Take Your Customers from Purchase to Renewal
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- Explain how to build a framework to help your customers achieve their goals.
- Compare the different engagement models that help you build relationships with your customers.
- Describe how to implement a renewals process.
We’ve talked a bit about customer success—what it is, and why it matters. Now let’s see what it takes to create customers for life.
Look at it from a customer’s perspective. With limited resources and ever-evolving business needs, customers must get consistent value out of the tools and processes they invest in. If a new product comes along that helps them grow their business more effectively, of course they’re going to consider switching to it.
You got your customers by showing them that your product meets their current needs. Now, how do you keep them?
You’ve heard about the customer life cycle. The first half is devoted to getting customers to buy your product. The second half focuses on nurturing those customers so that they become advocates, and customers for life. Let’s zoom in on that second half.
A success framework is a repeatable procedure that prepares your customers to use your product effectively. Here’s how you create one:
- Define the stages in your customer life cycle.
- List the actions your customer takes in each stage.
- Try to anticipate the customer's expectations in each stage.
- Identify roles, processes, and tools to support customer objectives for each stage.
In designing your own success framework, consider all of your customers and products. If a single framework doesn’t fit them all, you can create as many frameworks as it takes to create the best experience for each of them.
You and your customer are in this together. Before you embark on your journey, make sure you both are ready and willing to do what it takes.
- Identify the customer’s primary objectives to benchmark their success. How do you define success? How will you set performance metrics?
- Who are the key players—the points of contact, performance metrics owners, and decision makers?
- How does training and adoption work?
- What process, tools, and content does your team need to deliver your customer’s objectives?
Sit down with your customer and answer these questions specifically. That way, you’re both tracking the same version of success, and you start your journey with a good idea of work, costs, and risks.
When you’re cultivating customers for life, communication is everything. Build trust with your customers by making yourself available and understanding their needs.
- Create smooth processes for onboarding new customers. Make it easy to adopt and renew your product.
- Keep customers informed of new products, training, and industry-relevant news and events.
- Help customers solve their challenges by tracking their goals and priorities. Try to anticipate where they’re going so you can meet them there.
- Ask customers for feedback that can improve your app and services.
- Identify and remove risks before they become issues.
Each engagement is an opportunity for you to deliver value, assess gaps, support your customer, understand how their needs change over time, and build a stronger relationship. There are three types of engagements.
- Life cycle—The communication required to get your customer through each stage of the life cycle. This includes welcoming new customers, onboarding and training, and teaching best practices.
- Periodic—Regularly scheduled account reviews and trainings
- Event-based—Communications about new product releases, meetings for upcoming renewals, new contacts
In a perfect world, you could provide one-on-one, personalized training and support for each of your customers, no matter how many you had. In reality, you must balance your level of support effort with other priorities that draw on your time and resources, such as developing new products or features.
OK, so you can’t hold everyone’s hand all the time. But if you play your cards right, you don’t have to. You can stay connected with your customers with a few different models of engagement. Each one requires different resources.
A customer success manager personally handles the relationship with a few specified customers, helping them make progress. This is the most common model for complex solutions involving high revenue or strategic customers. Types of engagements can include:
- Ongoing training and support calls on an as-needed basis
- Monthly management and operational review
- Quarterly executive success reviews
Automated tools, alerts, and digital communications allow your team to support a customer at every stage of the journey.
At Salesforce, we use Journey Builder to manage a high volume of engagements and provide targeted 1:1 communication. With Journey Builder, we can provide customers with a consistent experience by tracking progress, delivering content, and helping with onboarding. It also gives us analytics so we can measure how effectively we’re engaging customers and who is in need of talking to a live person.
Hybrid EngagementJust like it sounds, this is a combination of the high- and low-touch approaches. There are many ways of mixing and matching. For example, you may find that your customers have a better experience and receive value three times faster with a high-touch onboarding session. After just a couple of phone calls, they can easily adopt the solution with a series of low-touch engagements.
In the end, customer engagement is a balancing act. But you always have options.
Every customer learns and communicates differently. Engage with your customers in different ways to find out what works best.
- In one-on-one conversations
- Via email marketing
- In live chats and roundtable discussions
- At conferences and industry events
- In training courses and webinars
- In success communities and social networks
- Via online knowledge bases
Keep your content up to date. You can even enlist help from your most enthusiastic customers, who can become your champions. Make sure you recognize and reward them for their efforts!
Whether you’re an experienced AppExchange partner or a newcomer, you can benefit from learning more about your customers.
- Are they successfully using your app?
- Are they getting the most value they can?
- Which of your customers needs your help most urgently?
You can answer these questions with well-designed metrics and benchmarks. Every interaction your customer has with you or with your app is an opportunity to find something out.
There are so many metrics you can use, and so many ways to use them. We can’t treat them all here. But we can offer you some general advice.
- Start collecting data and refine as you go—time is your ally when you’re gathering data.
- Define your performance metrics.
- Focus on the most important metrics first—keep it simple, and follow the data where it leads you.
- Create a plan based on what you learn—measure, then act.
- Consider developing a health score—a single number that reflects how successful each customer is at a glance.
Your support team works hard to keep your customers happy. Make their job easier by giving them a consistent set of tools, data, and knowledge. And make sure you benefit from the feedback they get—they are your eyes and ears.
Renewal is the ultimate compliment. When a customer comes back for more, they’re telling you with their hard-earned money how much value they get from your app. Your ARR depends on renewals, so this is a big deal.
A renewal is an opportunity to:
- Identify potential for growth: Are there add-ons or other products your customer needs?
- Improve payment terms: Is there an arrangement that gives you more stability and makes sense for your customer?
- Adjust pricing to reflect market rate, product innovation, or recoup discounts.
- Identify issues with accounts before they become problems.
Most important: Don’t wait for your customer’s term to expire to start the renewal conversation. Set up a timeline for reviewing each account and check in to see how things are going.
Keep to this timeline by creating automated reports and dashboards that remind you about the renewal months in advance. Include vital metrics in these dashboards so that you don’t get caught off guard during a customer conversation.
Here are some best practices you can adopt to stay with your customers, and keep them with you.
- Automate support and analytics where possible.
- Set a specific goal for renewals.
- Be proactive when you manage escalation.
- Communicate clearly to remove obstacles for your customers.
- Keep track of your attrition rate and determine why customers leave so you can prevent churn.
- Develop a regular communication cycle, with meetings and reports happening as often as they need to: weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually.
Check out this checklist and playbook to find out more about managing renewals.
In the end, we want customers for life—customers who get so much value out of your app, they just can’t wait to share their story with others. Keep your eyes open for these customer advocates. They can help you reach new customers, and also:
- Evangelize your new products and expertise
- Help build your brand’s credibility with stellar AppExchange reviews
- Provide you with fresh marketing materials, in the form of testimonials and success stories
- Influence your roadmap with new ideas and directions
Never underestimate the power of enthusiasm. If you’ve been in the Salesforce ecosystem a while, you’ve seen plenty of happy customers. They’re a cornerstone of our success, and they can be for yours.
Next, we show you how to take your business to the next level.