It’s the Slack message dreaded by all revenue and customer leaders in B2B SaaS:

Customer X is not renewing”

You have teams being proactive, executing what you have defined as your ‘customer success strategy’ and measuring, perhaps even predicting, customer health and churn risk. Yet, it hasn’t worked this time.

The customer is cancelling.

Ok, onto the next customer renewal. Let’s secure that one.  

No. Wait.

Why exactly did your customer churn? Do you actually know?

Does that one liner your Customer Success Manager (CSM) or Account Executive (AE) entered into your CRM give you all the information?

“Customer switched to competitor”.

That tells you nothing. Without a detailed and, ideally, customer-validated, analysis of why each customer churns, your team is missing a high-value opportunity to optimize their adoption and retention strategies for the rest of your customers.

To create this analysis, perform post-mortems on customers who churn.  

In case this is a new term for you, let’s define it right away:

post·mor·tem / (pōs(t)-ˈmȯr-təm / noun: a process, usually performed at the conclusion of a project, to determine and analyze elements of the project that were successful or unsuccessful

At its most simple, this is a Customer Loss Review. A documented discussion that you should undertake when your business has failed to retain a customer.

You want to start this documentation as soon as you can so that data and events are fresh in your teams’ heads. It may seem pessimistic to start writing it as soon as a client gives notice to cancel, but preparation is never a bad thing.

Start writing down recent events, make note of their usage numbers, review their contract. We’ll expand into what to document in a moment.

The goal is to understand how this happened. How did the customer decide to end their contract? And from this, there are two follow-up paths:

  1. How can we retain this customer?
  2. How can we retain the NEXT customer?

If you have the good fortune and enough time to try and keep this customer, do everything you can.

However, if you’ve exhausted all avenues…

Don’t make the same mistake again.

Take this loss as an opportunity to learn how to make sure no other customers churn for the same reason.

Okay, so let’s get into how to perform a Customer Loss Review.

The owner of this document / process should be the assigned CSM, as they have the most context on the post-sale relationship.

They can start the document on their own, followed-up by a meeting with all relevant internal parties and then, if possible, a meeting with the departing/departed customer.

Use the below as a starting template, and make sure to customize based on your business.

Customer Loss Review Template

Background

Company

  • Industry
  • Company size (ARR and/or employee count)
  • Contacts and roles

Contract

  • Account Executive
  • What got the customer to sign / Any expectations set pre-sale
  • Start Date
  • Renewal Date
  • Contract levels

Implementation

  • Implementation Engineer
  • Launch Date
  • Time to Launch
  • Roadblocks encountered

Success

  • Customer Success Manager
  • Any other members brought on to service account
  • Expansion, contraction, adoption metrics and numbers
    • Total / YoY / QoQ / MoM / Any other way to slice

Engagement

  • Summary: 100 words of how the customer was sold, onboarded and managed, any difficulties, and the path to ending
  • Early Signs: Insert all events that may have been a cause for concern
  • Actions Taken: Insert all events that were undertaken to try to course-correct
  • Last Straw: What was the single event that caused them to finally reach out and cancel or decide not to renew

Learnings

  • What did we miss early on
  • What were the root causes
  • What could we have done better
  • What do we look for NOW with our current customers that may lead us to early detection
  • What new systems can we adopt / upgrade

The CSM should fill out the first two sections, and then schedule a 30 minute meeting with the account executive, head of CS, a support team lead, and potentially a product manager, to discuss.

It’s important that this meeting does not become a finger-pointing session where everyone tries to blame someone else for the lost customer.  This is simply a fact-finding exercise.  

The goal is to discover learnings to prevent future customers from churning. This is enabled through change management, a topic near and dear to our heart at Valuize. Expect an upcoming blog post on change management in Customer Success soon!

Includes excerpts from an article originally published by Sandpoint Consulting, LLC, (prior to acquisition by Valuize Consulting) as “Post-Mortems: Learn from your past” co-authored by Adam Croce and Emily Ryan