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Creating Customers for Life: 50 Resources on Loyalty, Churn, and Customer Retention
| April 30, 2014
Earning customer loyalty is an uphill battle, but it is always worth the effort.
You've seen the data: the Harvard Business School report
that showcased how, on average, increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by
Much to everyone's disappointment, traditional business publications often only have top-level coverage on tactics
concerning retention and churn.
You want deep-dive articles. You've heard the amazing feats from places like Disney World, which has a 70+% return
rate for customers. How can you get people to love your business like that?
There are no easy answers, but hopefully this round-up will put you another small step forward. It's a collection of
some of my favorite reads on loyalty, churn, and retention, with a bias toward online businesses (particularly SaaS and ecommerce).
Customer Loyalty & Happiness
The Art of Customer
Loyalty I've written about improving service, loyalty, and retention for about 2 years now. This
resource is a beautifully designed re-cap on some of the most important advice and research we've gone over on the
Help Scout blog.
Marketer's Guide to Customer Loyalty From our friends at BigDoor. Let me to assure you that Joanna
Lord and Ashley Tate write some of the most insightful pieces on loyalty out there. You'll walk away with a lot of
The Buffer "Happiness"
Reports This is a bit of a different take on loyalty, which is why I'm featuring it near the top.
The Buffer team, known for their transparency, publishes a stellar monthly report on what they've been up to behind
the scenes to create and keep a massive customer base happy.
Customer Service Isn't
a Department Companies who say they "love" customers but place support as a low priority are just
posturing. This piece by Jack Altman explains why service is intrinsically tied to all aspects of your company.
The Value of a
"Frugal Wow" The concept of a "frugal wow"
is one that we love, because it places the emphasis back on the action rather than the expenditure. Bootstrapped
businesses take note: goodwill can be built without deep pockets.
How to Measure
Customer Satisfaction In this Qualmetrics article, Dr. Scott Smith explains how companies can
utilize four different measurements (and example questions) to get a sense of customers’ overall satisfaction.
Everyone in SaaS Needs to Do Customer Support Customer happiness is not a
simple process that can be outsourced or handed over to one department. Creating happy customers starts with
understanding them, which is why getting in the trenches via Whole Company Support is key in helping every
department learn how to interact with customers.
A Brief Guide to a Better
Email 37 Signals (now Basecamp) support superstar Chase Clemons knows a thing or two about customer
support. Since support has such a meaningful impact on loyalty, and since much of your communication with customers
will be through email, you should brush up on your skills in writing emails customers love.
Delight is Complete Bullsh*t "While manufactured delight can lead to great press, it's not much of a
customer generation or retention strategy in practice." Michael Redbord makes the necessary argument that the exceptional cases of service are just
that: out of the ordinary. Long-term retention is built around the fundamentals: speed, accuracy, and completeness.
Don't Lie, You Don't Care A
brave piece on why the current obsession with "growth hawking" may be ruining your company's customer experience.
The bump in user signups may be temporary with an aggressive "spam your users" strategy, but the customers you lose
(and the stain on your brand) will last forever.
Correct, the Worst Kind of Correct "Being merely correct doesn’t make for happy (or even satisfied)
customers on its own." A short but very important article on delighting users; answering their questions accurately
is just the price of entry. Great support identifies the proper tone that your customers expect and makes
good use of it (whether it be casual or more serious).
the Support Team How to Fish Your support team needs to play a much more important role than simply
being the voice that says, "I'm sorry." This article
from Mig Reyes of 37 Signals / Basecamp explains the art of teaching the support team so that they can "feed
Why Your Customer
Experience Strategy May Fail "Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but it is not
innovation." Part of a great customer experience is seeing things you've never seen before. Copying and pasting your
experience strategy will leave you sweatin' and stealin' a year-and-a-half behind, as Rudyard Kipling would say.
and Retention Resource Guide I consider this a great starting point, perhaps a "best of" for Lincoln
Murphy's wonderful blog Sixteen Ventures. Each article is concise, thoughtful, and explores the angles that matter
when it comes to getting customers to stick.
