Account Managers at meeting

Is Your Customer at Risk of Churn? 5 Ways to Find Out.

It’s a key account manager’s worst nightmare: One day, out of nowhere, you lose a major customer.

Sometimes it’s completely outside your control. But most of the time, if it seems like it’s coming “out of nowhere,” chances are you weren’t watching closely enough—or you weren’t looking at the right indicators.

Customers are harder to engage and easier to lose than ever—and that was true before the recession hit. Now, it’s time to take a close look at your major accounts and see whether they’re at risk of churn. Ask yourself:

  1. Have you updated your SWOT and VOC? If the last time you did this was before March 2020, it’s time to revisit.
  2. Are you embedded vertically and horizontally in the organization? Do you have relationships with the C-suite? Cross-functional teams? Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
  3. Do you have a long-term, customer-centric strategic plan? This can’t just be a plan to sell them more widgets. It has to be a plan that advances your customer’s goals, too.
  4. Do you have a framework for measuring success (and are you tracking)? The only way to demonstrate value is to track it.
  5. How healthy is the account? This is more than customer satisfaction—it’s customer engagement.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at each of these questions, establishing a framework to help you assess your accounts—and see who’s at risk of walking away.

1) Updating SWOT and VOC

Key account management is a bit like playing the card game Spades. Some things are the cards you’re dealt—they’re out of your control. Things like pandemics, recessions, mergers & acquisitions, and other disruptive forces, for good or for bad. Based on those cards, you have to make a projection around how much you can expect to win—and then set out to meet those projections. Along the way, you’re adjusting to plays by your partner and your competitors. The way you project, plan, and react is the part you can control.

If you’re a key account manager right now, and you’re managing large portfolios of business, it’s time to re-examine your cards. Two ways you can do that are (a) updating your SWOT analysis, and (b) updating your Voice of Customer (VOC). Your VOC will help you check in with customers—how have their goals and expectations changed this year? Your SWOT will give you a clear sense of internal and external forces working for and against you, so you can adjust your plan accordingly. You can also hop on a call with your customers to update their SWOT analysis. It’s a meaningful and engaging way to get some face time (even if it’s screen time) and demonstrate your commitment to constantly refining your shared strategic action plan (more on that below).

If you haven’t updated your SWOT and VOC, both internally and with your customers, you might be missing key signs your customers are at high risk of churn—and even if they’re not, you’re missing opportunities to grow the relationship.

2) Vertical and Horizontal Footprint

If your customer relationships are heavily reliant on one person’s goodwill, you’re sitting in a risky spot. People’s plans change—they switch companies, they shift gears, they change careers. So while one strong relationship might get you in the door, your goal should be to expand your footprint within the organization as a whole, both vertically (all the way up to the C-Suite) and horizontally (across departments and/or with cross-functional teams). In addition to cementing your relationships, and reducing the risk of churn, you’ll also set yourself up to be even more effective with the organization, because you’ll understand more about how things get done.

3) Long-Term, Customer-Centric, Strategic Plans

That’s a lot of qualifiers, but they’re all critical: Your plan can’t be “sell them more things.” Strong account plans are long-term: How will we grow this business over the next 1-3 years? They are customer-centric: How will we grow this business by helping our customers meet their own growth goals? And they are strategic: How does this plan address what we’ve seen in SWOT and VOC analyses?

If you don’t have a plan that meets all the requirements above, or if the plan isn’t well-documented and easy for cross-functional teams to reference, or if you think there’s a plan but you’re not sure what it is, we have bad news for you: Your customer might be at risk of churn.

4) Measuring Success

Customers need to see the value of their investment. That’s always true, but especially so in a recession, when people are watching their spend more closely. In order to demonstrate value, you have to track it—and that means establishing and monitoring meaningful KPIs for your customers.
Revenue is an obvious KPI, but it’s not the only one. Part of the work is thinking strategically and creatively about what matters and how to track it. Then there’s the actual work of tracking it, which, if you have a program like Kapta that’s set up to do so, should be automated. Finally, there’s the work of interpreting the data to tell a meaningful story to your customer.

If you’re doing all that, you’re lowering your risk of churn. If you’re not, you’re increasing your risk of churn. It’s that simple.

5) Account Health Scoring

Although everything above contributes to an account health assessment, it’s still worthwhile to call it out as a separate question. To fully understand your risk of churn, you should be conducting regular account health scoring exercises with your team.

Start by establishing a common vocabulary and framework around account health. Account health includes customer satisfaction, but it doesn’t stop there—after all, a customer can be satisfied without being actively engaged. Engagement means they’re picking up the phone to call you at every step of the journey; they’re saying great things about you to their colleagues within and outside of their organization. They’re talking to you about future initiatives.

There are 3 main ways to gauge account health, each with pros and cons. We cover those in depth in this post; we’ll summarize here:

  • Method 1: Ask your customer facing teams
  • Method 2: Method 1 plus track leading indicators
  • Method 3: Methods 1 and 2 plus track lagging indicators

However you do it, tracking account health scores regularly and comprehensively is perhaps THE best way to predict any given customer’s risk of churn.

Conclusion

The worst case scenario for any account manager is an unexpected end to a client relationship. To keep that from happening, you have to look for the right indicators—and you have to do it often. To see how Kapta can help you update your SWOT and VOC analyses, build customer-centric strategic plans, demonstrate value, and gauge account health, schedule a personal demo today.

Alex Raymond
CEO at Kapta
Alex Raymond is the CEO of Kapta.