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August 15, 2019 Customer Experience

How to Create a Customer Risk Playbook

Ali Lipman wearing a black blouse with small white polka dots and white collar.
By Ali Lipman

I may seem like your average mild-mannered customer success manager, but I’m actually a secret agent who has been assigned an important mission at BrainSell…

To eliminate customer churn! If you use a recurring revenue model, you know that churn is a dirty word in our world. In fact, customer success is the natural enemy of churn – it was founded on the belief that when clients enjoy using your product or services, they stick around. (What a concept!)

This winter, I began my mission by writing an employee playbook for mitigating churn risk. I was familiar with the idea of a playbook. In sports, a playbook contains strategies for scoring points or winning the game, but in customer success, a playbook is a process guide for addressing all scenarios in which an account may be at risk. My inspiration for this blogpost was to put a starting point out in the ether for companies who are struggling to rein in churn. Here are some tips to get going:

Set clear objectives.

It’s good form to begin any project by defining the problem you are trying to solve. In BrainSell’s case, we make sure our projects are relevant to our business goals and core processes. (For example, we use the S.M.A.R.T. system to kick start our projects). Your objective may be as specific as reducing churn by 5% – or as broad as improving customer experience. It’s important to note that not every company will have the same objectives for developing a playbook. Every company has a unique set of motivations and values, and your objectives should reflect that. Make sure you:

  1. Capture your objectives
  2. Decide how you will measure your progress
  3. Consider any roadblocks you may encounter
  4. Plan the steps you need to take to meet your objectives
  5. Set due dates for each of your milestones or deliverables

Leverage customer data.

You might be able to guess reasons for churn, but if you take advantage of in-house technology – such as CRM, help-desk, ticketing, ERP, accounting, or customer success platforms – then it’s time to put on your data analyst hat and dive into your data.

During your analysis, you may notice holes in information. Are you capturing data from your exit interviews, such as reasons for leaving your company? Are you measuring customer happiness with metrics like net promoter score (NPS) or customer satisfaction ratings (CSAT)? You need to understand how key customer success metrics and other data points like payment history, support ticket details, products usage, and project team members relate to churn. Using this data, you should be able to identify top reasons for churn.

You should also be able to identify any siloed data that is too difficult to extract or migrate into another database. Don’t fret – this is a good thing. Enlist a business analyst to help you better understand your company data and leverage the right technologies to support your processes. They can also create predictive models for understanding future situations or outcomes, so you can come up with a game plan.

Don’t be afraid to collaborate.

Ask your partners and vendors for pointers on how they mitigate risk. Some of the most valuable information I gathered was from partners and vendors. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel if your partners have done some of that leg work already. You can learn from how they’ve crafted a process around their customer experience – but be sure to keep in mind that their process may not translate perfectly into yours.

Involve your coworkers and other teams in the creation of the playbook. This includes support agents, project managers, renewal managers, accounts receivable, and salespeople. They should agree with the reasons for churn you’ve identified and should offer information about how they usually address these challenges. Contextualizing these individual approaches will give you a couple preliminary guidelines for the final playbook.

Check out LinkedIn and Meetup.com for local communities. In Boston, we have a chapter of Pulse Local as well as a Customer Success and Support Meetup where professionals can network and collaborate. These are great places to ask questions and learn about how other companies mitigate risk.

Format it appropriately.

The playbook should be accessible to anyone whose role requires them to identify or address churn risks. Think about creating a dynamic document with team-wide permissions using a cloud tool like OneNote or Google Docs. The table of contents should include the names of the plays, but also the situational indicators (reasons for churn). This way, you can identify scenarios for risk and easily find the associated play to run.

Every play should have entrance and exit criteria. Entrance criteria will correspond to your situational indicators, while exit criteria will indicate when the play is over. But prepare for overlap! Sometimes customers exit one play and immediately enter another. Your plays should also include auxiliary resources such as email templates, surveys, and conversation points.

You may find that your tech stack is insufficient for collecting the kind of data you need for the playbook. Re-configuring or implementing systems that support customer experience goals is paramount. As you improve data collection and analysis, the playbook may change or you may need to calibrate it based on new data. It’s also advisable to record the success of these plays.

What are you waiting for?

Creating a customer churn risk playbook may feel like a daunting task, but it’s very likely that you already have all the right information you need. By following this guide, we hope you’ll feel a little more supported as you embark on this important customer success mission.


 

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Ali Lipman

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Ali Lipman wearing a black blouse with small white polka dots and white collar.

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