If your business works with high enough value customers, account executives can give personal attention to each customer.   A good account exec will pay attention to each customer’s behavior, understand their business, ask questions, make suggestions, check in, and keep in touch.

But this model does not scale very well.  How can a business provide some of the same value to customers in an automated way?  Many aspects of customer retention can be automated.   Truly human touch is always the most valuable but it can be supplemented and made more efficient with automation.

To retain a customer, you need to understand them and appropriately respond to them.   Below I lay out 6 ways you should look to understand customer behavior and 4 ways you could use that understanding to respond to them.

To Understand a Customer

To understand a customer, you will want to capture:

  • Transactional Data.   Most organizations already capture this.  Its in your ERP system or your core databases.
  • Customer Attributes.  Most organizations already capture this.  Its in your CRM system.
  • What the Customer Says.  Many organizations capture this as an NPS score.
  • What the Customer Does.  This kind of behavioral data can be the most valuable but is often not captured or only captured in aggregate where it can be used to assess trends but not to help retain particular customers.

Automated Understanding of Customer Behavior

We recommend organizations capture behavioral data on a per customer basis.  If you are looking to do so, here are the top 6 things you will want to understand about a customer:

  1. Visits:  Do they visit your business?  How often?  For how long?  How deeply?  How long has it been?   Answering these questions will give you a first order approximation of their relationship with your business.   People spend time on what is important to them.
  2. Actions:  While they visit, what do they do?   Basic things.  Advanced Look at one report and bounce?  Browse but never buy?  Look at pricing? Never tried this feature?
  3. Business Metrics: Imagine you provide document management solution.  How many documents does this customer have in your document management system?  How many collaborators and followers do they have? These are a type of behavioral data that is important to understanding that customer.
  4. Time Since:  How long has it been since they made an important transition (from free to paying or started a free trial or visited your site)?
  5. Funnel State:  A funnel is a set of steps that you are looking for customers to follow.  For example, the checkout funnel in an e-commerce site, the new user registration funnel, or the set of steps to create and send a mail campaign in an email marketing solution.  Understanding where a customer is in such a funnel, is key to understanding the current state of their relationship with your business.
  6. Accounts/Users:  If you are a B2B organization, you don’t think just in terms of end users.  You need to understand your customers at 2 levels: at the account level and at the end user level.  Collect behavior at both.

Automated Response to Customers

By capturing these 6 sets of customer behavioral data and combining them with the other customer data that is available to you, you should have a good understanding of your customer’s engagement with your business.

However, the point is not to simply understand, it is to communicate appropriately with the customer at the right time to incent the right behavior and make them more successful.

There are many ways to respond to a customer manually, but relatively few ways to respond in an automated manner based on their behavior.

  1. Email.   We are all familiar with this.  Email’s strength is in bringing back customers who are not visiting your business.  In giving you their email, they have given you a way to reach out and grab them.  The more targeted the message based on your knowledge of the customer and their behavior with you, the better.
  2. Text Message, Push Notification.  Similar to email marketing but customer’s are much less forgiving of spam.  Messages through these channels grab the customer’s attention often out-of-context and so have to be used sparingly.
  3. In-Context Messaging.  This is a newer form of communication that allows you to in-app message or onsite message your customers based on their behavior.  As they browse, work, or play, you can communicate to them appropriate messages in-context.

Automating an understand of each customer based on their behavior and automating your response to them has gotten significantly easier to do and significantly more important as you look to retain, convert, and upgrade/upsell customers.