Customer retention, or a company’s ability to retain customers over a period of time, is a non-negotiable part of business strategy in a subscription economy. At its core, customer retention depends on relationships and customers’ realized value of your products and services. How well you manage your customer relationships, communicate your brand’s value, and deliver on that value has a direct impact on how long your customers will stick around. The concept itself is rather straightforward, but achieving high customer retention rates is not — especially when you consider that customers today have much easier access to a myriad of products and services in any given industry and can switch brands in an instant. Also, keep in mind that your customers rely on multiple sources of information — some accurate, some not so much — that influence their decision-making and perception of your brand.

So what are businesses to do? The first step is to focus on aspects you can control, i.e. your customer retention strategy, internal culture and processes, and technology you use to empower your team to create and deliver more value to your customers and build the kind of brand experiences that keep your customers coming back and spending more. In this piece we’ll show you what that approach may look like and how the right technology, in our case — Insightly CRM — can help you reach your customer retention goals. We asked Insightly’s VP of Finance and Operations Karl Laughton to share his insights after restructuring our own customer loyalty (CL) program and introducing a number of initiatives to improve the team’s productivity and increase customer retention. Here are key takeaways from that conversation.

1. Product adoption

Value is what your customers look for and pay for. When your customers feel like they are continuously getting value, they’ll stick around. On the business side, retaining your existing customers removes the pressure and cost of acquiring new ones. The more your customers use the product, the more value they are able to get from it and feel happier. This, in turn, makes it easier for you to upsell, cross sell, and retain your customers. Whether you add new features or services or add new product lines altogether, make sure you educate and inspire customers to use different features or try new ones, so they are able to realize the full value of that ongoing innovation at all times. Enter product adoption.

Karl believes that every team is responsible for creating opportunities for further product adoption, with the CL playing the leading role after the initial sale. At Insightly, customer loyalty team reps make sure our existing customers are among the first to learn about new features, capabilities, and/or products and receive ongoing training on them. While customer webinars, newsletters, and announcements keep our customer base informed, the regular check-ins from customer support and customer success reps ensure our customers continue to take advantage of our ongoing product innovation and apply it to solve their ever-changing business needs. This proactive approach requires a dedicated process, including scheduled personalized customer outreach and an internal culture that’s equally focused on product innovation and product adoption.

“We challenge our reps to have creative conversations on how to use different features, best ways to accomplish different tasks, and get more value out of our CRM platform,” says Karl. “Of course, customers have to hold up their end of the work, but we set them up for success from the get-go and provide ongoing guidance to maximize their experience and ROI.”

Every helpful interaction contributes to creating more value, building more trust, and cultivating loyalty with your customers. Internally, these interactions are a treasure trove of knowledge that you can use for product development and service improvements.

2. Systems & processes

If your customers feel like their experience with your brand is consistently great — from the first sales call throughout onboarding, regular check-ins, and/or any troubleshooting — they’ll have more confidence in your brand and are more likely to stick around longer and spend more.

How do you ensure a consistent brand experience? Align your internal teams. Do your sales and customer loyalty teams share a single source of truth on customer data? Do you have a smooth hand-off process between your sales and customer loyalty teams? Can you maintain the alignment as your business scales?

As Karl considered these questions, he found that over time, as Insightly and our customer base grew, we added numerous systems to manage different processes and customer touchpoints. As a result, our CL team was using four different systems (in addition to Insightly CRM) and customer hand-off between sales and customer loyalty was broken. For customers this meant answering the same questions more than once or receiving inconsistent information. Our systems and processes didn’t reflect our brand values anymore and we were falling short on delivering consistently great brand experience.

“When sales reps sell value to customers, they create expectations that the product and support teams have to fulfill. In order to follow through on these promises, you need a proper hand-off that includes visibility into every interaction with a given customer,” says Karl. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to customers who they speak to — sales or support — you’re one company, one brand, and they expect consistent experience and follow-through on the value you promise them.”

So one of Karl’s first moves as the head of our customer loyalty organization, which includes support, service, and success teams, was to centralize all customer workflows in one place — Insightly CRM.

