Gregory Ciotti is the marketing director at Help Scout.Â This post originally appeared on theÂ Helpscout blog.
Earning customer loyalty is an uphill battle, but it is always worth the effort.
Youâve seen the data: the Harvard Business School report that showcased how, on average, increasing customer retention rates by 5 percent increases profits by 25 percent to 95Â percent.
Much to everyoneâs disappointment, traditional business publications often only have top-level coverage on tactics concerning retention and churn.
You want deep-dive articles. Youâve heard the amazing feats from places like Disney World, which has a 70+ percent return rate for customers. How can you get people to love your business like that?
There are no easy answers, but hopefully this round-up will put you another small step forward. Itâs a collection of some of my favorite reads on loyalty, churn, and retention, with a bias toward online businesses (particularly SaaS and e-commerce).
Customer Loyalty & Happiness
The Art of Customer Loyalty
Iâve written about improving service, loyalty, and retention for about 2 years now. This resource is a beautifully designed re-cap on some of the most important advice and research weâve gone over on the Help Scout blog.
The Marketerâs Guide to Customer Loyalty
From our friends at BigDoor. Let me to assure you that Joanna Lord and Ashley Tate write some of the most insightful pieces on loyalty out there. Youâll walk away with a lot of notes.
The Buffer âHappinessâ Reports
This is a bit of a different take on loyalty, which is why Iâm featuring it near the top. The Buffer team, known for their transparency, publishes a stellar monthly report on what theyâve been up to behind the scenes to create and keep a massive customer base happy.
Customer Service Isnât a Department
Companies who say they âloveâ customers but place support as a low priority are just posturing. This piece by Jack Altman explains why service is intrinsically tied to all aspects of your company.
How to Measure and Increase Customer Loyalty
A simple title, but a wonderfully insightful article by Joanna Lord (formerly of Moz) on creating a âloyalty measurement frameworkâ that can help you track results.
The Value of a âFrugal Wowâ
The concept of a âfrugal wowâ is one that we love, because it places the emphasis back on the action rather than the expenditure. Bootstrapped businesses take note: goodwill can be built without deep pockets.
How to Measure Customer Satisfaction
In this Qualmetrics article, Dr. Scott Smith explains how companies can utilize four different measurements (and example questions) to get a sense of customersâ overall satisfaction.
Everyone in SaaS Needs to Do Customer Support
Customer happiness is not a simple process that can be outsourced or handed over to one department. Creating happy customers starts with understanding them, which is why getting in the trenches via Whole Company Support is key in helping every department learn how to interact with customers.
A Brief Guide to a Better Email
37 Signals (now Basecamp) support superstar Chase Clemons knows a thing or two about customer support. Since support has such a meaningful impact on loyalty, and since much of your communication with customers will be through email, you should brush up on your skills in writing emails customers love.
Creating Customer Loyalty Programs that Stick
Loyalty programs arenât for everyone, but if they are a fit for your industry, you need to see this research from Professors Dreze and Nunes on the âendowed progress effect.â
The Complete Guide to Using Social Media for Customer Service
From Bufferâs wonderful Courtney Seiter, this is the best place to start putting together a strategy for keeping tabs and saying thanks to all of your customers across multiple social networks.
When Customer Delight is Complete Bullsh*t
âWhile manufactured delight can lead to great press, itâs not much of a customer generation or retention strategy in practice.â Michael Redbord makes the necessary argument that the exceptional cases of service are just that: out of the ordinary. Long-term retention is built around the fundamentals: speed, accuracy, and completeness.
Donât Lie, You Donât Care
A brave piece on why the current obsession with âgrowth hawkingâ may be ruining your companyâs customer experience. The bump in user signups may be temporary with an aggressive âspam your usersâ strategy, but the customers you lose (and the stain on your brand) will last forever.
Technically Correct, the Worst Kind of Correct
âBeing merely correct doesnât make for happy (or even satisfied) customers on its own.â A short but very important article on delighting users; answering their questions accurately is just the price of entry. Great support identifies the proper tone that your customers expect and makes good use of it (whether it be casual or more serious).
