How to Lose a Customer in 10 Days: Rethinking Customer Engagement

A creative comparison of the 10 most common reasons SaaS customers churn in relation to the romantic comedy, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

In one of my previous posts, I wrote about the superpowers of product marketing managers by drawing some inspiration from the popular Netflix series Stranger Things. This time around, I’m going to use the 2003 romantic comedy, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

Quick plot summary for those of you who haven’t seen the film: The two protagonists, Andie Anderson and Benjamin Barry, fall in love with each other and live happily ever after (your usual rom-com plot). But how do they get there? Both Andie and Ben are working on different projects for their respective jobs: Andie needs to lose a guy in 10 days by dating a guy and then driving him away using the typical mistakes women make in relationships. Ben’s project involves making a bet with his boss that he can make any woman fall in love with him in 10 days (you guessed it).

Now, relating this to the SaaS world, it can be quite easy to lose customers in this ever-evolving and competitive industry. Let’s take a look at what you might be doing wrong and use these pointers to lead you to a happily-ever-after relationship with your customers. 

man on a phone call looking at computer screen

10 Days, 10 Ways on How to Lose Your Customer for Good

Day 1: Oversell Your Product

You know you have an awesome product, and, naturally, you want your customers to know about it and endeavor to keep reminding them about how awesome it is. And if you offer more than one product, you’ll want your customers to know about them too and push for more sales. You want your customers to sign-up for more things. Upsells, cross-sells – you want it all. But too much of something is never a good thing, you know that. I like this quote I found in an article from Inc.

“Clients are people not fish. Don’t ‘lure’ or ‘hook’ them – engage them, listen to them and serve them. … This is much more than a semantical argument – it’s a philosophical shift in thinking, and a practical shift in acting.” – Mike Myatt, Chairman N2Growth 

Furthermore, Myatt points out that if you want to increase revenue, you actually need to STOP selling. Why? Well, growing your loyal customer base is not about selling, it’s about establishing a solid rapport with them and getting them to trust you and what your product can do for them. It’s shifting your thinking to fully serve your customer, and then putting this mindset into action. That’s the whole premise of customer success in SaaS: Meeting and exceeding the needs of your customers by building a relationship, engaging and communicating with them, providing consistent value, and striving to solve their pain points.

I don’t know about you, but constant emails from a company about new product offerings, etc. drives me insane. It’s basically just spam mail after spam mail. Like Andie who drives Ben crazy for 10 days, don’t drive your customers crazy by overdoing it and being aggressive about selling. Your customer already sees the value in your product, that’s why they’ve chosen you, and they want to build a solid customer relationship with you. Slow and steady wins the race. Your customer will decide, in their own time, if and when they want to know about your other offerings or possible upgrades, etc. 

It comes down to the right time. According to Patrick Campbell in his article for Chargebee, many SaaS companies aren’t making use of the right funnels to upgrade. You need to study and find out what an upgrade trigger will look like for your business. And once you know this, you can then create the right message around where you need to pull that trigger. 

Day 2: Treat Your Customers Like a Lemon

This comes down to the idea of treating your customers like a lemon (I read this analogy somewhere, I can’t take credit for it!) because you want to squeeze as much out of them as possible. This ties back to the aggressive sales/ overselling I mentioned above. 

Do you have hidden costs? Or those small prints that are very easy to miss? Perhaps you have a clause that requires customers to keep on paying for a year after they’ve ended their contract with you because they didn’t cancel within a six-month time frame, for example (this has happened to me more than I’d like to admit). 

Here’s a great phrase I found in an article on Small Business Trends’ blog: “Your short term gain will never match your long term customer loss.”

Think about one of your customers: They want to be in this for the long-haul and build a solid relationship with you and your brand. For SaaS companies, you need to be transparent and upfront with your pricing model and contract. Are there things in the contract that the customer needs to be particularly aware of? Are they expected to pay more for a certain feature etc.? The element of surprise is not a good thing here unless you’re offering a discount or an incentive or a thank you email, of course. 

Day 3: Meet Expectations

Okay, yes, it’s good to meet expectations, but it’s not really enough, is it? A trivial example, but just say you order something on Amazon, and your package is due to arrive in seven days time. But it arrives in three instead. That’s exceeding expectations. So you’re likely to keep using their service. 

On the other end of the spectrum, say you’ve made a booking with a hotel that had a very dubious and ambiguous booking process. There was no transparency and it felt like a huge money-making scam. Needless to say, you’ll never go back, and perhaps you’ve even written some bad reviews online.

So, as a business trying to thrive, you simply can’t afford to use dubious tactics and have a poor customer experience. 

We discuss customer advocacy a lot in our blog posts, and the only way to gain loyal customers is by delivering what you promise – and then going beyond that. How? 

