Effective Customer Offboarding for Continued Advocacy and Opportunity

Have you established a customer offboarding process?

Much as we’d prefer not to think about less than 100% customer retention, churn is a reality.
Despite our best efforts, driving customer outcomes isn’t always possible. Especially when other forces are at play like organizational changes, mergers and acquisitions, and market or economic stresses.

Even customers who were initially a perfect match for your ideal customer profile may eventually evolve into a less-than-perfect match or no longer need your product or service.

Failure to achieve these outcomes puts your accounts at risk since measurable customer results are the best predictor of customer retention.

Given that customer churn, even when kept to a minimum, is a fact of business life, it’s important to prepare an effective customer offboarding process for many reasons.

The balance of this article discusses why customer offboarding matters and what a positive offboarding process looks like.

Why Does Customer Offboarding Matter?

As a customer-centric organization, it’s common to focus on customer onboarding, valuable outcomes, and retention. But customer-centricity should extend throughout the client’s entire experience with your business, even when they are pivoting to another vendor.

You don’t want goodbye to be good riddance and, if possible, you don’t want it to be forever. Besides, research historically shows that people are more likely to talk about negative experiences than positive ones. You certainly don’t want former customers telling stories about their poor offboarding experience with your business.

Wouldn’t you rather that their parting experience be a positive one? Then you can still leave the door open to advocacy and future opportunities or potential sales.

Think about it. If the customer is, or has become, a poor fit for your solution, but had a positive experience with your organization, they are more likely to advocate for your brand.  And, if their circumstances change in the future, they may even consider renewing their partnership with your organization.

On the other hand, if a customer has a poor parting experience with your business, you’ve likely lost a customer for life and they’ll spread the word about their negative experience, deterring other potential clients from considering your brand.

As you can see, offboarding leaves a lasting impression that needs to be positive if you want to retain advocacy and future potential opportunities. So, it’s as essential as onboarding even though it occurs as a customer ends their partnership with your business.

What’s Involved in Effective Customer Offboarding?

Include the following elements to create a positive customer offboarding process. Then revisit and revise it periodically to ensure its effectiveness.

Acknowledge and Understand

Timely communication with the client after they notify you of their intentions is respectful and considerate. The customer wants to know that they have been heard.
Take this one step further by gathering general information about why they are leaving. Although this client’s departure should not come as a surprise, it’s best to confirm the reason they are leaving before initiating the offboarding process.

Assess the Situation

Although your account managers may be risk-aware, occasionally an at-risk account may go undetected. If that is the case with a particular account, determine if there is still a chance to prevent the customer from defecting. If the answer is ‘yes,’ then take action by creating a risk-mitigation plan for the account.

Facilitate an Easy Transition

Once you’ve determined that the customer is, in fact, terminating their relationship with your organization, it’s essential that you work with them to support their transition. What that will mean depends on the product or service you offer and how integrated it is in the customer’s day-to-day operations.

If you need to turn over certain documents, records, or data to the customer by a certain date, be sure that you meet the deadline without being reminded. You don’t want to disrupt their plans for transition. They’re likely to remember such difficulties, preventing them from considering future dealings with your organization. However, an amicable and effortless offboarding process eases their transition and terminates the relationship on a positive note.

Gather Final Feedback

Conduct a final interview with the customer if possible. Prepare a set of exit interview questions for the departing customer as you would for a voice of customer (VOC) interview. Your questions should be about things like:

  • Their experience with your product or service, people, and processes
  • How they feel about your pricing
  • How they benefited from using your product or service
  • What you could do to improve

After the interview, it’s essential that you document your findings in a central location where internal stakeholders within your organization can access the information.

Disseminate and Act on Customer Feedback

Don’t allow valuable customer insights to lay dormant. It’s essential to share customer feedback across your organization for continuous improvement. This can be accomplished by sharing insights with each applicable department individually or during an internal account review meeting where all stakeholders are present.

For example, product improvements or feature requests should be shared with the product team, and procedural feedback can help guide future process changes.

Learn From Churn

Hindsight is 20/20. So, once you have a clearer picture of the whys and wherefores of the customer’s departure, look at the customer’s KPIs to see if there were indicators that you missed or misread. This may give you additional ways to recognize at-risk accounts in the future to prevent churn before it’s too late.

Follow-Up and Stay In Touch

Reach out to the churned customer about a month after their departure to confirm that their offboarding experience was satisfactory and elicit feedback to improve the process, if applicable.

Then, maintain contact periodically, not in a salesy way, only in a positive and supportive way. For example, notify them when requested features are implemented, when improvements are made as a result of their feedback, to check in, and to share insightful or useful information, like articles.

Maintaining the relationship makes it easy for them to return, especially if the departure was due to budgetary issues that are eventually resolved or when they have a need for your solution again.

You also enable them to continue to advocate for your solution either as a case study or a referral source. So, it’s important to end on a positive note and not close the door on the relationship.

Staying in touch is also beneficial if your contacts move to a role in another organization where you might have the opportunity to work with them again.

Create an Offboarding Checklist

A detailed checklist of offboarding activities ensures that no step is missed as a key account terminates its relationship with your organization. It ensures a consistent process where no detail is missed.

Capture your offboarding process as a playbook for easy reference by your account managers so they aren’t reinventing the wheel whenever the need arises to guide an account through the offboarding process.

Create a Positive Customer Offboarding Experience

Customer churn is inevitable. The goal is to keep it to a minimum. Then, when it happens, it’s essential to provide them with a positive offboarding experience.

Customers who churn are often either poor fit clients, or ones that weren’t receiving value. There are times when a business is encountering budgetary issues and there’s no way to retain them.
Regardless of the reason for the churn, allowing these customers to leave on a positive note enables you to retain their advocacy and provides the opportunity for future re-engagement and sales.

Looking for additional ways to improve your key account management program? Register for the KAMCon Account Management Conference at early bird rates through December 31st.

Senior Engagement Manager at Kapta
Jennifer is a Senior Engagement Manager at Kapta