Today, Insightly’s CL team has access to real-time data on every pre-sale interaction with a customer, which allows them to have an informed and productive first conversation with a new customer.

Even beyond the customer handoff — from onboarding through renewals and ongoing check-ins — a shared system of record and project management platform allows our reps to reach out to customers with timely, personalized messages.

Technology is essential to creating team alignment, driving productivity, and, ultimately, retaining customers. Take time to evaluate your systems and processes to identify redundancies, siloes, and other barriers to creating frictionless customer experience. Are you and your team able to easily share information, streamline all customer-facing activities, and have informed conversations with your customers? Does your current system create more confusion than structure? How does the technology you use today impact your customers’ experience with your brand?

As you answer these questions, consider what tools and systems you’ll need and set goals — both to create accountability on your team and to ensure high ROI. And, no matter what tools you choose, you’ll need project management and analytics capabilities to stay on course. The closer those tools are to your sales stack, the better the alignment is between your pre- and post-sale teams, which maximizes your customer experience.

3. Transparency & accountability

Once Karl and the team agreed on their focus (product adoption) and set quarterly goals, they created a dashboard in Insightly CRM to track performance and progress. Below are a few specific examples of how our CL team uses Insightly CRM to increase transparency and accountability.

Projects. The team uses the grid view in Insightly Projects to facilitate weekly onboarding pipeline discussions. Here the entire team gains visibility into every stage of CL engagement with customers and uses the information to reduce go-live time and improve overall customer experience. (Zoom in on the image for a better view).

Opportunities. Insightly CRM’s Kanban view in Opportunities informs the CL’s weekly renewal pipeline discussions. What’s the opportunity value and opportunity to win back? What are the customer’s current pain points (for example, integration with other systems) that we can address right away? The data helps to determine which accounts to pay more attention to at any given moment and if any of the reps need additional support. Is the number of customer accounts per rep reasonable? Sometimes the follow-up action is as simple as shuffling accounts around or dealing with any changes on a customer’s end (for example, increase in number of product users).

Whether you’re trying to reactivate accounts, increase product adoption, or sell new products or services to your existing customers, informed outreach is the first step in customer retention.

Custom fields. As Karl led Insightly CRM adoption internally, he encouraged the customer success team to use additional features, including: custom fields to better connect all customer data (contacts with organizations, for example), calculations on those fields, and advanced reporting. Connecting various customer data points, including customers’ product usage, allowed the team to discuss outreach in more specific terms and take on a more proactive approach. The reports also helped to quickly identify large accounts at risk and upsell opportunities using health scores right within the CRM.

Dashboards. They say “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Insightly’s CL team uses dashboards and scorecards to monitor performance, both at an individual level and as a team, against goals in real time.

“The real-time dashboard allows us to course-correct faster, retain customers in a more efficient way, and grow recurring revenue,” says Karl.

Custom apps. Insightly CRM’s custom apps brings all the above functions together into a highly customized view that allows us to focus on running the piece of the business that matters most to us and the way we want to run it.

4. Staff training & empowerment

Just as we set up our customers for success, we make sure our CL reps are also set up for success. This means providing continuous training, so the reps understand our customers and know the product inside out. This also means allowing reps to take on more responsibilities and be successful when they do. Karl also believes that when people are more successful taking on more, they create more business value, and should participate in that value through internal promotions.

While shared KPIs and reporting help to create transparency and promote accountability, you still need to train and empower your team to help them do their best work. When your CL reps feel empowered and happy in their roles and work as part of a team, they feel more inspired and confident to engage with your customers in meaningful ways and build better relationships.

“Our weekly team kickoff meetings are a great way to check in on everyone’s progress, review schedules, identify areas for assistance, come up with solutions, and energize the team for the week ahead,” says Karl.

Working with customers can be both rewarding and challenging — having an internal strong support network and resources, including a powerful unified CRM technology, is critical to ensuring your customer loyalty reps are well-equipped and inspired to create more value both for your customers and your business.

If you’d like to try Insightly CRM features used by the Insightly CL team, request a demo here.

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