The dreaded inactive account. You call, you email, you text, you send a carrier pigeon and nothing. No response. Aside from singing the chorus to Adele’s “Hello” - “I must have called a thousand times to tell you I’m sorry for everything that I’ve done but when I call you never seem to be home” - on their voicemail, what’s a CSM to do?
Customers disengage for a variety of reasons - changes in company leadership, too long or arduous of an onboarding process, disconnect between what they thought the product did and what it actually does, lack of clear vision on their end as to what success looks like - just to name a few.
Prevention: You’ve probably heard the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” - keep that in mind when it comes to inactive accounts.
Ensure your sales team is creating solid partnerships. You know the drill here - your product(s) meet actual client needs, setting proper expectations, creating buy-in on as many levels as possible. Any of this left undone by your sales team will need to be picked up by your CS team.
Ensure your company has relationships across the organization. Having a single point of contact (and therefore failure) at an account is a recipe for disaster. Folks leave organizations or get promoted frequently so having a variety of solid contacts helps to ensure that you don’t find yourself having to go back in and resell your product over and over again.
Ensure you have a process for solid handoffs - the handoff from sales to CS and the handoff from the decision maker to the implementation team. Things like encouraging the decision maker to identify the right leader, to share his/her vision with the team, or set milestones can help. Continually work across your organization to streamline both the onboarding process as well as your product to increase the chances that customers can get from contract to go-live as quickly and seamlessly as possible.
Immediately assess what your key stakeholders’ goals are and begin to demonstrate how your product aligns with those goals - aka create value as soon as you can. Along these same lines proactively check in with as many key stakeholders as possible on a regular basis. This allows you to make course corrections, if need be, versus waiting until the point of renewal to find out that there have been challenges.
Identify Disengaged Customers: It’s important to identify when in your customer lifecycle your accounts typically checkout. Maybe they use your product once but don’t return or they seem to disappear after their credit card on file expires or you lose them during onboarding. Understanding when and why they are disengaging can help you to put people, processes, or other corrections in place to proactively mitigate inactive accounts.
Meanwhile, if your team hasn’t already done so, it’s imperative to identify KPIs specific to your product(s) and company that measure client engagement - some may be quantitative data like usage stats, survey results, or number of support tickets and some anecdotal such as executive leadership changes or a looming merger/acquisition. Ultimately, ensure you are capturing and analyzing enough and the right kinds of data to help you identify red flags as quickly as possible. Many companies assign a customer health score to each account. It’s important this score is reassessed frequently, weekly if possible, so that you can catch customers on the path to disengagement immediately and not wait for the next formal QBR, which may be too late.
Strategies for Re-engaging Inactive Accounts:
Volunteer to help. A common reason for disengaged accounts is overwhelmed customers, who see your product as just one more thing on their already very long to-do list. What can your team do to help breakdown the tasks a customer needs to complete to implement your product? How can you help the client to find success? Even if just small wins. Is there anything you can do for them - maybe manually load some data - to help them see a small level of progress with their implementation? It’s easy to ignore calls and emails when you feel overwhelmed so try to find a way to truly partner with your customers, so they know you are on the field helping them to score a touchdown and not just cheering from the sidelines.
Get Personal. I believe in regular and frequent communication with customers, especially when there is no response, but there is a balance between appearing almost stalkerish and continuing to demonstrate support in the hope they will re-engage when ready. So you ask them how you can help and no answer. Instead of sending the same “just checking in” email week after week, maybe change up your tactics a bit - ask how their weekend was or if they watched the big playoff game last night. Something you know is interesting and relevant to them can get them talking to you again, so you can crack into what is truly going on and how you can be of assistance. Maybe ask if they will be at an upcoming conference. Think about things that sales folks typically do to get cold leads warm again. Many of their tactics can work in this scenario as well.
Ask the Sales Team to Step Back in. Speaking of sales, if you have made multiple unsuccessful attempts to re-engage your customer (and make sure at some point you truly do pick up the phone - no Adele singing though), consider getting the salesperson involved. Early on the salesperson may have a stronger relationship as they worked with the account for months or maybe years and you, as the CSM, may have only met the client a few weeks ago. It’s also possible that they may continue to have a stronger relationship with the decision maker as that is the primary person they work with while you spend your days with the implementation team. Sometimes, a quick reach out from the salesperson to a decision maker to check in on something as simple as how they are liking the product is enough to get the decision maker asking some questions to the implementation team and thereby the account resurrects. The salesperson can also be very handy in the case where you may need to go back in and resell the product to an existing account for whatever reason.
And finally - don’t give up on accounts! I often see CSMs lose patience and throw their hands in the air. Remember, clients are working on their timeframes, not ours. They often define success differently than we do, but ultimately our goal should be to help them to reach their goals. They sometimes just need a bit of nudging and love from us in order to do so.
What other tactics have you found to be successful for raising inactive accounts from the dead?
About the Author
Lindsay has spent the past decade helping hundreds of educational institutions implement cloud-based solutions. Her passion lies in ensuring customers just say "Wow!" when asked how the company is performing.More Content by Lindsay Smith