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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.

Customer Insights Workshop: Tools and Best Practices

You need to know your customers. But you can’t read their minds. So how do you learn more about the people you serve?

You can always ask them. (And you should.) You can also mine insights from your own team. A customer insights workshop is an engaging way to learn what there is to know about your customers from the people in your organization who work with them all the time—and rally your team around a customer-centric approach.

Just remember 3 keys to running a great customer insights workshop:

  1. Get the right people at the table: Make sure to include customer-facing teams from across the organization, as well as leadership and marketing teams.
  2. Set the right tone: Remember, your customers are people. Consider their emotional needs as well as their functional needs.
  3. Make the most of your time together: Focus on learning from different contributors, discussing key points, and gaining alignment around customer needs so you can re-infuse your organization with a customer-centric purpose.

In this post, we’ll dive deeper into best practices—as well as exercises and output—for running a great customer insights workshop.

Best Practices

1) Get the right people at the table.

The goal is to turn customer insights into a customer-centric strategy (whether that’s marketing, operations, or account planning), but that doesn’t mean you only need one group in the room. It’s critical to have people there who interact directly with customers all the time. This is especially true in large organizations, where operational silos tend to diminish the customer voice in certain circles. So ask yourself: Who interacts directly with customers? Key account managers (or client service leaders) are important participants, as are customer service/success teams if you have them.

2) Set the right tone.

Before you dive into “who are my customers and what do they want?,” it’s important to make sure you’re thinking about them not just as clients, but as human beings. Too often, we conflate professionalism with a loss of personhood—but your customers don’t check their humanity at the office door. So don’t just consider their functional needs; dive deeper into their emotional needs. For example, they will always need their B2B partners to deliver timely, accurate, value-added work. But what else? They probably also need to look good to their leadership and colleagues. They need to feel like somebody sympathizes with their day-to-day frustrations. In short, they need what all humans need: They need to feel heard, seen, valued, and successful.

3) Make the most of your time together.

The highest and best use of a workshop like this is two-fold: (a) to learn about your customers from the people who interact with them everyday; and (b) to re-invigorate disparate teams around a shared purpose: Customer centricity in everything you do. Make sure everyone has a chance to participate. Pursue and facilitate discussion. But don’t try to wordsmith now; let people know you can take the output and turn it into recommendations on the backend.

Tools

Here are a few ways to frame questions in order to get ideas flowing:

  • Day in the life: What does your customer’s day-to-day job look like? What are they responsible for? Who reports to them, and who is their boss? This is a great warm up since it tends to be pretty easy to answer.
  • Goals: What are they trying to achieve, both personally and professionally? What is their organization trying to achieve? How does their daily work life contribute to the bigger picture goals around them?
  • Gains and pains: When working with a B2B partner, what makes them look good? What makes their life easier? In contrast, what drives them nuts? What are the dealbreakers?
  • Value add: Once you’ve painted a portrait of your customer—their job, their goals, their gains and pains—ask yourself how you as an organization are set up to deliver on a customer-centric promise. How do you:
    • Save time, money, or effort?
    • Do something they’re looking for?
    • Help them sleep at night?
    • Fulfill their aspirations?

Output

Once you’ve completed the workshop, it’s time to turn your insights into action. What did you learn about your customers? How can you better address both their immediate functional needs and their long-term goals and aspirations?

The best way to upsell your customers is to proactively raise new ideas grounded in a comprehensive understanding of who they are. When your ideas are relevant and resonant, you create a platform to introduce innovation—and bigger deals.

Conclusion

We are strong advocates for regular VOC work, i.e checking directly with your customers to stay current on their needs, expectations, and satisfaction. But people don’t always vocalize their aspirations. They might not say out loud, “you need to make me look good to my colleagues.” So in addition to VOC work, mining customer insights from the people in your organization who know the customers best is a great way to unearth deeper needs, bigger strategic goals, and hidden pain points. Armed with this insight, you can make an action plan to grow the business in a truly customer-centric way. To see how Kapta can add structure and support to this process, schedule a personal demo today.

Asking the Right Questions of Your Customers

Getting Your Voice of Customer (VOC) Right

Key Account customers don’t want to fill out periodic VOC or NPS surveys full of the same generic questions. They also don’t want to waste time doing Net Promoter Surveys (NPS). In general, your Key Accounts are probably not motivated or incentivized to give you great information through impersonal surveys that you distribute every few months. So, if you want to get your Voice of Customer (VOC) right, how do you do it?

You need a game plan before you approach Key Accounts to see how they feel about your company. You need to understand your own goals, how you think your customers consider your business currently, what you’re going to ask them to get good information, and what you’ll do to interpret the information they provide. All of these steps are important to getting accurate VOC data to use in improving your business.

 

What Results Do You Want to See?

Ultimately, your goal is to make your customer look like the hero. If you can accomplish this by working together, you can encourage that customer to stick with you for the long-run. To get to this ideal result, you need to make sure your product or service is getting the outcomes your customers want. Keep in mind that outcomes are not the same thing as solutions to problems because those solutions do not always lead your customers to improve their business.

