In the latest episode of Vitally’s webinar series, Scale or Fail, viewers learned about operationalizing churn prediction, prevention, payments, and post-mortem. Panelists from Vitally, the modern Customer Success Platform, Chargebee, an industry-leading subscription management platform, and Spiff, a new class of commission software, sit down to discuss all things “customers churn.” Their discussion takes a deep dive into how they may use churn prediction to help expand and maintain their customer base, along with how they position their CS teams to scale as the company grows and be a core revenue generator for their respective organization.
This blog summarizes the loaded questions asked in episode 2 and the memorable responses and key takeaways from this webinar’s expert panelists.
Predicting Customer Churn
Question 1: What metrics in your customer health score model are key for predicting churn, and how are you operationalizing those metrics?
Customer Success Operations Manager at Spiff, Avi Delman, took the lead on this question, noting that there are four key metrics that Spiff looks at when it comes to calculating customer health scores and recognizing potential churn. The first metric is usage ratio, followed by CSAT score, NPS score, and CSM Sentiment score. Avi provides awesome examples and information to explain why these metrics are most important to Spiff, so we went ahead and highlighted some of those key quotes below:
Tip on Predicting Churn
“[Prioritize] those with sooner renewal dates and segment by those with the most recent activity, whether that be a proactive or reactive activity or even just activity on the platform; you want to make sure that you're not letting a customer be idle for a significantly long period of time.”
Invaluable Metric (plus a favorite of Avi’s)
“[In regards to CSM Sentiment Score], this [metric] values the CSM’s perspective. [For this metric], CSMs rate their interaction with their client on a scale of one to five (or 10). CSMs are the ones who are really gauging how [their clients are] feeling about their experience…so ultimately, the CSM sentiment score is really important to get that personal side of it all.”
Question 5: What are some in-product behavior patterns/trends that are indicative of churn?
Avi says he looks out for a couple of different in-product behaviors. One of them is logins because it reveals the end-users’ engagement levels and adoption of different platform features. Other than product behavior, Avi says that CSMs at Spiff also look into admin management vs. self-management, basically seeing how they are leveraging their CSM or support team for help.
Surveying engagement via logins
“When it comes to logins, we like to think of this kind of traditionally, [because when you see] someone logged in, [you think] they must be interested. But I really think [logins] dive a little deeper than that…it really dives into their engagement and adoption of the features within the platform.”
Leveraging CSMs and support teams
For Avi, he states: “When a person is reaching out to your support team, some people like to think that may be a negative because that means they're having issues. I actually like to look at that as a positive because that means they're engaged.”
Preventing Customer Churn
Question 2: Can you walk us through the steps in your churn prevention playbook? When is it triggered/when does it fire? How much of it is automated?
Parker Moore, Head of Customer Success at Vitally, walks through Vitally’s 3-phased approach to their churn prediction playbook. Parker describes how this playbook expands amongst the entire customer journey, but it really starts with a good onboarding playbook followed by adoption and ongoing strategy playbooks. Playbooks can be the same template applied to each customer, but it is up to the CSM to gauge the customer and customize that playbook to meet their needs and expectations.
“All of our customers will go through those initial stages, so it makes sense for us to capitalize on that opportunity. If 100% of customers are going to go through something, we want to devote a lot of our resources to solving that particular process.”
Personalized Approach to the Customer
There comes a time when “we are a bit more manual, we're going to deploy some manual safe measures, and it's really off to the capable hands of our CSM to do discovery, discussions around value identifying, and pulling any safety levers.”
The Role of Payments in Customer Churn
Question 3: What are B2B SaaS customer's options for when they want to scale down or are considering churn for financial reasons?
Eric King, Global Senior Sales Manager at Chargebee, answers how they counter the possibility of a customer churning or a solution to scaling down their services. Eric explains that a CSM often offers a pause or skip with their Chargebee subscriptions, and they have seen customers take that option rather than outright cancel. Though this is the common approach for potential churn or customers wishing to scale down, Eric adds each CSM should customize its approach to cancellations.
