In today’s subscription-based economy, it can be tempting for UCaaS (unified communication as a service) providers to put so much emphasis on acquiring new customers that they ignore their existing customers. Some providers mistakenly think, “they’re paying us every month, and we’re still delivering the same voice, video, and chat services they signed up for, so everything must be okay.”
Instead of making assumptions and learning the hard way about churn, determine where each customer is on the lifecycle continuum and look for areas where you can improve their experience.
Critical Stages of the Customer Lifecycle
The goal of every business is to convert prospects into paying customers. Conversion rates are not the only metric businesses should be looking at, though. This is because the clients your business converts may end up being low-quality customers who only buy your solutions one time then switch to a competitive offering later.
To reduce customer churn, it’s critical to focus on the bigger picture and adopt a customer lifecycle strategy. There are more than a dozen steps that comprise the lifecycle continuum, but these four are the ones that are most likely to lead to a business loss if they’re not managed properly:
There are lots of salespeople who are skilled at converting prospects into buyers. But, if a customer later discovers your solution doesn’t adequately meet their needs, they’re not going to stick around. And, once a customer leaves, it’s going to be exponentially more challenging to win them back (i.e., “Fool me once”).
But the best salespeople are the ones who take the extra time to ensure the solutions and services they’re selling align with prospects’ business needs.
For example, if a prospective client has employees working remotely who need to exchange sensitive corporate information via video, voice, or chat, they need a UCaaS solution that provides end-to-end encryption to ensure session security.
Tenured service providers like Phone.com have made security a primary focus, leveraging encryption, other types of transport layer security (TLS) and secure SIP. The company’s voice video and messaging services are HIPAA, HITECH and PCI compliant. Adhering to these industry mandates reflects their developers’ commitment to – and understanding of consumer privacy and encrypted communications. In fact, the company annually audits all its technologies and infrastructure from top to bottom, including data centers, to ensure solutions remain compliant.
Likewise, if a prospect needs to conduct mobile video conferences, a UCaaS solution that doesn’t have a mobile app or other mobile-first features isn’t going to be a winner in the long-term. The best virtual phone system options allow you to access your account from practically any device at any time. User-friendly mobile apps provide instant access to your virtual business phone from smartphones, tablets, notebooks and desktop PCs.
After showing enough value and converting a prospect into a paying client, the customer enters into the onboarding phase, which is where they become familiar with your solution features.
This phase is a big miss for some UCaaS providers who assume their products are self-intuitive, and customers will call with any questions. The truth is that users “don’t know what they don’t know,” and typically use only a small percentage of the features and functions of a solution.
Taking the extra time to train users on critical features and provide shortcut videos and easy-to-follow aids can make a huge difference in a customer’s likeliness to mature from a novice user to an expert that knows the solution inside and out. The former user can’t distinguish your solution from any of the dozens of others in the market. The latter user, on the other hand, can give your development team invaluable feedback on the features they love and which new features you should consider adding to your next software release.
The best as-a-service providers are always finding unique and creative ways to upsell or cross-sell their customers. The only way you can succeed in this phase of the relationship, however, is by building and maintaining a relationship with the customer. This means maintaining contact in some way and continuing to bring value to decision-makers so they will think of you every time they identify a new business need.
Another vital point concerning the optimizing phase is to remember that your customer’s interests and needs don’t remain static—they evolve. Whether your customer is experiencing a growth phase or laying off workers, perhaps they’re pursuing a new customer segment or launching a new product, their needs are always changing.
Keeping up with your customer’s changes is essential to know how to pitch new solutions. One thing all your customers have in common is that they have more remote workers than ever before.
How is that working for them? Do they plan to bring everyone back in-house after the pandemic, or are they interested in creating a more flexible work environment long-term? If it looks like work-from-home is going to be the new norm for several workers, it’s imperative to evaluate how workers are communicating with one another and their end customers. Security is an excellent place to start—especially since cybercriminals have been targeting remote workers more heavily this year, which led to the newly coined term “Zoom Bombing.”
Advanced security options such as anti-phishing, anti-malware, and content filtering solutions are the perfect complement to your standard UCaaS offering.
Or, perhaps you discover your clients’ customers are frustrated by their automated voice system. Besides looking for ways to streamline the number of prompts required to reach a live person, the customer may be a candidate for a live receptionist service.
Forward-thinking partners know that offering value-adds to your existing services can lead to renewals that sustain profitability. Demand for agility—the ability to pivot operations without sacrificing productivity—has never been higher. Companies like Phone.com are consistently enhancing service portfolios to streamline workflows, making it easier for their solution provider partners help small businesses collaborate, reach customers, and move units—even while stuck in quarantine.
The ultimate litmus test of customer lifecycle management success is determined by your ability to turn a client into a fan who not only regularly buys from you, but they recommend your company to other prospects. One company that’s almost always listed in the top 10 brands for creating customer advocates is Starbucks. What’s interesting about this company is that their primary products are mere commodities. Yet, their ability to excel at the basics, such as providing reliable service and making it easy for customers to acquire and pay for their offerings, is consistently excellent. Not only that, but Starbucks gives its customers lots of ways to communicate with them. They go out of their way to show they’re listening (e.g., keeping up with their social media followers and responding to direct messages), and they value customers’ feedback (e.g., prizes and other rewards for those who fill out formal feedback surveys.)
As an IT solution provider, you might not achieve the customer advocacy status of a Starbucks. Still, you likely have customers who you’ve helped to communicate more effectively and safely—especially during this challenging and unprecedented time.
Wouldn’t it be a shame if those customers’ stories about your stellar solution or customer service stayed within the four walls of their office (or their employees’ homes)?
Maybe all you need to do to boost your customer advocacy is to ask for their feedback. Even if you uncover a few unhappy customers, it’s an excellent opportunity to solve their business problems and make them happy once again.
Phone.com’s virtual phone service is building on the digital, VoIP-industry experience of its founders to deliver a complete suite of enterprise-grade unified communication services at an SMB price.