The Data that Drives Customer Support for Over 600,000 Product Use Cases
This list wouldnât be complete without at least one case study of a company taking a look at some real support metrics. Zapier delivers in spades here; if youâre a numbers person, be prepared to take some notes (charts, charts everywhere!).
The Shocking Truth About Brand Loyalty
Surprise! Most customers do not want to âengageâ with your business. This research from HBR found that customers actually care about shared values.
Earn Customer Loyalty Without Losing Your Shirt
Simply giving support reps a âspending limitâ to delight customers is missing the point. This piece on the Harvard Business Review details why guidelines and coaching are more important to educating service reps than hard limits and robotic scripts.
Teaching the Support Team How to Fish
Your support team needs to play a much more important role than simply being the voice that says, âIâm sorry.â This article from Mig Reyes of 37 Signals / Basecamp explains the art of teaching the support team so that they can âfeed themselves.â
Why Your Customer Experience Strategy May Fail
âImitation may be the highest form of flattery, but it is not innovation.â Part of a great customer experience is seeing things youâve never seen before. Copying and pasting your experience strategy will leave you sweatinâ and stealinâ a year-and-a-half behind, as Rudyard Kipling would say.
The Oldest, Best Measure of Customer Happiness
From the source (Fred Reichheld) himself, this is a great starting point for understanding the all-important Net Promoter Score and how it can help you gauge customer sentiments about your product.
Saas Churn and Retention Resource Guide
I consider this a great starting point, perhaps a âbest ofâ for Lincoln Murphyâs wonderful blog Sixteen Ventures. Each article is concise, thoughtful, and explores the angles that matter when it comes to getting customers to stick.
Retention and Onboarding
A Guide to Measuring and Improving SaaS Metrics
If you read any ForEntrepreneurs article, make it this one. Itâs the most essential overview to the metrics that matter, with a distinct focus on (you guessed it) retention and churn.
User Onboarding Teardowns
Samuel Hulick definitely fulfilled a huge need by providing what is (to my knowledge) the best step-by-step teardown on top companiesâ techniques for onboarding new users. If you like what you see, also be sure to check out the full book.
The Best Damn Onboarding Flow Iâve Ever Seen
Iâve stated before how Brennan Dunn is someone who truly knows how to implement those little extras that âwowâ new users, but this critique offers up a far more detailed showcase of just what he does right with his startup, Planscope.
My Evil Method to Improve Customer Retention
Donât worry, itâs not so evil! Lincoln Murphy explains in this article what companies can do to improve their retention, without frustrating customers who already have their foot out the door.
10 Tactics for Increasing Customer Lifetime Value
Your CLV is a prediction of the net profit attributed to the entire future relationship with a customer. Mike Bal of Single Grain examines the how and why of stepping away from acquisition to focus on increasing this highly important metric.
15 Customer Retention Strategies that Work
My penchant for and background in academic research is apparent here. I think youâll enjoy these 15 studies on human behavior that offer up some inspiration on tactics you can use to surprise and âwowâ current customers.
The Long, Slow, SaaS Ramp of Death
Building a successful SaaS company is a long uphill battle. Customer delight for the long-term is taxing, but this talk at the wonderful Business of Software conference discusses how to make the climb.
Dharmesh Shah on Creating Happy Customers
Actually a video of a presentation, still very much worth your time to get one of HubSpotâs founderâs take on creating an engaged customer base.
How We Grew Our Customer Exit Survey Responses by 785 percent
Alex Turnbull explains why hearing cancellation reasons is necessary in improving your product, even if they hurt your ego. After all, progress canât be made in a positive feedback echo-chamber.
The Best Ways to Get Feedback from Customers
Marketing analyst Lars Lofgren explains how the KISSmetrics team is able to get such valuable feedback from their customers and how you can do the same.
How to Survey Your Customers
Getting to know your customers means talking to them, and a well-constructed survey allows you to do that at scale. This Inc. column is a great place to get started.
A Followup Email that Actually Works
This is a quick, concise article that I believe highlights the concept of G.L.U.E, or giving little unexpected extras. The best part: itâs written by a customer who was totally won over by this companyâs exceptional intro-email.