Your job is not to solve your customers’ problems, but to help them achieve their desired goals and outcomes as a business. You can only do this if you truly understand your customers and what makes them tick. If you don’t know what their real goals and motivations are, you won’t be able to work together with those customers to get the best results for both of you. This is the purpose behind the VOC and why it’s so important to get it right!

 

How to Choose the Right Questions

You should absolutely have a pre-prepared list of questions you want to ask your Key Account customers. While I wouldn’t recommend you send it to them in survey form, it’s a good idea to come knowing what you’re going to be asking so you can make sure you’re covering all the important information without leaving anything out.

Here are some of the things to consider to help you choose the right questions:

  1. Don’t Ask Leading Questions

Leading questions are those that point the customer towards a specific answer instead of letting them choose their own words. They may also contain some form of the answer within the question, which leads the customer to an answer they would not have said otherwise. These types of questions usually lead to false or slanted information being gathered, which will ultimately harm both you and the customer.

  1. Uncover Your Customer’s Goals

Be sure to focus heavily on discovering what your customer’s goals are when you’re formulating questions. You can directly ask them what their goals are, ask how your products or services help them reach their business goals, ask about methods for attaining goals, etc. It is vital that you make sure you accurately record Key Account customer goals to ensure you’re providing the right service to help them reach those goals.

  1. Understand What You Need to Know

Your specific industry or business may require you to get some different information than others would need. Look first at your own business to see how customer input would be able to affect how you do business. Once you know how your customers can affect you specifically, you have a better base to develop more individualized questions and follow-ups.

  1. Make it Personal

I already mentioned VOC and NPS surveys. These may be the best option if you have a lot of clients, but they’re a bad idea for Key Account customers. The problem is that Key Accounts are already working closely with so many different contacts and people in your company, and they are expecting a higher level of service.

With this kind of close work and reliance, impersonal questions may not get the thorough and accurate responses you need. If something is even a little bit wrong, you want to know ahead of time. Asking customers to check boxes may not give you the feedback to help you make necessary changes in time for adjusting customer opinions of your company.

  1. Keep Questions Direct

Open-ended and close-ended questions are both fine, as long as they’re all getting straight to the point and not beating around the bush. Direct questions help you get actionable information instead of giving you a mess of unspecific data that you have to try to interpret correctly.

  1. Ask How Your Product or Service is Helping Customers Meet Goals

Remember that helping your customers reach their goals is the purpose of your strategic partnership. So, you need to know if you’re accomplishing that, what you’re doing that’s increasing their success, and how you could do better for your customers.

  1. Confirm or Transform Current Information

You should already have a VOC profile for each Key Account. Compare the answers and results from the new interview to your current VOC to see if you hit the nail right on the head or if you need to update your information to reflect new changes in your relationship with the customer.

  1. Reference Other Sources of Customer Comments

Don’t count solely on the VOC interview for answers if you have other ways of getting more information. Data analytics on previous comments made by customers can help you be sure you’re on the same page as them and that the answers given during the interview were not slanted one way or another.

 

Examples of Great VOC Questions

Some VOC questions are easily adaptable to most industries and companies. Here are a few great example questions that can easily be molded to your specific needs:

  • How does our product (or service) help you meet your business goals? (Ask about specific goals if you know them)
  • What kind of situation would make our product (or service) obsolete to your business?
  • How is your company adapting to [industry change]? Will that change affect your goals or strategies?

Questions like these are direct and useful. They help to keep the customer’s goals and needs at the center of the VOC interview, leading you to better information at the end.

 

It’s vital that you get VOC right as a Key Account Manager. Because your job revolves around creating strong partnerships with your company’s most important customers, you can use the information you get to craft better retention strategies and to become irreplaceable to those Key Account customers. But, you can only do this if you’re asking the right questions in the first place.

3 Key Questions for Voice of Customer Surveys in Key Account Management

As you might have seen from my previous posts, I’m a fervent believer in the power of Voice of Customer surveys, particularly for Key Account Management.

When I talk with customers and prospects about the power of Voice of Customer analysis, I always mention three critical questions that VOC tries to answer:

  1. Risks: What risks are out there that might disrupt our business relationship? Competitors that are also pitching our client? New team players with whom we don’t have a relationship? New ideas in the market that could compress our margins?
  2. Opportunities: What can we learn that will allow us to identify new business opportunities within the client? For example, are they expanding or buying another company? Can we sell our product/service to a new division or team? Can we sell a new product to our existing sponsor/user?
  3. Alignment:How well aligned are we with our customer? Does our vision match their needs (both today and tomorrow)? Is there good strategic fit between our companies?

Remember, VOC is all about listening and deeply understanding your customer. So make sure to ask great questions. VOC is a fantastic tool for Account Managers who want to stop being “just another vendor” and start being a true strategic partner for their customers.

Ready to get started with VOC? My advice is to jump straight in!

What else? How do you use VOC in your company?