The success of any subscription-based business isn’t dependent solely on your customer acquisition efforts, but rather on the number of customers you retain.

Your employees play a vital role in improving retention rates, from communicating value during the sales process to providing first-class customer service. However, automation — in the form of customer feedback surveys, personalized offers, and onboarding workflows — can save time and money by streamlining processes and freeing up employees to focus their efforts on high-priority retention tasks. 

In this article, we’ll discuss what customer retention automation is and share 10 of our favorite automation strategies for fighting churn. These automated strategies cover every part of the buyer’s journey, so you’ll find something of value whether you work in sales, marketing, finance, or customer success. 

What is Customer Retention Automation?

Customer retention is the ability of a company to retain customers over a period of time. Customer retention automation is any retention strategy, process, workflow, or software that doesn’t need human input to increase engagement and reduce churn. In other words, customer retention efforts happen even while your team sleeps. 

For example, rather than having your customer success team walk through your product with every new customer, you can create a platform-based tour that highlights all of your product’s key features one by one and helps users get started. 

You don’t have to be a genius to see the benefit of automating this particular process. Automation makes sure that every new customer receives the same great experience while freeing up your customer success team’s time to focus on other tasks. 

There are plenty of reasons to adopt customer retention automation strategies. 

While your customer success team’s resources are limited, automation allows you to leverage them much more effectively. The vast majority of retention work involves repeated tasks that can be easily automated. Even the act of convincing a churning customer to subscribe can be achieved without a human agent getting involved. 

Customer retention automation strategies also allow you to deliver a personalized customer experience at scale. Many of the strategies we discuss below also showcase your commitment to understanding and valuing existing customers, which in turn, can increase customer loyalty. 

It’s all about doing more with what you have. After all, retaining customers may be cheaper than acquiring new ones, but that doesn’t mean manual retention strategies won’t drain your resources. 

5 Business Areas to Focus Automation Efforts

Retention strategies can be applied across your business, from sales and marketing right through to the cancellation process. But almost every business should prioritize automation in the seven areas below in their bid to retain more clients. 

Customer Communication

Regular communication is a crucial tenant of customer engagement. It demonstrates that you value existing customers and are committed to keeping them informed of developments with your product and industry news. 

However, reaching out to customers manually to ask how they are can be incredibly time-consuming. Not to mention you take the risk that some customers are forgotten about altogether. Instead, automate the process by creating an email campaign that sends out personalized emails to customers at a certain trigger point. This could be after they’ve been a customer for a certain period or when user activity drops. 

Almost every customer communication channel can be automated using a scheduling solution like CoSchedule or HubSpot. 

Customer Support and Experience

Customers have one of two thoughts when faced with a problem. They either try to solve it independently or contact your customer support team. In both cases, marketing automation can be used to increase the speed with which users find answers and free up your team’s time.

Where users want to find answers on their own, a combination of chatbots and self-service portals can be implemented that use automated workflows to help customers find an answer to their query. Tools like Intercom and Drift are great for this. 

If that fails, they can even automate the process of contacting customer support. Where support members do get involved, software like Zendesk can be used to automate replies by using canned responses so that support teams can respond to more queries at once. 

Time to Value

You want customers to get value from your product as quickly as possible. That can be difficult to do at scale when you require your customer success team to walk through your product with each new customer. 

It’s faster and easier to automate this process. 

Customer Retention Automation for Time to Value

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By building an in-app onboarding flow, you can help customers reduce time to value and get the most out of your product without your team having to lift a finger.  

Feature Adoption

Developing new product features helps to increase your tools’ value and keep existing customers engaged. After all, customers are unlikely to switch if you keep fulfilling every new need that develops. 

However, encouraging users to adopt those new features manually requires a lot of work. Like with the onboarding example above, a much better solution is to use an automated workflow like an email campaign or in-app message to communicate the value of new features. These messages can even be personalized using customer data with campaigns using audience segmentation to ensure that only users who care about a particular feature get updated. 

Preventative Churn

You may think a human-governed cancellation process provides better opportunities to prevent churn, but manual processes pale in comparison to an automated workflow.

Automation allows you to run a preventative churn campaign at scale, without your team becoming a bottleneck.

Preventative Churn Measures

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Retention software like Chargebee can be used to automatically create personalized offers based on customer data. You can integrate these offers into your cancellation flow, track their success, and then refine your strategy based on data. With Chargebee, you can even split test offers to find the most effective churn prevention messaging.   

