Product Teams

How to retain customers in the face of uncertainty

Published May 12, 2020

While the last decade has been a time of unprecedented growth, the first quarter of this year has seen that trend turned on its head. Things are uncertain right now, but successful companies are able to position themselves for resilience and accelerate out of challenging economic times by increasing efficiencies and doubling down on retention.

In a recent webinar, “Retaining Customers in the Face of Uncertainty,” Pendo Chief Product Officer Brian Crofts and Zendesk VP of startups Kristen Durham shared their advice about what you should do right now to help ensure you’re at the top of the pack when better times arrive.

Take stock of where you stand

The first thing to get a handle on is your cash burn and the return on investment for the products and services you’re delivering, and ensuring your product’s usage remains strong.

Then, evaluate your tech stack. Which tools are mission-critical, and which are nice to have but not critical to your operations? You’ll want to prioritize tools that give you an active-listening capability, offering insight into your product so that you can see which parts are most important to your users and prioritize resources most efficiently.

Tools that can automate and increase the efficiency of processes like user onboarding—which correlates to higher user satisfaction—or self-service support delivered contextually in-app are worth their weight in gold.

 It’s also important to select a set of tools that are quick to set up, easy to use, and work well together. Right now, in particular, any tools that make remote work easier by streamlining synchronization and boosting productivity are a major plus.

Don’t be a leaky bucket

If you’re trying to manage your cash burn as effectively as possible, focusing on retention can be a strategy for succeeding in that in its own right. Keeping an existing customer is roughly five times less expensive than attracting a new one, so it’s a good idea to view growth from a retention viewpoint as well as a sales viewpoint.

Time to pivot

That product roadmap you developed last quarter? It’s likely that it’s not as relevant now, or may even have become completely irrelevant, with the widespread changes to society, work, and the economy we’re seeing with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It might be time to dust off some old customer requests or think a bit about what the most important job your customers are trying to use your product to accomplish in a post-COVID-19 world is.

If you’re agile enough during these times, it could pay big dividends in customer loyalty later on, and that turns into long-term retention. Many of today’s most successful companies got their start during the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession.

Strengthen your empathy for your customers

 Listen to the concerns and frustrations they’re expressing and work with them to make it right. Use support call data as a way to identify issues with your product and fix them. Building trust now can lead directly to retention.

Adding capabilities like live chat to your app to provide quick, easy, on-demand or contextual in-app support and hosting more webinars and other virtual events can help keep your customers engaged and build loyalty. 

Make buying as easy as possible

This can take the form of anything from extending the length of your free trial to using different methods of communication, like in-app messaging, to initiate conversations with your customers when and where they want them. 

For customers who operate in the hardest-hit industries, consider alternative payment plans. You could even give access to your product for free to those who desperately need it and defer payments into the future.