Teardowns Samuel Hulick definitely fulfilled a huge need by providing what is (to my knowledge) the
best step-by-step teardown on top companies' techniques for onboarding new users. If you like what you see, also be
sure to check out the full book.
The Best Damn Onboarding Flow
I've Ever Seen I've stated before how Brennan Dunn is someone who truly knows how to implement those
little extras that “wow” new users, but this critique offers up a far more detailed showcase of just what he does
right with his startup, Planscope.
My Evil Method to Improve
Customer Retention Don't worry, it's not so evil! Lincoln Murphy explains in this article what
companies can do to improve their retention, without frustrating customers who already have their foot out the door.
10 Tactics for
Increasing Customer Lifetime Value Your CLV is a prediction of the net profit attributed to the
entire future relationship with a customer. Mike Bal of Single Grain examines the how and why of stepping away from
acquisition to focus on increasing this highly important metric.
15 Customer Retention
Strategies that Work My penchant for and background in academic research is apparent here. I think
you'll enjoy these 15 studies on human behavior that offer up some inspiration on tactics you can use to surprise
and "wow" current customers.
The Long, Slow, SaaS Ramp of Death Building a successful SaaS company is a
long uphill battle. Customer delight for the long-term is taxing, but this talk at the wonderful Business of
Software conference discusses how to make the climb.
Followup Email that Actually Works This is a quick, concise article that I believe highlights the
concept of G.L.U.E, or giving little unexpected extras. The best part: it's written by a customer
who was totally won over by this company's exceptional intro-email.
Teaching Customers with
Video This article from Wistia's Alyce Currier is my favorite one to recommend for helping companies
get started with "help" video content. It's such an important form of self-service, and you need to be able to do it
Defining Your Churn Rate (No, Really) For SaaS, perhaps nothing is more
important than constantly tracking (and improving) your churn rate. Shopify breaks down how to really
measure your churn that goes beyond [number of churns over period] / [number of customers at beginning of period].
Manage Customer Success to
Reduce Churn It's your job to ensure that customers succeed with your product. Customer
success is thus one of the most important "non-glamorous" jobs at your company, and this article offers one of the
better overviews of how a smart customer success strategy increases overall happiness.
Retention, and Reengaging Customers The Intercom blog always offers smart thoughts on product design
and customer retention. In this article, you'll see why "activity churn" is what you should measure and how you can
reengage customers who have stopped using your product.
15 Tactics to Reduce
Customer Churn Ross Beard of Client Heartbeat takes a look at common causes of customer churn
(different expectations, competition, etc.) and outlines how companies can keep customers around by communicating
their value clearly.
Why Churn is
Critical to Success in SaaS David Skok's ForEntrepreneurs blog is held in high regard, and this
article will show you why. It's an essential read on why churn is the make-or-break metric for lasting SaaS
Your Customer Success Team: Hire Early, and No Squishy Goals "Customer
Success has a much longer, and ultimately deeper, relationship with the customer than sales or anyone else in your
company." From Jason Lemkin's exceptional blog, you'll get the low down on hiring and implementing a stellar
customer success team.
Competitive Advantage: Not Losing Customers From our friend Chris Hexton, this is a long but very
well developed take on identifying the metrics that matter for your business, as well as advice for stepping back
from acquisition to focus on extracting more value from the customers who already pay you.
Cohorts, and Visualizations A very smart look at measuring retention through the use of cycle plots.
This is important, as it's one of the best techniques to create a clean and understandable visualization of the data
Talking to Customers is
Killing Your Company Provocative title, but a very important reminder that when you're talking to
customers, you probably aren't listening closely enough. "The purpose of customer interviews is to extract
insights from the minds of your customers. Talking can’t achieve this; only listening can."
26 Resources to
Master Customer Development If you find this article valuable from a retention perspective, Zach
Bulgyo's wonderful roundup is the equivalent for customer development. You won't need to read anything else to get
started with customer development.
The Data on Why Retention Matters
I appreciate your dedication in making it all the way to the bottom! Sincere thanks for reading.
Last but not least, be sure to check out our collection of customer retention data that puts the effectiveness of
"sticky" loyalty in plain sight.
It's free to read (no opt-in) and includes all the statistics you'll need to understand what increasing retention can
do for your business.