Onboarding, end of life and everything in between

“Thank you for signing up!”
Phew. You finally got them. Perhaps you’ve teased your latest paying customer with a free month to their annual subscription, or lured them in with shiny promises that’ll change their life. Whatever the reason, they bought into the attention and the promises, so well done. 

Now what? 

A case for post-conversion care

Even though 80% of business come from existing customers, organisations invest a lot in bringing new people in (1). While the game of acquisition has well defined rules, retaining and keeping a low churn is where most businesses struggle.

What you do after a lead turns into a customer is crucial. Writing it off as a “conversion” and calling it a day can be damaging to your business. 

What happens early on with your customers will set the scene of the relationship and will eventually affect how they answer that NPS question that define your existence (there could be another blog post for using NPS as the only success metric but I’ll leave it for now). Instead of moving on to the next unique visitor, taking time to make the not-so-unique ones happy could be your low hanging fruit to success.

We’ll look at reasons why your customers might not be as happy and likely to say “Absolutely yes, I’ll recommend you to everyone I know.” and look at some suggestions on how to rethink your approach towards acquired customers.

1) First impressions matter

Your customers have privileged you with some sort of a commitment to your service, either their email address or a downpayment for a subscription. They’ve eliminated all other options who desperately want their attention and have chosen you. 

At the early stages of an engagement, what customers want is transparency, efficiency and a sense of control over what’s happening. Your role, as the business is to validate their reasons for choosing you over all the others. They’ve shown commitment in exchange of sales promises, and now it’s time to deliver by making is clear what’s happening and why you were the best choice..

New customers, more often than not need some handholding on the early phases of the relationship. Customer support is 5 times more likely to be needed in the early stages of an engagement and if that goes poorly more than half of negative experiences stop using that service. If however, it goes well, what you have in your hand is a customer that’s loyal, and open to upsell(1). So make sure you’re there to support them like an observant parent, without smothering them. Because no one likes a helicopter parent.

2) Award loyalty

The cost of acquiring customers cost more than keeping them happy while they’re with you. However, there’s usually an imbalance between investments that go into acquiring new business vs. retaining existing customers. The imbalance is easy to see when looking at who the discounts and offers are targeting. It’s all about half prices, free goods and unlimited attention until you sign up. 

Switching services or products is no fun for customers. So why not take advantage of the already paying, loyal customers and pamper them a bit. I promise they’ll never want to leave you. Coffee shops do this with their loyalty cards, who hasn’t chosen the coffee shop with only 2 to go until the free coffee? 

It’s worth thinking why you offer large discounts to acquire new customers, but not to your existing ones and think of ways to show appreciation to existing customers.

3) Keep the flow going

From customers’ experience, it doesn’t really matter if you might have an all stars sales team, or an award winning website. Individual touch points have little to no effect on the overall experience of your brand as customers see you as a whole and expect consistency in their experience. 

Here’s a (rather long) snippet from the HBR article on The Truth about Customer Experience:

“As they dug in, they discovered that the firm’s emphasis on perfecting touchpoints wasn’t enough. The company had long been disciplined about measuring customers’ satisfaction with each transaction involving the call centers, field services, and the website, and scores were consistently high. But focus groups revealed that many customers were unhappy with their overall interaction. Looking solely at individual transactions made it hard for the firm to identify where to direct improvement efforts, and the high levels of satisfaction on specific metrics made it hard to motivate employees to change.
As company leaders dug further, they uncovered the root of the problem. Most customers weren’t fed up with any one phone call, field visit, or other interaction — in fact, they didn’t much care about those singular touchpoints. What reduced satisfaction was something few companies manage — cumulative experiences across multiple touchpoints and in multiple channels over time.”

The most damaging thing you can do to your brand is to focus on only one touchpoint and ignore the rest. An amazing experience on a website will be damaged if the products don’t arrive in time, or in bad shape. By doing only one thing very well, you’re inviting your customers on an emotional rollercoaster full of ups and downs. Instead, aim to keep the quality of experience at an above average constant. That way, with improvement efforts you get to raise the bar and bring the whole experience with you.

4) Care Responsibly

“Thank you for waiting. Your call is important to us…”
Is it really?

Design your communications with context. It’ll show that you care and are paying attention. Everyone likes to think they’re a unique snowflake and what’s better to show them you know and cater for all their needs.

To be able to design touchpoints and communications with context, you need to be able to share data about a customer across the company. Structuring the organisation in silos, measuring success per touchpoint and locking customer data in department specific databases don’t really help anyone. 

A central data system will allow you to see what your customers’ experience looks like with the brand and will allow you to pinpoint areas of improvement (a service blueprint is a handy tool to get a birds eye view of the whole journey, read about it here). It will also avoid the awkward moment when you send a customer who’s filed a complaint and is looking to cancel an upsell newsletter. 

5) If you really love them, let them go

Another key moment of the relationship, or milestone if you will, with your customers is the end of use. It may be end of a product lifecycle, the end of a contract, or simply the moment when the customer decides delete their online account.

Parting ways on good terms, despite a customer leaving you, will benefit your brand a lot more than them staying without wanting to. just like the first impression, last impressions are major in determining the quality of an experience. 

Hiding close account functionality, making customers wait on hold to close their account, asking for unnecessary amount of documents, or making them pay to leave are all dirty tricks. Adding friction to closing accounts are known as dark patterns, they might lower churn and seem to stabilise retention, however it’s far from indicating that customers are receiving good experience. 

Not entirely similar, but the retention of a high security prison might be high, but that number doesn’t necessarily tell you about the service an inmate receives or their experience in captivity. 

*Above all, show that you care. 

Because customers can tell if you’re genuinely interested in helping them or you’re in it just for the cash. Be true to your purpose and intention when you serve every single customer. If you treat them like “cash cows” whether you have them locked in with a contract or not, once they see the light, they’ll make the run for it. 


1) The Perfect Start by Livework, SEB Pension Collection

2) The Truth About Customer Experience by Alex Rawson, Ewan Duncan and Conor Jones (September 2013)

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