Retention Strategies to Keep the Customers You Have

Retention begins on day 1 of the customer relationship.


Target Outcomes Core Service Capabilities Service Activities Focus
Retain Program, Process, Insights Onboarding, Adoption, Success Management, Renewal Customer Success, Support, Sales, Renewal


From the day you sell a subscription or service contract you need to continually work on the retention of that customer relationship.

The worst thing you can do is wait until 90 days prior to the expiration to send a renewal notice.  Each of the reasons for nonrenewal can be mitigated — or at least minimized — through well-defined and executed renewal practices.

Here are essential retention strategies to keep the customers you have:

Minimizing Cancellations with Onboarding, Adoption, and Success Initiatives

The best strategies to minimize cancellations is to develop good onboarding, adoption, and success practices. These will help ensure that your customers can use and apply your products effectively. Consider the following actions:


  • Develop customers’ product skills by offering easy-to-access and affordable (preferably free) training programs.
  • Help customers define and achieve success through success planning.
  • Define journey maps and provide coaching and guidance to help customers attain specific outcomes.


  • Do not wait for customers to call with problems, engage customers proactively through automated and personal methods.
  • Offer or extend proof of concept, architecture, and design guidance.
  • Define and monitor customer adoption (extent and frequency of use) and success (impact of use) metrics.


  • Assign success managers or teams to monitor and drive customer adoption and success rates.
  • Monitor product performance and service use.
  • Conduct periodic health checks and account reviews.
  • Offer a portfolio of value-added outcome services.


Identify At-Risk Service Customers

Chances are good that you have active customers that are considering cancelation. You still have time to protect these relationships. Work with your potentially at-risk customers to help them fully use and realize the value of their relationship. Consider the following actions:

  • Establish a customer health scoring system and monitor customer relationship health.
  • Interact with customers throughout the relationship — don’t just wait for them to call you. Interaction can occur through a support case, a proactive call to the customer, an informative e-mail newsletter, and publication of useful self-help resources (blog, wiki, knowledge base).
  • Report progress relative to success plans, support plans, and journey maps.
  • Make sure that customers are taking advantage of the services offered through the service relationship.
  • Meet service-level commitments and make sure that customers are aware of your performance.
  • Conduct periodic health checks and account reviews (quarterly business reviews or more frequent, e.g.) with both technical and business unit stakeholders.
  • Leverage each customer interaction as an opportunity to reinforce the value and necessity of the service relationship.
  • Establish a service usage “statement” that highlights the type and frequency of services used. Provide customers with evidence about the benefits they receive.


Optimize Renewal Practices

The actions you take to secure the service renewal are fundamental to success.  Great programs and great relationships can be undermined by simple breakdowns in renewal procedures.  The costliest process breakdowns include not asking for the renewal or asking the wrong person.  Consider the following:

  • Maintain a relationship with the person(s) responsible for renewing the service contract.
  • Target multiple points of contact for renewal notification.
  • If the primary person leaves find out who will assume responsibility for the relationship.
  • Set clear expectations with the customers about budgeting for contract renewals including any uplifts or add-on fees.
  • Notify customers at least two months prior to renewal expiration.
  • Analyze the reasons customers do not renew.

Retention is paramount — make it a strategic priority!


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