If you’ve been paying attention, you know that the time when a customer is quitting is the most crucial time for you to understand what causes churn in your product. While it may not be practical to do an customer exit interview with all your customers, you should do them with a few at least. In the early days of a startup, this is even more critical, as your customers will be more willing to discuss what went wrong. When you have hundreds of customers it will become impractical, but when the number is still manageable, use these questions to fix what went wrong:
Customer Exit Question 1: “What has changed for you since the time you signed up?”
This question is a powerful diagnostic tool. Don’t try to defend a poor customer experience or gaps in your product (even if the gaps don’t exist – because this points to a likely issue with onboarding which you won’t learn if you immediately jump in with a response). Let your customer vent. You’ll discover a new perspective of why they’re feeling so frustrated. To keep them talking, ask subtle variations of “What else has changed?” or “Tell me more about that…”
Pay close attention to the specific language they use to explain their frustration. Capture their words verbatim in your notes. Later on, when you get into solution mode, these notes will be critical.
Your customer should talk 90% of the time. You’ll be busy making a list of their frustrations, complaints and concerns.
Customer Exit Question 2: “What impact is this having on you and your business?”
It’s time to identify, rank and clarify each problem your customer is facing. This question will help you determine the urgency of each issue, too. Make a commitment to share this feedback with your product management and marketing teams. (And then, of course, follow through and actually share the info!)
There’s a big difference between a pesky problem and a showstopper. A small issue will have a simple work-around. A major issue might cost a customer thousands of dollars or dozens of staff hours each month. It’s your job to separate the signal from the noise.
Customer Exit Question 3: “What would an ideal solution look like to you?”
This question creates a bridge from the past to the present.
Take your customer’s point of view and identify what it would take for them to get back on board with your product. You can provide specific prompts to customers by using the list of concerns you created. Repackage their concerns and the relative priority to help keep the conversation on track.
As you dive deeper, leverage your product knowledge to set your customer’s expectations. Some solutions will be workable, but others will be a stretch. Do not rule any requests out at this stage. Instead, get crystal clear on their requirements so you can create a plan to deliver them.
Let’s imagine a customer is screaming out for a product feature that you know you can’t deliver. Even though the solution may not be obvious yet, start thinking about how you could solve the problem. You might need to coordinate an internal team or create a project, so don’t rule anything out yet.
Customer Exit Question 4: “If we can resolve this, how would that affect your view of our product and service?”
This question clarifies the potential of maintaining a relationship with you. In some cases, there may be no way this question will have an answer and you should accept that gracefully. But when you do have a way that the customer might be preserved, it’s perfectly right for you to ask this question.
You can build your customer’s confidence by using subtle nudges. You’re looking for a tiny commitment to this process. Explain how much effort you are going to invest into delivering their ideal solution.
Remember always that your job during this process is first to learn and then to put that learning into process to help save not just this account but also other accounts that could be facing similar problems!