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How to Use Online Activity Data to Know If a Customer Might Leave You (Without Hearing It From Them)

Written by Julie Dietz on May 6, 2016 at 8:30 AM

How do you use online activity data to identify and reach out to customers that might leave you?

There are at least two things we know for sure about customer retention:

  1. Keeping the customers you already have is crucial to the success of your business.
  2. Customers are harder to keep today than ever before.

According to recent research from Accenture, 46% of customers in the United States say they're more likely to switch providers now than they were 10 years ago. That's likely because customers today have more accessible information and options, meaning they are constantly aware of their choices.

Of course, it isn't just a surplus of options that causes customers to leave. Research from Verint revealed the top three reasons customers switch brands are: pricing (31% of respondents), rude employees (18%), and too many mistakes (16%). While these reasons provide general insight, they don't necessarily tell you everything you need to know about your customers.

The problem is that your customers aren't likely to tell you that they're considering leaving until they've already done so. Most don't want to go through the hassle of giving you a heads up, especially if they think you'll respond with a hard sell.

You Don't Have to Be in the Dark About Dissatisfied Customers

Here's the good news: with the right systems in place, you can get some degree of advanced warning that your customers are thinking of leaving. By leveraging customer activity data from your online customer community, email marketing, or social media interactions, you can create a warning system that alerts your company to potential trouble early on.

Let's look at eight data sources that can provide the early warning necessary to help identify at-risk customers and ultimately reduce customer churn.

8 Customer Activity Indicators to Help Reduce Churn  

Indicator #1) Voicing Overt Frustration in Discussions or Blog Comments

Your online customer community discussion forums and the comments section on your blog are two places where opinions run rampant. If a customer voices their frustration publicly in these forums it suggests that, while they are unhappy, they still care enough about your product or service to speak up. They want your attention and they want it quickly.

Identifying these frustrated customers and contacting them to address their issues can go a long way in retaining their business. Give these customers support and try to solve their problems with technical help or product updates.

Indicator #2) Asking Peers About Competitors

Another strong sign a customer might leave is starting a discussion about your competition. If one of your customers using your online community forum to ask their peers for a recommendation or comparison about a competitor, it could be one of the first signs they're considering taking their business elsewhere.

To remedy this issue consider offering additional value, such as upgrades, for these customers. Additional value helps differentiate your product and demonstrate why customers should stay with your company.

Indicator #3) Not Seeing the Value and Results

People buy your products and services to get an outcome. When customers aren't receiving the value or results they expect from your product or services, you only have a narrow amount of time to do damage control. Customers may illustrate this dissatisfaction through conversations with your support team, comments and questions asked within your online community, or in a written product review.

In many cases, customers simply don't understand how to use your products to get the results they need. Just identifying these issues and educating a customer on best practices with your products can make a big difference in their satisfaction level.

Indicator #4) Going Dark

Customers who have become dissatisfied with your product or brand will often engage less and go “dark†as your company becomes less meaningful to them.

“Going dark†could mean that they are participating less in your community, ignoring requests for products feedback, or not responding to personal emails from account managers.

When a customer who was highly engaged in the past shows a measurable decrease in engagement, reaching out to ask why could shed light on a larger problem. This is particularly easy to notice in your online customer community activity data. You can see who hasn't logged in recently or whose activity has dropped in the past few weeks.

Reach out to customers who have stopped interacting through targeted e-mails. You can include a satisfaction survey to find out if there's a problem that needs to be addressed, or newsletters about recent events and forum updates to jumpstart participation.

Indicator #5) Reading Resources Related to Leaving

You may have some resources on your website, in your customer portal, or within your online community that are connected to the leaving process. For instance, a customer reading a support article on how to export all their data from your system might be a red flag.

Try to connect with these customers to uncover what they are looking to do and how you can help. Many times, if they haven't made up their mind to leave, just paying attention to customer needs and problems shows customers that they're valued, which can improve retention.

Indicator #6) Giving Negative Feedback in Polls or Surveys

Never discount the significance of direct feedback from your customers. Keep an eye out for negative feedback—whether from an event experience or related to a product or service you provide—and don't hesitate to reach out to specific individuals if their feedback isn't anonymous.

Often, people want to know that they are being heard. When you address negative feedback from customers and actively work to remedy problems, customer satisfaction and retention often improve. Conversely, ignore negative feedback at your own peril. A pattern of not responding to what you see as small issues can lead to a poor perception of your company by customers over time.

Indicator #7) Commenting About Product Feature Requests

If a customer seems particularly frustrated when submitting a request for a new feature or commenting on an existing enhancement request, that's a clear indicator they are unhappy with the current product. Recognizing frustration in customer responses can help you address problems before they reach the point of no return.

If possible, try to point out other products and services you offer that meet these customers' needs. Even if you can't act on their suggestions, you should still talk with customers to explain why you can't honor the request. This helps customers understand that their feedback was heard, considered, and valued.

Indicator #8) Lack of Engagement From New Staff or Leadership

Turnover is a fact of life, but it can also strongly affect your customer satisfaction level. If no one from the new team is engaging in your customer community, regardless of whether it's new end users or new leadership, that lack of engagement creates an absence in your customer relationships that can be difficult to overcome.

You need dedicated, engaged staff that can form relationships with your customers and keep them loyal to the organization. To help with this, encourage both new and veteran employees to use your online community and interact with customers. The deeper the relationship they form with your customers, the better retention and satisfaction will be.

Reducing Customer Churn Takeaway

While you can't always count on your customers to tell you they are planning to leave your company, you can count on your customer activity data to tell the story for you. Leveraging this data can help you detect at-risk customers and intervene early, reducing customer churn and increasing satisfaction.

Get the metrics you need to track ROI in your online customer community.

Topics: Customer Communities, Customer Engagement, Customer Retention, Online Community

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