stop it.”

SaaS offboarding is a gut-wrenching reality check to serve your customers better. Below are five ways to add transparency to the process.

Set the Stage with an Offboarding Workflow

Making it difficult for customers to cancel their services is a big no-no. They won’t miraculously stick around because of your unwillingness to let go.

The opposite will happen. Churning customers will leave your business and will feel justified in their decision to do so. On top of that, they may spread the unpleasant news with their social network of friends and family members.

To prevent the public embarrassment, your team should build an offboarding workflow or cancellation workflow. It’s a sequence of steps that a customer must take to cancel their SaaS subscription.

Below is an example from Leadpages. When users want to delete their accounts, they land on a multi-option workflow, allowing them to select a reason for cancellation.

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Each option counters the customer’s reason for leaving. For instance, selecting “Difficulty of Use,” let’s the user sign up for an educational webinar or contact support. More importantly, there’s always the option to delete the account.

This offboarding workflow mitigates churn by offering a solution to the customer. It also gives your team essential feedback to understand why customers churn. That way, you can go revisit your onboarding process to fill in any gaps in users’ expectations.

Educate with Customer Success

Once users sign up for your product, you can’t leave them stranded as they attempt to figure out your platform. Focusing on customer success entails educating users every step of the way.

Of course, your team wants to be proactive, providing users with video tutorials, ebooks, and one-on-one support. Alan Gleeson, a B2B marketing consultant based in London, adds:

“More established SaaS businesses with enterprise clients will typically have a dedicated team whose job is to ensure that new account signups are onboarded successfully, and that the application is delivering value. They will also identify and nurture internal champions, who can facilitate up-selling and cross-selling, leading to negative churn.”

Customer success should play an integral part in offboarding, too. You don’t want to kick users to the curb just because they want to cancel.

Instead, you want to educate customers. You may have to address why they feel their current needs aren’t being met. Or you may highlight their alternative options if they decide to churn.

This educational approach puts the customers’ needs first. It also doesn’t abruptly end the relationship. Because you never know, the user may decide to buy from your SaaS business again.

Access to Your Cancellation Policy

Ever customer relationship won’t end with users becoming lifelong brand advocates. And that’s okay.

What’s not okay is failing to prepare for cancellations. Some users will want to deactivate their accounts immediately, and others will want a full refund.

While some user scenarios may call for a case-by-case review, most cancellations should follow a standard guideline. The key is to create a cancellation policy and make it easily accessible to your customers—without the unnecessary hassle.

Before developing a policy, you’ll want to consult with a local business advisor or legal professional. Their expertise will ensure you’re not violating any laws and are adhering to common business practices.

The next step is to find a happy medium between your company and the customer. How can you maintain a viable business and satisfy your customers’ expectations?

Whatever the policy, you want it to be accessible to the customer before and after they make a purchase. Post it in a visible area on your website and include the policy somewhere within your app. Here’s an example from PushAssist:

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Transparency is all about empowering your users to make informed decisions. Customers then can determine what works best for their situation. Making your policy readily available is a part of enhancing the customer experience.

Close the Loop with Feedback Emails

Some SaaS companies treat churn like a taboo topic. If they don’t talk about it, maybe it won’t be a real issue in the future.

Well, that’s the wrong mindset to possess in offboarding. Consider churn a chance to have an honest conversation with your customers.

Depending on your business, this communication may happen over the phone with a customer success rep or via a live chat platform. While these methods are useful, it may trap the user into providing an immediate response. (No one likes being pressured.)

Email marketing helps close the feedback loop with churning customers. You can send a message inquiring about their experience with your product. You also can send multiple emails—without being annoying—if a user fails to respond.

Check out the feedback request email below. Baremetrics doesn’t shy away from asking customers why they decided to cancel.

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Use email as a tool to gain pertinent details from churning customers. Be straightforward with your ask and keep the request short. You don’t want to bog users down with lots of questions.

Bake Long-Term Value into Your Strategy

While mending parts of your marketing and sales funnel is helpful, it’s only a short-term fix to your long-term challenge. You want to bake your goal of reducing churn into your overall business strategy.

Throughout the entire customer lifecycle, your team should be observing and requesting feedback from your users. This undertaking translates into prompting new users to tell you why they signed up for your product, monitoring usage data to understand the most frequently used product features, and giving users a chance provide candid feedback after churning.

With that information, you open the doors to knowing your customers’ pain points sooner. Then, your team can focus on adding more value. Julia Chen, former content marketing manager at Appcues, offers her insight:

“As long as your product is solving the pain of a customer, there’s a chance that you can keep this customer or get them to come back after they’ve canceled. That’s why it’s so important to have active conversations and to understand what drives their behavior.”

Combating churn means taking a proactive approach to talk with your users. It also requires transparency on how you will use those conversations to their benefit.

Rather than concealing the value-added process from users, be frank and take them along for the journey with blog post updates and in-app notifications.

Improve Your Offboarding Experience

In offboarding, your team can learn how to help both current and future customers. It’s an opportunity to reevaluate your path to achieving customer success.

Take advantage of churn by collecting insight in the offboarding workflow. Just make sure you offer transparency throughout the whole process.

Customer Success, Guest Posts, Product Management, Retention, SaaS

How Top SaaS Companies Create Customer-Centric Onboarding by @ShaylaPrice

Here’s a major SaaS growth challenge: How do teams ensure customer success from the onset?

With the goal to quickly convert new customers into loyal advocates, it’s easy for SaaS teams to forget what’s important. In this case, it’s onboarding.

Seen as just another to-do, teams neglect how crucial onboarding benefits the customer. Yes, they activated their accounts. But can you get customers to their desired outcomes?

