Dear SaaStr:  What are the different strategies to retain an angry customer?

Let’s start with one important learning: angry customers usually aren’t lost customers. If they’ve already decided to leave you for another vendor, they generally just go dark instead.

So you still have a shot not just to save them and keep them, but turn it around.

A few basic thoughts:

  • Have the CEO talk to them — and if possible, make a commitment to fixing one issue (even if small). This isn’t magic. But customers do appreciate talking to the CEO. Especially if she or he commits to solving at least one big headache.  This is 100x better than the CEO hiding from the issues. A bit more here.
  • Let them vent. The customer isn’t always right. But the fault is always yours. Sometimes, they just need to be heard.
  • Share your product roadmap 1-on-1 with them, at least 1–2 times a year. This gives them a chance to provide input.  And also, even if they are unhappy, it shows maybe there’s enough coming down the road that it’s not quite worth the effort to really work on switching.
  • Give them your mobile phone number. A classic tactic to show you care. Salesforce used to put custom physical “hotlines” in the offices of their largest customers. You picked it up, it connected you directly and immediately to top-tier customer success.
  • Invite them to your VIP customer advisory board, if they are a Top 10 customer. This engages them more. It’s almost always appreciated.
  • Go visit them in person. Go get on an airplane and meet them. This almost always saves an angry customer and restores some trust.  A bit more here.

What doesn’t work well is ignoring them.  These days, I see this more and more often, especially if the contract isn’t up for renewal anytime soon.  CS teams reporting into sales often sort of hide from angry customers.  Don’t do that.

A related post here:

Sometimes All Your Bigger Customers Want is Just To Be Heard

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