Alternative to a Discount Offer
“A lot of times we don’t specifically want to lead with a discount offer, so we see a pause or skip of their subscription as a healthy alternative to maintaining the customer…”
Customize Customize Customize
”Our approach is that we really try to customize each cancel experience to the persona or the subscriber type of that individual customer.”
Question 6: What advice can you offer Customer Success teams on; a) navigating/uncovering the key stakeholders who manage payment data; b) how Customer Success can best work with them if it’s not their main POC?
Based on what he has experienced at Chargebee, Eric discusses how navigating key stakeholder management for payment data can be challenging because of different roles. Some roles within the organization work more on the retention side of things, while others work on more of the billing/financial side of the business. Internal collaboration is critical, working with CS teams and account managers to figure out who they are working with day to day and really understanding the customer relationship to know which person certain discussions should be directed towards.
Overview of Billing at Chargebee
“Chargebee billing focuses on the front end part of the process, helping customers through involuntary churn…” For instance, “customers who are canceling for failed payments or updating payment information. While on the back end, Chargebee retention [focuses] on the voluntary customers who are looking to proactively cancel.”
Collaboration is Critical
We “really [try] to dig in and figure out who our [CSMs and account managers] are working with day-to-day” because we “are really leveraging the relationships that they have with the customers. It is the best way to [understand] different contexts within the organization that might be relevant for our discussions.”
Customer Churn: Post-Mortem
Question 4: What preliminary steps can growing teams take to set themselves up for success with a full churn analysis down the line, and analyze churn on a smaller scale in the interim?
Parker took charge of this response, explaining how Vitally identifies churn as part of their offboarding process. During offboarding, CSMs are expected to identify the reason the customer churned (they have a list of pre-selected reasons to choose from) and provide more context as to why the customer churned (a text field where CSMs can add more description). These responses provide what Parker says is baseline data. This data can then be used to split customer churn into different categories.
Why did they churn?
When providing context, CSMs should ask themselves, “What led to the churn?hat could have been done differently to prevent it, if anything? Questions like that [provide] baseline data.”
Devising churn categories
“Obviously, like when we first started out, we didn't have these types of categories.” Even today, these categories are “not set in stone, but it's fairly evergreen. It really just requires us to update those options on a somewhat regular basis.”
BONUS QUESTION (Unanswered in Webinar): How does your organization decide when a post-mortem is needed for a churn event? How are lessons learned from a post-mortem shared and/or addressed with the rest of the team/organization?
Parker shares his post-mortem wisdom, sharing the four main categories that would require some type of post-mortem if they are to occur. The first category is High Impact, meaning a revenue or logo that will cause ripples within the organization. Unexpected is the second category, which is, as Parker describes, a high health or CSM sentiment where something broke within the CS operation. Third is Salvageable, which is where one can identify what would have saved the customer from churning and understand why the organization couldn’t deliver. Lastly, thematic is the fourth category, which, for example, would be the product.
“If a customer churned that had a high health score or if they churned, but the CSM sentiment was healthy. If one or both happened and the customer churned, we know that something broke within the CS operation or that in the way we are training our CSMs. This issue would be elevated to CS managers and operations to see what they can do to resolve the potential issue.”
Thematic Post-Mortem: Product Perspective
“From a product perspective, if there is a product theme that we hear about over and over again. We will go to the product team, be very clear on our ask, and do our best to quantify and vocalize the impact if we were to roll out [a feature to address] that particular theme.”
This blog consolidated Vitally’s latest hour-long webinar, “Scale or Fail: Operationalizing Churn Prediction, Prevention, Payments, and Post-Mortem,” into a nice 8-minute read sharing a high-level overview and key takeaways from this informative panel discussion. There are plenty of other details that were not covered, so be sure to check out the webinar recording to learn more!