10 Automation Ideas to Boost Customer Retention

Automation comes in several forms and can be used at any point of the buyer journey to reduce churn. Below are ten popular customer retention automation ideas. 

1. Personalized Cancellation Experiences

One of the easiest wins for businesses looking to improve their customer retention rates is to implement personalized offers into the cancellation workflow. The idea is that you shouldn’t let users willingly walk away from your product without one final effort at keeping them.

There’s no need for your customer success or retention teams to get involved, either. Because these offers are baked into your cancellation flow, customers trigger them automatically when they ask to cancel. 

Personalized Cancellation Experiences

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Personalizing these rewards is essential to your success. Not only will personalized rewards be more relevant (and therefore more effective), but 71% of customers expect personalized experiences in the first place. 

You don’t even need a lot of manual effort to put this customer retention automation idea in place. By using a platform like Chargebee, you can outsource the creation and management of personalized cancellation offers. Here’s how it works:

  • When customers click cancel, they’re redirected to a Chargebee-hosted cancellation page.
  • We create personalized loss aversion that includes a reason-based offer. For instance, if customers say price is the problem, we can offer a month for free.
  • Your team receives real-time alerts and subscriptions are automatically updated, however the customer proceeds.
  • Results are collected in intuitive dashboards that help you better understand why customers churn and create more compelling offers in the future.

2. Customer Loyalty Programs

Customer loyalty programs are a fantastic tool for boosting customer satisfaction and increasing loyalty. 83% of customers say being part of a loyalty program influences their purchase decisions. Create a good, really good one and you’ll make it almost impossible for customers to switch to a competitor. 

With a customer loyalty program, you can systematically reward customers for a variety of reasons. It could be that customers get rewarded periodically for continuing their membership or for completing tasks such as referring a new customer or leaving a review. 

Rewards don’t have to be large to have an impact. A free month or increased usage limits can be more than enough to make customers feel valued. 

Customer Loyalty Program

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It’s almost impossible to manually run an effective customer loyalty program, however. Instead, use software that tracks customer behavior to automate the reward process. Not only do you free up your team’s capacity, but you ensure every customer receives the same level of attention and incentives.  

3. Chatbots

Exceptional customer service is a key retention strategy used by almost every business. But you don’t need an expansive customer support team to deliver first-class support. You can automate the process by using a chatbot instead. In fact, Gartner predicts chatbots will become the primary customer service tool by 2027

Chatbots can be programmed to provide a wide range of support features. Businesses can program them with answers to frequently asked questions or use an AI-powered solution, like those provided by Freshdesk and Zendesk, that learns from each conversation. If the chatbot doesn’t know the answer, it can be programmed to point customers in the direction of a knowledge base or contact a human member of customer support on their behalf. In any case, customers get the answers they need fast and are less likely to churn as a result. 

4. Customer Feedback Collection

You can’t improve your product or service in a way that reduces churn if you don’t understand how your customers feel and why they leave. Customer feedback surveys are a vital customer retention strategy, but it shouldn’t be up to your customer success team to send out surveys.

Instead, businesses should improve customer retention by automating feedback loops during subscription periods and when customers churn. 

For example, customer success teams can create an email marketing campaign that regularly sends NPS surveys to customers at regular intervals during their subscription — say, every six months. 

Alternatively, chatbots and in-app forms can collect feedback periodically when a customer asks for assistance or completes a specific task. 

Feedback collection should also be automated during the cancellation process to understand the reasons customers churn. While churning customers may not reveal their true feelings to customer support reps when canceling, they should have no problem being honest when filling out a short survey online. As a result, your product team gets genuine insights that can help them improve the product and increase retention moving forward. 

5. Failed Payments

Failed payments are the biggest reason for involuntary customer churn. But you don’t have to rely on your accounts team to review every invoice individually and chase up failed payments in person. 

Instead, use recurring billing software with smart dunning management to automate payment recovery. 

Customizing Chargebee's Smart Dunning System

With Chargebee, involuntary churn due to failed payments is significantly reduced. Our platform’s intelligent retry system identifies the best times to attempt recovery. You can customize the process to align with your billing logic. That includes setting a limit on retries, choosing when the first retry attempt happens, and customizing how unpaid invoices are recorded. 

6. Automated Email Drips

As we discussed above, customer communication and engagement are ripe for automation,  and automated email drips are the perfect retention strategy to do just that. 

