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Customer Retention: 7 Signs to Help You Identify At-Risk Customers

We’ve identified seven key areas where you can watch for customer churn and the types of behavior that signify they’re at risk.

Many customer success teams are short on time and understaffed. Maybe you’re even a team of one. In an ideal world, every account would get the same amount of time, but that’s not always possible. It’s imperative to prioritize your time and your customer list, especially when a customer might be at risk for churn.

Fortunately, we’ve identified seven key areas where you can watch for customer churn, and the types of behavior that signify they’re at risk. These indicators will help you identify areas where you can step in before a customer doesn’t renew.  Here are the top places to watch for churn indicators:

  1. NPS survey results
  2. Online community activity
  3. Support ticket data
  4. Negative reviews and direct complaints
  5. Conversations about contract modification
  6. Website activity
  7. Organizational changes at the account

Let’s dive in.

7 Signs Your At-Risk Customer Might Churn

A customer is at-risk when they’re considering not renewing with you, which can be caused by a variety of factors. Maybe they’re feeling buyer’s remorse, or perhaps the customer support they thought they’d receive is lacking. Fortunately, once you’re aware of the risk, there are steps you can take to preserve your relationship and prevent customer churn.

These seven signs of at-risk customers are likely present in the data you already have. On their own, these signs may not be a problem, but if you combine two or three signs together, it can be an indicator your relationship is in jeopardy.

1. NPS Survey Results

If you’re regularly surveying your customers, ideally, you’ll have the data you need to understand where they are. It’s obvious, but when a customer gives you a detractor (and even a neutral) NPS score, it’s time to step in.

Pro tip: If your customer doesn’t give you the reason for their low NPS survey score, look to your online community. Often, you may be able to piece together the backstory based on their community activity. You can come into the conversation more aware and prepared with more guidance.

2. Online Community Activity

Not all customers are going to tell you directly that they’re dissatisfied, so look next to your online community, if you have one. Your online community is the customer success team’s personal crystal ball. Leverage your customers’ online behavior to proactively reach out to struggling and frustrated customers.

Disgruntled/angry comments

When a customer consistently posts upset or angry messages in your community, it’s a warning sign. Of course, if it’s a one-off post or once every three months or so, paired with positive posts, you don’t have to worry as much, but watch for trends by certain customers.

Elementary questions

If you notice customers asking basic product questions long after they should be, it’s a sign that they won’t or haven’t fully adopted your product. This is your chance to invest extra resources into education and training for these accounts. If you don’t, it might mean they go elsewhere…where the product is easier to use and training is more available.

Inactive customers

Keep in mind that the interaction that you don’t have is just as important as the interaction you do have. If your customers are nowhere to be seen, that’s a clear warning sign. With Higher Logic’s online community software, you can generate a report to show how often customers are logging in and interacting with community. If they have consistent engagement, and then it drops for a while, that’s an indicator of an at-risk customer who is losing interest.

3. Support Ticket Data

The support ticket question is a Goldilocks problem – you don’t want too many, you don’t want too few, you want the number to be just right.

Low number of support tickets

Not having many support tickets might sound like a good thing, but it can suggest that your customer is unengaged and has not fully adopted your product. You could assume they’re a product genius who never needs help, but it’s more likely they haven’t invested in the product and aren’t taking the time to figure it out. Your product might be on the budget chopping block next year.

High number of support tickets

Having a high number of support tickets is more of an obvious sign of an at-risk customer. If they submit ticket after ticket, it may show they’re unhappy, experiencing a lot of product bugs, or they’re experiencing a high effort learning how to use your product. This is a good chance to escalate these tickets to get them resolved as soon as you can, but both of these churn warnings are opportunities for you to step in to offer additional education and training.

Resource: Reduce Customer Support Costs the Community Way

4. Negative Reviews and Direct Complaints

Direct feedback, including negative reviews and social media complaints, is one of the best indicators of your customers’ risk status. It’s clear that these customers have a problem with your product, service, or organization, and just because they didn’t explicitly mention leaving doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it.

It’s essential to reach out to these customers because their issues don’t usually resolve themselves on their own – and they’re actively bringing your product’s reputation down, so try to stop the cause of the problem as soon as possible.

5. Conversations about Contract Modification

When customers start asking for discounts or deals or a modification of their contract, it’s an indication of a few possible things, many of which are risks for churn. Your customer might be happy, but they might have to prove to leadership that your product is needed in the budget, or they need to justify keeping your product because one of your competitors offers a similar solution for less. If it’s right before renewal, and they’re asking you about modifying the contract, this is a definite indicator they’re thinking about other providers.

Use this signal as a sign to step in and learn why they’re asking about a contract modification. They may not have realized all the value your product has to offer, and it’s a good chance for you to remind them of your strategic differentiators.

Resource: Build Your Customer Journey Map with 7 Community Touchpoints

6. Website Activity

If you have a tool like web tracking, you may be able to see when customers view cancellation or downgrade pages – a clear sign they’re interested in moving on from your product.

Additionally, if customers ask you how to download their data from their product, it may be a sign they’re looking to migrate their product. Even if your customers don’t take any action to change their account status, this is still a major indicator that something is wrong.

Reach out to these customers to find out what the underlying problem is. Do they still see the value in your product or service? Are they dissatisfied with your support team? Once you’ve identified the base issue, take steps to resolve your customer’s issue, if possible.

7. Organizational Changes at the Account

You’re scrolling through LinkedIn, when you see your main point of contact at an account has left the company or gotten a new title. Or maybe, you’re watching the news and you see your account just hired a new CEO. Uh oh….

These kinds of organizational change can spell bad news. Why? When your main point of contact leaves, you’re potentially losing your internal champion. In this case, try to reach out as soon as you can to discuss a transition plan and focus on helping the new point of contact get up to speed, with as much help as you can give.

If it’s a leadership change, you can assume they’ll be reviewing the tech stack. Again, it’s your chance to jump in and educate your customer about the value you offer and the resources you provide.

See At-Risk Customers as An Opportunity

This data is key to helping you prioritize your time and customer list – and it’s key to uncovering larger problems across your customer-base.  When you reach out, think of these customers, complaints, or reviews in a positive way. Look at them as opportunities to identify weak spots in your product or across your business, so that you can continue to improve customer retention and experience.

Download the Community Roundtable's State of Community Management Report

What are some common-sense indicators you look for when watching for customer churn?

Calista Rollogas

Calista is a former Senior Customer Success Manager at Higher Logic. As an advocate and liaison between her customers and Higher Logic’s internal operations, she maintains the highest level of customer satisfaction by articulating customer needs, challenges and business goals to internal organizational leadership to satisfy customer needs and exceed expectations. Calista joined Higher Logic from a boutique digital marketing firm and brings with her an understanding of the needs and challenges of both the corporate and non-profit worlds when it comes to connecting with customers and members.