While some software customer churn is inevitable, there is plenty your company can do to prevent it. And it starts with developing an “early warning system” for at-risk accounts and a plan to deliver emergency training, support and customer communications before users completely disengage.

Here are some common warning signs of a customer about to churn and suggestions for how to respond:

  • Decreased activity or changing use patterns – Most customers don’t quit your software all at once. If your metrics tell you a client isn’t generating as many new records or logging in as regularly as before, you may be in danger of losing their business. In this case, it’s sending the system admin or the person who made the purchasing decision a personal email, in addition to your regular customer communications. Frame it as an offer to walk them through some new features (with links to knowledge base articles or blogs to entice them) or a request to get their feedback and input for future development.

  • Their longtime admin’s account is deleted, or a new admin is added – Changings of the guard can be risky for incumbent software providers. If the person who championed your software and/or knew it best is gone, or another admin takes over who might not have the same level of attachment to your software (and might even prefer a competitor’s), don’t wait for them to call. Reach out proactively to the new admin or the person who purchased your software and offer a complimentary onboarding session (or invite them to your next regularly-scheduled online training session).

  • A client is calling support all the time… or isn’t calling at all – While angry users are an obvious sign of a troubled account, don’t assume everything is fine just because the support line isn’t ringing. From experience, you should know what a “normal” support case load is for clients at various stages of their journey, and if a customer isn’t asking as many questions as they probably should, it might be time to reach out for a check-in.  This is where it helps to have a basic “top ten”  tips and tricks article in your knowledge base or blog to forward to the client, in case any of the points spark their interest.

  • Client visits a “Cancellation Page” or begins downloading / deleting data –  When a client is reading your terms of cancellation or packing up their data, that is rarely a good sign.  Reach out directly as soon as possible, either for a regular customer success check-up or to invite them to a training on how to apply your software in common real-world situations, in case they’re doubting its value.

  • Questions about competitor’s products or known feature gaps –  If you’re honest with yourself, then you know which use cases your software doesn’t handle as well as others and where your competitors have your solution beat. If a user calls and asks why your software can’t do X and Y like your competitor’s product, make sure support gives them a good answer emphasizing your software’s strengths and notifies customer success that the account might be at risk. And of course, if a certain feature gap pops up often enough, that might be a wake-up call for your development team to get it on the roadmap ASAP.

Knowing the warning signs of an at-risk account and having a plan to re-engage will help increase retention and buy your company time to address known feature gaps. Just make sure to have all the necessary training, support and communication resources for an emergency client intervention before you need them.

If you’re interested in developing better self-service resources for your software or discussing your support team’s deflection strategy, contact Sonata Learning Software Success for a consultation.

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Skyler Schrempp is the Lead Learning & Development Consultant for Sonata Learning Software Success.  She has developed training, support, thought leadership and marketing content for software publishers in healthcare and govtech, among other industries.