Real business story

Keeping loyal customers is the key to long-term success

Finding new customers is expensive and time consuming. Despite this, many companies focus resources on customer acquisition, rather than retention.
Barnaby Lashbrooke – Time inc

Barnaby Lashbrooke has focused on internal factors to drive growth

By devoting more energy to those already on board, you can strengthen existing relationships and retain customers for longer. Plus, word of mouth recommendations from satisfied customers are powerful advertisements.

We spoke to two businesses about how they changed the focus to improving customer retention.

Keep track of customer retention

Monitoring customer retention figures has been a winning strategy for Birmingham-based Time etc. After realising that customer churn was on the up, the business responded quickly and went on to record its strongest growth to date.

Barnaby Lashbrooke, founder of the virtual assistant platform, said that after ten years in business he started to notice customer retention slipping.

“I was talking to a corporate finance person who asked for our retention figures. I didn’t know what they were so I went away, looked into it and found they were lower than we had realised,” Barnaby said.

“I’m glad she asked – our retention is now at the highest level it’s ever been. Focusing our strategy on retention has easily been one of the most powerful things we’ve ever done.”

"Ultimately, our goal isn’t just to have happy customers – we want customers who become advocates of our platform. Advocacy is a key to success for any business.”

Kat Fisher, senior customer success manager, Disciple Media

Adapt to meet the needs of existing customers

Retaining customers has involved making some simple but effective changes for the Time etc team.

Speaking to customers on the phone, identifying different user types and matching clients to the right virtual assistants are some of the changes that have been implemented.

“There’s a lot of picking up the phone. We’ve invested a considerable amount in expanding the team, so we have the time to speak to all our clients,” he said.

“We’ve built software that spots trends for us and segments our clients into user types. We learnt, for example, that clients who download our smartphone app are more likely to stick with us, so we’ve put lots of effort into getting people to install it.”

The improved retention rates have had a knock-on effect on productivity, since the team now spends less time dealing with customer issues or fixing problems. Instead, they can focus on providing a better service for loyal customers.

“The biggest growth opportunity for us came from looking within – don’t assume growth is external,” Barnaby said.

Learn to predict the signs of customer churn

For Kat Fisher, senior customer success manager at Disciple Media, spotting churn predictors is another vital way to retain customers.

The high-growth software-as-a-service business, which helps its customers build mobile-first community spaces, has a customer success team to onboard new users.

“Once they’re up and running, our customer success team focuses on helping all of our customers to get the most out of the platform with hints, tips and best practice. We’ll explain new features and developments, and listen hard to the feedback we get,” Kat said.

“There are certain churn predictors you can look out for, like low end-user engagement or slow growth of an app audience. In these cases, we’d reach out to see how we can help. Ultimately, our goal isn’t just to have happy customers – we want customers who become advocates of our platform. Advocacy is a key to success for any business.”

The company uses both technology and human contact to monitor existing clients and ensure they remain customers for life.

“We have some usage metrics we keep an eye on, like time spent on the platform and frequency of login. But it’s the qualitative feedback and the creativity we see when our customers are engaging with their communities – that’s where we get real satisfaction that the product is being used to its fullest.”

  • location: West Midlands (England)
  • business size: 10-49 People
  • business type: Digital, technology & computer services

Top three takeaways

The first step to solving any problem is realising that one exists. Keeping track of customer retention figures lets you know if there is work to be done.

Small changes can make a big difference. Speak to existing customers on the phone and categorise clients effectively.

Understanding the metrics that predict customer churn can help you address issues in advance.