  • Gathering customer feedback to see what your customers are expecting from you
  • Using omnichannel technology
  • Ensuring that your employees want to deliver an exceptional customer experience (via offering them an exceptional employee experience)
  • Focusing on the smaller things: Thank you emails, happy birthday messages, providing informative content, incentives
  • Making the experience personalized and memorable
  • Focus on nurturing and strengthening the customer relationship 
  • Apologize when you need to! Taken ownership and be humble
  • Focusing on quality. For example, Derek Sivers, founder of CDBaby, stresses that delivering the service people want can’t be rushed. Before he sold his company, he made sure that he trained his employees to spend more time with their customers by asking them to intentionally spend more time on the phone with the customer. However, be careful: This doesn’t mean that you compromise too much on speed and efficiency when delivering a quality customer experience. You must strike a balance. Here’s some good advice from Mark Taylor in his article for SuperOffice: “Remove time as a measure of quality and concentrate on getting your service right. Don’t ever make a customer feel rushed.”

Day 4: Fail to Personalize the Customer Journey

For retail, with an overwhelming number of customers, it’s much easier to lose sight of personalization, but for SaaS businesses, customer success agents must focus on personalizing the customer journey as much as possible. Speaking to your customers by name, being friendly, not fighting back – all of those simple things to keep in mind (although not always easy to put into practice). 

But the key here is to remain genuine. People know when you’re being insincere and not actually interested in their needs, wants, and pain points. For the SaaS business model, customers are paying you monthly – often quite a large sum of money – and they’re trusting you and your product to deliver. They chose you for a reason, and they expect results. So you have to invest in them – there’s no other way. 

In How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days, the only time Andie and Ben truly form a connection is when they’re being genuine with each other- no fake dates, no insincere communication or emotion. 

Remy Claret, who has over 15 years of experience in customer experience management, gives the advice that each engagement you have with your customers should be different. That’s good advice. Just like in the dating world, you shouldn’t ever stop dating or pursuing your partner, no matter how many years you’ve been together. Change things up, keep the communication alive, work together to resolve problems, keep establishing and deepening the connection you have with each other. As soon as you stop pursuing your partner – or in this case, your customer – the relationship disintegrates. As Claret puts it in his piece on things you need to do to drive your customers away, then you should:

“Always strive to mismanage customer journeys by making it hard for customers to connect with your brand in a consistent way, keeping them confused and guessing with every interaction, every time.”

I also like Contributing Editor to Inc. Jeff Haden’s advice: “Customers don’t buy from companies. They buy from people – your people.”

This means that you need to maintain consistency – make it a point in your business to limit the number of customer contacts from your side. At Userlane, we make sure that each customer comes with a dedicated customer success manager who will focus on that customer specifically. By having one employee (whenever possible, of course) building a personal relationship with the customer, you’ll be in a better position to cement a solid foundation with your customer built on trust.

Day 5: Be Insincere 

Recently, some of my shopping expeditions have been met with insincere, run-of-the-mill expressions and pretty below-average service. I’ve noticed that many people working behind the counter just say an unfriendly ‘hello’, scan the groceries, state the amount due, and then say, without any enthusiasm, ‘have a nice day’. Now, of course, it’s not easy being in retail, and we’re all human. But being robotic about service should be left up to the bots.

In SaaS, customer success managers need to be sincere and empathetic. In other words, you need to be a people person if you’re working in this field! If you’re wishing your customer a good day, genuinely mean it. Reciting those parrot-phrases like, ‘have a nice day’ over and over again is definitely not going to help your cause. 

Take advantage of the seasonal opportunities and other small milestones, for example: If it’s Christmas, make sure you’ve got some well wishes and seasons greetings for your customers, send out a holiday card from your company if you have one. If your customer has a goal of increasing feature engagement by 5% in the next month and they reach this goal, you can send a personal congratulations note. Those small little engagements and interactions can make all the difference in personalizing your service and coming across as genuine. 

cartoon about having empathy for customers

Image source

Day 6: Be Reactive

Let’s say one of your customers has been using your service for three months now, but an error has occurred and they’re having difficulty accessing the platform. No one from customer success has called or emailed to let them know about the problem, so they have to contact support themselves. Now, it’s up to customer success to react to the customer’s complaint and address the problem asap. But this customer doesn’t mind, as this is the first time it’s happened. The customer success team was super helpful, and they’ve apologized and admitted their fault for failing to inform them in the first place. 

However, a few days later, the same customer experiences a similar problem. And they have to phone to find out what’s happening again. This happens a few more times, and eventually, this customer loses patience and the apologies from the success team just aren’t cutting it anymore. So, sadly, they’ve now found a better solution on the market, and they decide to end their contract with you. 

While you can’t always avoid being reactive (it goes without saying that life is unpredictable!), it is crucial that you always strive to be as proactive as possible. According to customer service expert Shep Hyken, “one of the most effective ways to create customer confidence is to practice proactive customer service.” In other words, “do something for your customers before they know they need it.” If it happens to be an error or bug in the system, proactively reach out to your customers asap and keep them updated about the problem and how you’re trying to resolve the issue. 

In his article from which I took the above quote, Hyken discusses an example of a company that does exceptionally well when it comes to providing proactive support. The company is BetterCloud (a tech company), and whenever BetterCloud realizes or recognizes a problem, they reach out to the customer typically within 10 minutes of encountering the problem. In this way, the customers don’t need to come to them for help because BetterCloud has already informed their customers of the problem and have begun to work on the issue.  

