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What Are Some Great Customer Retention Strategies for SaaS Startups?

There has always been an emphasis on getting new customers through the door. This generally becomes more evident when you have to deal with customer service after 10 months and a large amount of money spent you get treated like trash, all in the name of new clients!

Whilst new leads and customers are vital to your business, providing a service solid enough to retain that client and even get them to share their experience’s with other’s is a whole different ball game.

You need to ensure that each client is listened to, treated well – they are spending their hard-earned cash, and ultimately you should be speaking to each client on a regular basis. Hearing their concerns and problems can help to formulate product updates and feature development too. 

The hard part of customer retention is how to do it. Especially when you are a startup that has limited resources and ideally would like to progress with the to-do list. Below you will find a number of strategies that will help you increase customer retention and ultimately improve your bottom line (hopefully it’s so good you start getting word of mouth referrals which will lower marketing costs).

Adopt Customer Service Tools

A lot of startups do not have the funds to splash out on multiple platforms at the start so you need to be picky about what you use. This is the same situation that your clients are in, so ask yourself the question – what makes me stick around and use a tool?

Tools improve tools and ultimately you can improve your SaaS tool by adopting the use of customer service tools. Kind of like the chicken and the egg scenario. In most cases your customer will love to see a live chat widget that is easy to access plus a support email just in case live chat is not the channel for them. 

To overcome the lack of time that you may have to dedicate to customer retention you could consider a shared inbox. Shared inboxes are fantastic for indie hackers and SaaS project owners who have multiple support channels (HR, sales, marketing etc) and managing each account becomes impossible. 

For example, Plumm pull’s in live chat messages and emails from multiple projects and the whole team can see the messages, reply and discuss with the team all within the platform. This makes it incredibly easy for people to jump in and save the day or just respond to a query – this is so basic but so many startups don’t do it, still.

If you are lucky, the tools will also provide you with user context which essentially pulls JSON data from your platform and instantly displays it when the user gets in touch. This would generally include basic technical information (OS, browser, location, IP) then any additional information that you have mapped such as admin links directly to the users profile.

Onboarding

A new SaaS platform is created due to a slow or old process within an industry or department. That means old tricks and tactics – basically spreadsheets – are now having to be unlearnt and new tools are picked up. For someone that has spent X years in the field this is going to be a huge turn-off.

live chat widget

There’s no time to learn something, people just want things to work, one small misstep can make a user completely switch off. This is the reality that most SaaS platforms face. As the saying goes it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. 

When you switch to a new platform there is always a level of intimidation due to new buttons, actions and workflows which can be off putting to someone that is busy with day-to-day functions. If the switch over is going to cost a lot in terms of time due to the switch over, you need to ensure onboarding provides the user with clear and concise communications to ensure a smooth process.

Let’s say your new SaaS platform provides a new way of working and replaces the spreadsheet. This spreadsheet is central to all business operations, it has been updated and improved over the years and it’s never failed. Onboarding needs to ensure that this tried and tested system will not perform better than your SaaS tool, otherwise why do they need it?

There are 2 options here – call-to-actions when they log in OR an onboarding call with someone at the company. This ultimately depends on the platform, tasks required and the ‘size’ of the customer which depends on the scale of switch over.

Call-to-actions are great as they are self-serve and can either be followed along or cancelled. The point is that it gives the user control of their onboarding, especially if they know what they are doing.

Onboarding calls are great for the big switch overs or clients that need hand holding as it provides an easy way to ask questions on the fly. So if anything looks out of the ordinary, the user can ask right away and get an answer too – no stress, no waiting for an email response, perfect.

Communication Calendar & Initiatives

Being proactive in communications with your users can really help with reducing churn. Firstly, it shows that you care. Secondly, if you start actioning on the relevant feedback and show users that you listened, they will appreciate being heard and being hopeful that your platform will develop into the perfect tool. Because you listened.

But, the hard part is actually going through with the communications and sticking with it on a regular basis. What happens often with SaaS startups is that due to a lack of resources, time has to be split and a user communication strategy – especially if you are new to this area of business – is going to be way down the to-do list.

The core elements of a communication calendar are:

  • Keeping track when the client last reached out to you – social media, customer service etc.
  • Developing communications based on product timelines and proactively communicating and educating the users.
  • Sticking to regular feedback outreach – NPS score and phone calls (for brand new startups I suggest focusing on phone calls, they provide a wealth of information that a paid ad campaign never will).

You could get more advanced and technical with this by setting up automated workflows that reach out to customers if:

  • They haven’t logged in for X time
  • They haven’t completed onboarding
  • They signed up but never logged in
  • They spend most of their time on a specific area of the platform

If you can build a workflow that is triggered based on the above you can really help yourself by understanding what potential problems may be. Knowing why a user is not getting the most out of your platform can point to some glaring issues that you would have otherwise missed.

Conclusion

It’s a riot getting new paying customers. The feeling is great, it’s acceptance of your hard work and ultimately it adds to the vanity metrics that the media loves. But startups are getting lost focusing on the new customer pipeline and then scratch their head because they are losing customers just as quickly. 

Retention is key, early stage retention is really important for the learnings that can be found. But external pressures and a desire to eat means more money is required. Adopting just one of the strategies above can be enough to really remove friction and help you retain the current users that you have, which has an overall lesser spend VS new customers.

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