As one of the most important metrics for a startup, and especially for SaaS businesses, churn has been widely discussed. But because churn is affected by every single function of business, from acquisition channels to product, sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin when it comes to trying to reduce it.
As churn is something we have struggled with at Mention, we decided in April to concentrate on changing that. We set ourselves a precise goal and action plan for the next three months. Much to our surprise, we actually surpassed our 20% churn reduction goal in a single month instead of three, which is why we’re happy to share with you what we did.
From day one, customer support should be a key focus for any SaaS startup, as a way to both gather feedback and turn users into ambassadors. But with the number of our users booming from a few hundred to more than 200,000, it became overwhelming to handle support as efficiently as we would have liked.
Because an unsatisfied customer is much more likely to churn, we implemented a strong action plan to improve our processes. It allowed us to halve the average time it takes to answer a support query and reduce the amount of time we spend on each user.
First, we prioritized the free trial and paying clients over the free users. That doesn’t mean we didn’t provide a high level of service for our free users, just that paying customers were getting even more attention, since they are what sustains us. The setup for this new level of attention was accomplished in a breeze thanks to the creation of segments on Intercom, a service that we’re using for our support.
Second, we implemented a “batch time zone system” for assigning the support tickets. Instead of replying to messages as they came in, leading to a fragmentation of time spent on support throughout the day, we started taking them in batches every four hours, securing more time to focus on our other tasks.
Third, we began to organize weekly “support meet product” meetings with the goal of improving both the product and support tools (like our FAQ), depending on specific user feedback.
These steps led to a total reduction of about 50% of the time spent on support, with an increase in customer satisfaction for paying and free trial users.
Automated Nurturing Program
We have an automated marketing process that is set up to activate and convert users during our free trial. We wrote about it here. However, everything kind of stopped once users upgraded from the free trial and became paying clients. So, to decrease churn, we extended the life cycle of our emails and in-app messages to paying clients in order to further nurture our relationship.
Here is the background. We noticed that, during the free trials, feature activation was the most important driver of full conversion. (The same goes for retention.) The more features a user activates and uses, the stickier the user is, which makes a lot of sense.
Therefore, we began sending messages to paying clients to motivate them to activate features. Our first messages were “Pro Tips” to showcase the features that are really popular with power users, such as our Buffer integration.
Then — as use cases are worth a thousand words — we started sending out monthly success stories to reaffirm Mention’s value proposition and to directly show how our features could make sense for our users.
These steps led to a pretty comprehensive nurturing program covering the entire life cycle of our users.
To top it all off, we organized our first use-case Master Class, demonstrating the ROI of media monitoring through concrete examples. The idea was not only to show how to use our features, but also to show what our clients were actually using them for “in the field” so to speak. We took our previous experience with webinars — see how we made $10k from our first one — to the next level, making them not only a conversion tool, but a retention tool as well.
There’s no silver bullet when it comes to decreasing your churn rate, but our experience has shown us that things can be improved quickly by taking small and iterative steps that really add up.
Here’s a summary of the steps we took:
- Prioritized the free trial and paying clients over the free users
- Improved time zone support, assigning tickets between the Paris and New York offices
- Organized weekly improvement reviews of our FAQ and Support sections, reporting directly to our product team so they could continually update our Help Center
Automated Nurturing Program
- Sent users messages to motivate activation of features
- Provided tips, showcasing features most popular with power users
- Sent out monthly use-case success stories
What about you? Have you discovered any best practices when it comes to reducing churn? Please share them in the comments below.
About the Author: Clément Delangue is the chief marketing officer of Mention, an application that lets you know what people are saying about you, your company, or your competitors online. Before joining Mention, he worked for eBay, was one of the first French professional sellers at age 17, and co-founded several startups, including UniShared and VideoNot.es.