Why are emails so effective? Because email campaigns deliver significant ROI regardless of your industry. 

Email ROIs are high across industries

Automated email campaigns can be used to achieve several customer retention goals:

  1. Help customers get value from your tool after subscribing
  2. Win back lapsed customers
  3. Increase customer engagement

Drip-sending product feature explainers are a great way to introduce new users to the full capabilities of your tool without overwhelming them, for instance. 

This differs from an automated onboarding sequence (more on that below) in that these emails can be spread out over weeks or months. They don’t have to end, either. You can create a new email sequence for each feature you release to keep your user base engaged. 

You can also set up an automated campaign that continues to message lapsed customers in a bid to win them back.

7. Personalized Rewards

Customers shouldn’t have to be on the brink of churning for you to reward them with a personalized offer. You can also use this strategy to keep increasing the number of loyal customers. 

The personalization aspect is essential. It makes it more likely that customers will use the reward and proves that you understand and value customers. Many customers expect this kind of service, too. Almost three-quarters (73%) of consumers expect companies to understand their needs, and 62% believe companies should anticipate needs. 

Luckily, there’s no shortage of automation tools that let you send personalized rewards without building a fully-fledged customer loyalty program, including Antavo and Kademi.  

8. Renewal Reminders

If you have a great product and deliver a fantastic user experience, you shouldn’t need to persuade customers to renew. A simple reminder — often in the form of an email — can be all that it takes. 

While this customer retention strategy can be implemented manually by account managers, automating these emails is much more effective. After all, it’s all too easy for account managers to forget to email a churning customer. 

Renewal reminders can also take the form of a drip campaign. In fact, it’s almost a certainty you’ll need at least two reminders to optimize your conversion rate. 

Chargebee's subscription renewal reminders

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How can you make your renewal reminder as effective as possible? Focus on the value you’ve delivered to customers over the past year. You could even use a personalized discount to sweeten the deal.

Don’t give up once the renewal date has passed. Create another sequence that kicks in for users who still haven’t renewed that either encourages them to renew or seeks to find ‌a reason they didn’t. Both can be incredibly valuable in the long run. 

9. Automated Onboarding Sequences

If you want to guarantee customers leave your product fast, then don’t teach them how to use it. There’s nothing worse from a customer perspective than being left to your own devices and having to figure out complicated programs on your own. 

Customer onboarding programs are a popular customer retention strategy, and they, too, can be automated. When done correctly, automated onboarding sequences shorten the learning curve without a heavy investment from your customer success team. 

Automated onboarding sequences typically take two forms: in-platform walkthroughs and email campaigns.

With in-platform walk-throughs, customers are taken on a guided tour of the product. Specific features are pointed out, and customers are usually encouraged to start using the product. 

Emails are a more traditional form of customer onboarding. Businesses set up an email campaign that drips new emails to customers every few days. Rather than trying to guide customers through the platform, this approach focuses on delivering tips and advice that help new customers get the most from the platform.

Notion's onboarding flow

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Just because onboarding flows are automated doesn’t mean they can’t be personalized. By asking customers to select what type of customer they are (personal, enterprise, etc.) or what features they are interested in, you can create semi-personalized flows that offer more value to users. 

Notion, for instance, asks whether users are using the platform for themselves or as part of a team and then personalizes the onboarding flow from there. The idea is that different types of users are interested in different features, and there’s no point in helping users discover features they won’t use. 

10. Self-Service Customer Support

Helping customers find answers to their questions quickly will ensure they continue to use your product and value your service. 

But chatbots aren’t the only form of automated customer support you can use to increase customer retention. Other automated, self-service customer support features like a knowledge base, an interactive voice response system (IVR), and pre-written responses can either help customers solve their own solutions or drastically cut the time it takes for your support team to respond. 

Chargebee's Knowledge Base

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When it comes to automating customer support, you don’t even need special software or automated workflows. You certainly don’t need to spend a fortune, either. A simple knowledge base is a fantastic way to give customers autonomy to help themselves. It has to be reasonably expansive and have excellent search functionality, but once created, it can continue to automate customer service fulfillment for little to no additional cost. 

Automate Customer Retention Efforts with Chargebee

Software can be a powerful tool to automate retention efforts. However, not all software is created equally. Chargebee offers a comprehensive retention suite that helps you gather feedback, deliver personalized offers, and reduce failed payments.

Schedule a demo with one of our experts to find out more today!