13 Ways to Retain Customers When Times Are Tough

When bookings are slim, customer retention becomes particularly important–but it’s also a time when customers challenge every expense. Here are 13 things you can do today to boost your retention numbers.

Identify At-Risk Customers

  1. Watch product usage. Watch for overall usage tapering down, users that arena longer using the product, and specific functionality that is no longer being used. Investigate the reasons why
  2. Watch support usage. A sudden decrease of support requests is not a good sign, but rather an indication that your product is no longer being used, customized, or enhanced.
  3. Watch for changes in personnel. They could be changes in management contacts or changes in support contacts. Layoffs, reorganizations, and spontaneous departures before the storm hits are all signs that budgets are being tightened.
  4. Understand the industry. Some industries are booming (grocery chains, security software) while others are hard-hit (hospitality, retail). Know where your customers are likely to expand or disappear.
  5. Stay close to your contacts. A CSM with tight connections will hear about upcoming changes and have a chance to present appropriate mitigation strategies. Without good connections, uncontrolled surprises are much more likely.
  6. Expand your contacts. A common problem during tough times is that existing contacts disappear, and with them your entire personal connection to the customer. Cultivate multiple contacts, in various organizations and at various levels.


  1. Don’t waste your time on lost causes. A customer that is severely stressed financially will likely churn regardless of your efforts. Concentrate on others.
  2. Provide best practices information, above and beyond how to use your product. This is a great way to impress your customers that they can rely on your company to provide value and guidance.
  3. Maintain a good level of support. At-risk customers are particularly sensitive to even small issues that would not normally matter very much.
  4. Help show value. CFOs yield a lot of power during downturns. Help your contacts create a customized ROI analysis for your product or service so they can help you avoid the chopping block.
  5. Pre-plan scale-downs. Customers may need fewer licenses, fewer modules, or better payment terms. Plan and propose scale-down options that leave you some revenue and profit and include a return to current levels once business conditions improve.


  1. Add managed services. Customers looking for savings are open to outsourcing functions that they previously wanted to keep internally. For instance, they may look to outsource system administration for your products, which you can package as managed services.
  2. Use ROI analyses to expand product sales. If your products allow customers to automate manual tasks, create and present attractive ROI analyses to expand your footprint.

Share your customer retention stories. We all need them!



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