Let me start this post with a story of what not to do. Actually, let me “play” you the conversation that occurred with the inside sales rep of one of my vendors. I have had this product for 18 months and this is the first call I have gotten from them. I am going to leave all names out of this (after all, I do still have a relationship with them and do want it for now).
Phone rings: “ Dan Kraus, how can I help you”
Caller: “Hi Dan, this is Craig calling from your CRM reseller company name”
Me: “Hi Craig – what could I do for you”
Craig: “ I was calling today to see how you like your installation of your CRM package and if everything was going fine”
Me: “Actually Craig, we really aren’t using it much. We’ve found that we have to take too many steps to enter activities to actually do what we want with it.”
Craig: “ I’m sorry to hear that.” … then silence
Me: “We probably won’t be renewing when the term is up”
Craig: “Well, is there anything we can do to help?”
Me: “ Probably not since helping would involve customizing the software and we really aren’t interested in paying a consulting bill for this”
Craig: “Okay. Well, if you change your mind, let us know”
Then pleasantries and good-byes.
So what was wrong with this? Just about everything. Including the follow up email I got that re-iterated his last point about changing my mind.
This is a software as a service product. I have to renew every year. And every year, the reseller gets a commission on my renewal. So, how do you gain repeat sales when you have a customer with a term-type policy that needs renewal? Here are six things that instantly come to mind. There are more for sure.
1) Reach out often and early and ask if they need help. If you are dealing with DIY customers (and we are one), then have resources and tips you can point them to if they don’t want to pay for consulting or a service call. I should have heard from this vendor within 2 months of signing on. And since they can get a report of my use of the system, they should have noticed that my use had fallen off and called again.
2) Survey your customers frequently – at least once a year – to give them the opportunity to give you feedback. Yes, you will hear negative things, but those are opportunities to improve or change. When I ran a software business, I never was intimidated at calling an upset customer. I figured they are already angry, so I have the opportunity to make them happy. The worst I was going to do was to leave them in the same situation.
3) Train your customer service or tele-reps how to handle a less-than-positive call. Craig was totally taken aback that I wasn’t happy and really had no idea what to do next or what resources he could call on.
4) Clearly understand the total lifetime value of a customer. This reseller is probably focused on finding new customers versus retaining current ones. In the software industry, this is a holdover from old revenue models, but the models have changed (they have in many businesses). While they don’t make a lot of money each year from me, I am also low maintenance. It would have been worth them offering an hour or two of training/consulting to keep me (or make me happy and likely to renew), but that was never offered (and probably not considered)
5) Have offers for current customers. Craig’s opening line was to see how I was doing. He may have had an offer, and never got that far, but my sense was he was fishing to see if there was something he could sell me as opposed to having an offer like “ we have a new online user-group starting up we’d like to invite you to”
6) Build a customer community – as in the above point. Helping your customers interact with each other, and with you, makes them more likely to stick around. After all, we like being part of a community.
It is FAR less expensive to keep current customers and sell more to them, than it is to find new ones. And you are much more likely to get referrals from customers that have gotten value from the relationship with you – which also helps grow your business.
So take a long hard look at how you are servicing and communicating with your current clients. There may be some opportunities there that you are missing.
Got a story or other tips for keeping current customers coming back – let us know.