Too often, SaaS companies marvel in their own products, from an eye-appealing user interface to near-perfect functionality. That’s only part of the equation.

Onboarding leads you from acquisition to retention. So it’s time to shift your focus to where it belongs—the customer.

Follow these five steps to achieve a customer-centric onboarding flow.

1. Score the Aha! Moment (Early)

Life is all about precious moments. People like remembering their first awkward kiss, the time they visited Disneyland with friends, and when their first-born kid peed on the floor.

Whether it’s embarrassing, sad, or joyful, certain moments define our lives and stay etched in our memory bank. The same principle applies to customer success.

Customers will recall their first interactions with your brand. Therefore, you should make that moment special. And the best way to do that is to help the user achieve value, or the Aha! Moment, as soon as possible.

“The customers need to understand your uniqueness, the costs, and benefits of the product…If the customer sees the core value of your product immediately, if they understand how it’s going to help them, they are far more likely to continue using it,” writes Gabriela Tanuri, a content analyst at Pipz.

Every company defines an engaged user differently. Maybe your users must complete three tasks in one week, or invite five friends to your app within 15 days. For instance, Dropbox considers users reaching the Aha! Moment when they put at least one file in one folder on one device.

Work with your team to unlock product value during the onboarding process. Users want to succeed—make it happen promptly.

2. Bake Success Into Your Messaging

SaaS businesses do an effective job at gaining potential customers’ attention. Teams spend lots of time designing creative display ads, developing witty copy for their homepages, and writing hilarious emails. The branding is dynamic and worth sharing on social.

Yet, once customers enter the onboarding stage, the brand personality wanes. Customers get dull messages with technical jargon.

On top of that, the messaging only informs the customer about a feature or provides access to an upcoming how-to guide.

When learning something new, customers seek validation that they’re doing things the right way. They need that recognition to move forward.

So treat onboarding like a celebration. When customers achieve a milestone, let them know and award them with personalized messages.

Mailchimp knows how to celebrate customer success. Right before customers send a campaign, they see an image that builds the anticipation, even the copy screams excitement —“This is your moment of glory.” Then, once the user sends the campaign, Mailchimp gives the user a virtual high five.

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If customer milestones aren’t acknowledged, users may feel like they’re failing. They start second-guessing their actions and the value of your tool. Keep them on the right track with messages that praise their activity.

3. Identify & Remedy User Gaps

It’s impossible to see all the gaps in your onboarding process before launching. And if you focused on finding every imperfection, you would never ship the product.

To identify gaps, start by monitoring user behavior over time. Are there increases in new user inactivity? Do customers stop opening onboarding emails after the third message? Is there an influx of similar support issues?

The next step is to fix the problem. Let’s say new user activity drops by 25% on the fifth day after signing up. You may want to lure customers back to your app with a nurturing email on the third or fourth day.

“Users should never wonder what to do next. Often this is best achieved by holding the customer’s hand and walking them straight to whatever they consider success. This can be done with popups, tooltips, or a guided tutorial that only shows the user what they need to see,” states Dennis Hammer, a content strategist at Audience Ops.

Slack is well-known for its guided tutorials in the onboarding process. Customers get short descriptions about each feature. There’s even an opt out link if users feel comfortable moving forward without guidance. These tutorials ensure users attain success.

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Don’t freak out about onboarding gaps. Instead, take action to fix the mishaps and get back to delivering value to your customers.

4. Be Available for Questions

Building a worthwhile product is important for your SaaS. If your application sucked, no one would bother purchasing it. However, it’s not the only thing that matters.

Teams sometimes forget that no matter what your SaaS product does, you’re still in the service business. Your primary objective is to build amazing customer experiences. And one of the tenets to achieve that goal is offer superior customer support before, during, and after onboarding.

Of course, you’re nice to customers and respond to their concerns. But another key ingredient is accessibility.

What annoys customers the most is signing up for a product and not having multiple channels and times to access your team members. Either customer support is only accessible by email, or you only respond to questions from Monday morning to Friday afternoon. It’s frustrating to the user who wants a solution now.

So what should you? Make yourself available on several channels. For your SaaS, that may include investing in live chat software to answer customer inquiries. Or you may need to expand your phone support times by three extra hours on the weekends.

You can streamline the support system for the customer, too. For example, Trello customers who are signed into their accounts can send a help message with their names and email addresses already pre-filled.

Onboarding is a critical stage. If customers feel helpless, they may decide to churn. Gather the right tools to make the experience convenient for them.

5. Evaluate Customer Milestones

It’s a completely normal process: Set a goal. Take action. Measure the progress. Adjust and repeat.

Whether it’s fear of failure or a forgotten step, SaaS teams skip over measuring their customers’ progress. It’s the only way to know if the customer is reaching their desired outcome and is fully buying into your brand promise.

So revisit those customer milestones. Are users accomplishing them? How often? What can your team do to make the process easier?

Understanding where users fall on the milestone spectrum gives your team insight on how to drive them toward becoming a power user or brand advocate.

“Keeping this ‘success milestone’ way of thinking after they become a customer—or are otherwise past the customer onboarding process – will allow you to surface upsell/cross-sell offers, as well as advocacy requests, at the perfect time so you’re more likely to get a positive result,” says Lincoln Murphy.

Experimentation is vital as well. Try breaking your onboarding into separate workflows, or customizing onboarding based on specific user segments. You may learn that certain customers need concierge onboarding.

The Customer Takes Center Stage

While these insights don’t reach the level of rocket science, SaaS teams often undervalue and overlook them. You possess the power to get customers to their desired solution. So start giving the customer your undivided attention in the onboarding process.