Great Support Means Getting Out of Your Customersâ Way
Did you know that 70 percent of consumers expect a company website to include a self-service application? The numbers are equally as aggressive for mobile users. People want tools that can help them help themselves. (Just remember that great self-service requires great design.)
Teaching Customers with Video
This article from Wistiaâs Alyce Currier is my favorite one to recommend for helping companies get started with âhelpâ video content. Itâs such an important form of self-service, and you need to be able to do it right.
How Help Content Improves the User Experience
The first line says it all: âThough often under-appreciated, well-written help documentation can improve the user experience and get people back on track when they stumble in complicated workflows.â Itâs the very reason we created Help Scout Docs.
Churn and Customer Success
Defining Your Churn Rate (No, Really)
For SaaS, perhaps nothing is more important than constantly tracking (and improving) your churn rate. Shopify breaks down how to really measure your churn that goes beyond [number of churns over period] / [number of customers at beginning of period].
Manage Customer Success to Reduce Churn
Itâs your job to ensure that customers succeed with your product. Customer success is thus one of the most important ânon-glamorousâ jobs at your company, and this article offers one of the better overviews of how a smart customer success strategy increases overall happiness.
Churn, Retention, and Reengaging Customers
The Intercom blog always offers smart thoughts on product design and customer retention. In this article, youâll see why âactivity churnâ is what you should measure and how you can reengage customers who have stopped using your product.
15 Tactics to Reduce Customer Churn
Ross Beard of Client Heartbeat takes a look at common causes of customer churn (different expectations, competition, etc.) and outlines how companies can keep customers around by communicating their value clearly.
Why Churn is Critical to Success in SaaS
David Skokâs ForEntrepreneurs blog is held in high regard, and this article will show you why. Itâs an essential read on why churn is the make-or-break metric for lasting SaaS businesses
Your Customer Success Team: Hire Early, and No Squishy Goals
âCustomer Success has a much longer, and ultimately deeper, relationship with the customer than sales or anyone else in your company.â From Jason Lemkinâs exceptional blog, youâll get the low down on hiring and implementing a stellar customer success team.
Your Ultimate Competitive Advantage: Not Losing Customers
From our friend Chris Hexton, this is a long but very well developed take on identifying the metrics that matter for your business, as well as advice for stepping back from acquisition to focus on extracting more value from the customers who already pay you.
6 Ideas to Reduce Churn (That Weâve Found to Work)
Previously, Michelle Sun helped with growth at Buffer, and in this article she examines the six techniques Buffer has employed to keep users coming back. Well worth the read.
22 Ways to Reduce Churn with Growth Hacking
Despite my reservations with the phrase âgrowth hacking,â this is a smart look (with a presentation) on actionable ways SaaS companies tame an out-of-control churn rate.
Retention, Cohorts, and Visualizations
A very smart look at measuring retention through the use of cycle plots. This is important, as itâs one of the best techniques to create a clean and understandable visualization of the data you have.
Designing First Run Experiences to Delight Users
Patrick McKenzie (also known at patio11) presents a beautiful case for tackling this startling fact: â40-60Â percentÂ of users who sign up for a free trial of your software or SaaS application will use it once and never come back.â
How One SaaS Startup Reduced Churn 71Â PercentÂ Using âRed Flagâ Metrics
Faced with a worrisome 4.5Â percentÂ churn rate, this company decided to take a closer look at the metrics that mattered, and they adjusted their messaging for a big win.
Talking to Customers is Killing Your Company
Provocative title, but a very important reminder that when youâre talking to customers, you probably arenât listening closely enough. âThe purpose of customer interviews is to extract insights from the minds of your customers. Talking canât achieve this; only listening can.â
26 Resources to Master Customer Development
If you find this article valuable from a retention perspective, Zach Bulgyoâs wonderful roundup is the equivalent for customer development. You wonât need to read anything else to get started with customer development.
The Data on Why Retention Matters
I appreciate your dedication in making it all the way to the bottom! Sincere thanks for reading.
Last but not least, be sure to check out our collection of customer retention data that puts the effectiveness of âstickyâ loyalty in plain sight.
Itâs free to read (no opt-in) and includes all the statistics youâll need to understand what increasing retention can do for your business.