Don’t wait for a failure to happen and then have to react to customers by putting out those fires. Identify the fire and work on extinguishing it before your customers even have the chance to question you about what’s going on. Here’s some good advice from the team at ChurnZero:

“If your team is being forced to operate in a firefighting mode, then your best customers are going to be neglected and upsell opportunities are going to be missed. To have revenue growth you need to not only retain your current customer base but continue to expand your products and services within those accounts.”

Day 7: Mistake? What Mistake? 

As mentioned in the proactive section of this post, customers want to hear from you first if there are any issues. They’d much rather hear it from you directly and know that you are tackling the problems at hand. 

By taking responsibility for your actions, you’re actually putting the power in your hands. Here, you can then tell your customers that you are actively working on solving the problem. You can even take it a step further and offer discounts or refunds if necessary. 

It’s easy to give excuses or become defensive about why certain things went wrong. But actually admitting that hey, yeah, we messed up, goes a long way in establishing trust. Research based on social psychology shows apologies can repair broken trust. If you can take responsibility for any mistakes that have happened along the customer journey, your customer is definitely more likely to be more forgiving

Day 8: Ghost Your Customers 

Well, like Andie is way too clingy in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, you also don’t want to be on the other side of the spectrum and ghost your customers! In one of our previous posts, we talked about your customers ghosting you. But being difficult to contact is definitely a no-go. It’s called customer support and success for a reason. 

There’s a saying that goes people invest time in those they want to. If you get inundated with WhatsApp messages, for example, sometimes you only reply quickly to those that you want to – the rest can wait. But you obviously can’t do this to ANY of your customers – no matter what tier they’re at. Waiting for you to respond is costing money, and by not giving them attention, you’re essentially saying your time is more valuable than theirs

Also, providing impersonal support options is not the way to go either. The awesome thing about a SaaS model is that, in the words of Patrick Campbell writing for Chargebee, “relationships are built right into the revenue model … No other business model in history gives us, entrepreneurs, such alignment with their customers.”

In the same article, Patrick mentions that one of the bigger reasons why customer churn happens is because they cannot get a hold of customer support. 

However, as much as being a ghost is a problem, so, too, is communication overload. In How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Andie does her utmost best to drive Ben insane – don’t do this to your customers! Your customers want to be engaged, not bombarded with content/ information overload. Focus on providing quality content at longer intervals, and then monitor how engaged they are and tweak things if necessary.

Day 9: Focus on Money

This might be an extreme example, but let’s take a look at the recent Boeing 737 Max crisis. The world at large has blasted Boeing for seemingly prioritizing profits over passenger safety. They wanted to push out a new model aircraft to compete with Airbus, and in the process, they rushed the rollout, which lead to a myriad of serious problems. The result: Two plane crashes with no survivors.

As I said, extreme example for a post about customer success in the SaaS industry, but prioritizing revenue and profit over actually wanting to give your customers the best customer experience will only be detrimental to your business in the long run. 

People are now too afraid of flying the Max 8, and social media has only contributed to this fear and negative perception of the aviation giant. 

Don’t let the profit completely dictate how you operate your business: By focusing on your customer, you’ll generate those profits!

And here’s an awesome tweet on this by Shep Hyken:

Day 10: Don’t Let Customers Innovate

Okay, based on the Boeing example, the innovation was there – and it would have been successful if not for the rush to roll out the aircraft. Customers love your solution, but your solution needs to grow as your customers’ needs and wants change. 

But the innovation is not just from your side – it’s from your customers too. In fact, by conducting a study on over 1193 successful innovations, Eric Von Hippel from MIT discovered that a substantial 60% of these innovations were actually from customers

So the lesson here? Get that feedback from your customers. Tune in to what they have to say. You can even make your product roadmap public, inviting your customers to see what’s happening and contribute to your product’s development. 

Although Andie’s and Ben’s ideas were innovative in an insane way, they still managed to have a successful outcome in the end 😉

person using slack on laptop while holding smartphone

Losing a Customer in One Day

But seriously, you don’t even need 10 days to lose a customer, you just need one. Check out this stat:

“… In a 2016 global consumer survey that underscores growing customer empowerment, 47% of respondents said they would take their business to a competitor within a day of experiencing poor customer service, and 79% said they would do the same within a week.”

Your most profitable customers will always be the ones who are loyal and are committed to working with you. And as you know, the SaaS business model requires you to up your game if you want to keep up with the competition. 

Also, always keep in mind that customer success is a culture, not just a single department. This means that your company shouldn’t operate in silos and must focus on being a customer-first company. And don’t forget: For your customer success team to succeed, they also need to be supported. Give them the necessary resources and tools to do their jobs successfully. 

Towards the end of the film, Ben says to Andie (before they kiss and make-up): “You wanted to lose a guy in 10 days, congratulations, you did it. You just lost him.” 

Make sure this isn’t something you’ll ever have to say in your company ;). Finding the perfect balance between keeping your customers engaged and losing them is a thin line, but keep these 10 mistakes in mind and use them as a checklist to lead your customers to success.

Get some more guidance from top experts in the field on how to implement successful customer success strategies in our Customer Success Playbook.

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