Tackling Customer Churn with Pawan Deshpande’s Critical Care Method

AskNicely Team

Customer churn is like the common flu. It’s nasty, it’s something that everyone wants to avoid, yet it runs rampant through many service businesses across the globe. There are many common strategies to reduce customer churn, including customer support programs, streamlined onboarding or collecting customer feedback. But how do you know where to start? We recently came across Pawan Deshpande’s Critical Care Method for reducing customer churn and wanted to add our two cents, especially in the context of frontline work. 

The Critical Care Method in a Nutshell 

Pawan uses the analogy of medical care to explain the four means of customer success:

  1. Executive Business Reviews which is akin to Routine Checkups
  2. Onboarding which is akin to Neonatal Care
  3. Customer Support which is akin to Urgent Care
  4. What he calls “Critical Care” 

While Pawan speaks specifically to B2B SaaS companies, his points remain relevant for frontline driven service businesses, including (coincidentally) healthcare, home services, finance and more. 

Let’s take a closer look at each of the four approaches, their benefits, loopholes, and how they can be used to reduce churn levels in your service brand. 

Business Reviews

Understanding what your customers think is step one in reducing customer churn. Often, this unfolds in the form of Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) or Executive Business Reviews. 

In the medical world, this is akin to routine physical check ups conducted by a primary care physician. They are conducted not in reaction to a specific issue, though they provide a forum for reporting, detecting, and addressing issues. Furthermore, a physical is holistic in that a care provider is probing for issues in all areas of the body — much like a customer success manager is attempting to ascertain issues from all stakeholders in the organization.

However, Pawan rightly points out that relying on this kind of feedback alone falls short when it comes to reducing churn. The feedback doesn’t consider: 

  • Customers who require immediate support 
  • Customers who don’t participate in the routine care process altogether 

It also doesn’t allow for meaningful action to be taken on the feedback, as often by the time the bugs in the system have been detected, the customer has already been lost. In addition to this, QBRs often sit in the boardroom, with the feedback never reaching frontline teams. This leaves the feedback loop detached, which makes it harder for your experience to improve and therefore your customers to be retained. 

While QBRs serve a purpose, they’re not enough to tackle the churn problem alone. Learn how to use feedback is a more meaningful way here. 

Neonatal Care / Onboarding

The onboarding process is a crucial element for service brands as it sets the tone for the entire customer journey. It serves as the initial handshake, introducing customers to the brand's offerings, features, and value proposition. 

Just like neonatal care in a hospital setting, how it is provided can greatly impact the customer / patient for better or for worse for the rest of their lifetime — and in some cases even determine the length of that lifetime. 

Clear communication, personalized assistance, and a well-crafted onboarding strategy contribute significantly to building customer confidence and loyalty, ultimately reducing the risk of churn.

While it’s a step in the right direction, Pawan argues it’s still not enough to tackle the churn problem.  

Having a strong onboarding program coupled with reactionary support is still insufficient.  Even if a customer is off to a great start, and is able to resolve self-reported issues, churn can still creep in.  To address that, there are two more types of customer success that need to be provided.

Urgent Care / Customer Support 

Urgent care is all about reactionary support for your customers. For example, a customer of a cleaning provider may be unhappy with the results, and contact the provider asking for it to be redone (rework). 

When a customer has an issue, they contact the company, and the company reactively attempts to address the issue. This is similar to an urgent care clinic, where a patient visits only when they have a self-reported time-critical issue.

Pawan explains that there are two shortcomings with this method, being that reactionary support doesn’t address the satisfaction of the customer as a whole, nor does it attempt to prevent foreseeable issues that may occur. 

However, if the feedback loop is closed and the dialogue is between the frontline associate who delivered the service and the customer, the frontline employee gains a clear oversight as to a) how they can improve the moment and b) how such complaint can be avoided again in the future.  The associate may receive constructive feedback on improving their cleaning techniques or paying closer attention to specific areas, ensuring a better outcome in future services. Additionally, they can identify potential areas of improvement in their workflow to prevent similar issues from arising again.

Ultimately, this closed feedback loop not only facilitates immediate resolution but also empowers the frontline associate to enhance their skills and deliver a more satisfactory cleaning experience to customers in subsequent interactions.

Critical Care: 

In critical care, the onus is on the customer success team to proactively detect issues with a customer, and then urgently and immediately provide care to learn the underlying causes and address them, says Pawan. In the context of frontline-driven service brands, this is equivalent to frontline managers detecting issues with customers, and not only addressing them, but preventing them from happening again to other customers. 

To proactively detect issues, frontline managers need to have their finger on the pulse when it comes to customer satisfaction. One of the most effective ways to do this is by continuously tracking the NPS scores of your customers. That’s exactly what Pawan did, saying that in our case we continuously polled using AskNicely. 

The four stages of critical care include; 

  1. Detection, e.g a low drop in NPS. Note that you need to be tracking customer feedback in order to detect satisfaction drops.

  2. Reaching Out: The frontline associate reaches out to the customer to resolve the detected issue.

  3. Intervention:  The frontline associate establishes the steps to resolve the issue.

  4. Revived: The issue has been resolved and the customer’s frown turns upside down. 

By directly involving your frontline teams in the steps of critical care, you can not only close the feedback loop, but prevent similar issues from arising in the future. In other words, it’s not just about putting out customer fires, but preventing the unwanted sparks in the first place. 

Key Takeaways: 

While Pawan Deshpande’s Critical Care Method is explored in relation to B2B SaaS companies, many of the learnings can be carried through to the context of frontline work. Relying on quarterly reviews and a strong onboarding program won’t move the needle when it comes to reducing customer churn. What you need is a rapid, well connected feedback loop that connects frontline teams to customer feedback (both positive and negative). Proactively detecting issues through continuous tracking of NPS scores and involving frontline teams in the resolution process becomes paramount. By doing so, service providers can not only address customer concerns promptly but also prevent similar issues from arising, creating a proactive and customer-centric approach to reduce churn. 

Up Next: Build a Company Culture Obsessed with EX with Samantha Gadd, Founder & CEO Humankind

AskNicely Team
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AskNicely Team

AskNicely Team
About the author

AskNicely Team

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