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In business, breaking up is actually quite easy to do. It’s securing meaningful conversations about the reasons behind the split that’s the hard part.

As much as facing your business failures head on may make you recoil, you must ask the hard questions in order to improve. And that means having post-mortem conversations with clients who no longer want to pay for your products or services.

As tempting as it is to think of exit interviews as courtesies, they’re actually an important part of your account-based marketing (ABM) strategy – and can occasionally turn into the first step in winning the account back. With that in mind, here are seven questions you need to ask clients after they’ve decided to churn, along with what steps to take once you have the answers.

Can you walk me through why you’re cancelling/not renewing?

You should presumably know this already, but having the customer talk through it once more can clarify items they may not have wanted to articulate while your business relationship was ongoing.

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What to do with the answer: At a minimum, this should be logged somewhere in your customer relationship management (CRM) database, ideally along with an assigned sortable label so your entire organisation can look for patterns and themes for why clients are exiting.


Where did our communication break down (and also succeed)?

Communication is often hard to maintain at a detailed level on complicated accounts. Even if you feel you have a great process, the answers clients give you here could surprise you. This is also a good time to remind you and your team to not be defensive when asking these questions. It’s often hard to set aside the emotion of losing a significant account – especially when you disagree with the reasoning. But you can’t learn anything from this process without fully plugging into what the client is saying.

What to do with the answer: Assuming all the answers from your interview may not be going into your CRM in a sortable way, you should create a separate spreadsheet to log answers to questions like this that will help you improve your teams’ soft skills and even your company’s larger ABM approach. Any patterns that emerge should become near-term topics for internal discussions and training sessions in the long term, as bridging communication gaps could help smooth over the inevitable tricky situations you’ll face with other clients.


When it comes to our product/service, what would you like to see improve?

Even if you already know the answer, this interview process is about cataloging and analysing everything. Chronicling needs for core product or service improvements and then addressing them will be key for re-engaging this client – and others in their space – to win back the business.

What to do with the answer: This is another data point that should go into your CRM, but you should also create a communication channel with the product, operations and/or sales leads where you can candidly share this feedback for appropriate action.


Can you rate our flexibility? How did we adapt to your changing needs?

You likely have strong opinions about your team’s ability and willingness to meet every client challenge. But getting honest feedback from a client on the way out the door will allow you to reflect on potential holes. Sure, your team may have saved the day by answering those late-night client fire drills, but were they reading between the lines when the client was laying out the incongruencies between their operational needs and your services?

What to do with the answer: This is another strong data set for analysis to place in your churn spreadsheet. Having clients rate your team’s responsiveness and logging that score – along with categorising their specific critiques before listing them verbatim in a notes section – will allow you to derive insights that could improve small facets of your customer service.


How did we fit culturally with your organisation?

People tend to hire others who reflect their culture and values. The same goes for companies looking to partner with other firms. This answer – when aggregated – also allows you to paint a picture for your team of what changes are necessary to attract lookalike brands to invest in your products and services.

What to do with the answer: This is the most nuanced question on the list, since it’s based on feelings as opposed to objective answers. However, your subsequent analysis of answers over the quarters and years could lead to the creation of account-saving practices, as you better educate your team on how to reflect the norms your top customers expect (without sacrificing your firm’s culture, of course).


Did we provide all the resources and education you needed? And if not, what was missing?

Something many brands forget to do is teach their customers after onboarding is complete. The
product tutorial libraries, FAQ pages, and down-funnel content marketing pieces are helpful in the first year of the relationship, but not dedicating a sliver of your resources to continually engage, enlighten and challenge your clients can be a big miss when growing a long-term relationship.

What to do with the answer: Aggregating this feedback in a spreadsheet and revisiting it quarterly (or at least annually, if your client portfolio is smaller) can be a valuable tool to help you plan your content calendar and ABM cadence.


How is your business evolving from here?

This may get covered in the “why aren’t you renewing?” question, but it’s another inquiry that has industry-wide implications. While it should be clear if your solutions and products have gone stale, this question allows you to go deeper on needs and trends – lessons you can apply to upgrades to your solutions, your content marketing and your sales process.

What to do with this answer: This information should have a place in your CRM, too, as it could lay the groundwork for a refined ABM approach that wins the client back at a later date. But it should also be aggregated with answers from other churned clients in the same industry, with that cumulative data analysed quarterly or annually to make sure your brand isn’t falling behind on crucial industry needs.


The road from questions to results

Listing these questions, of course, is only the starting point. Finding the time, fortitude and patience to conduct these interviews will create data points that – if acted upon – could lead to significant business gains.

Here are three things to think about as you analyse the results for areas to improve:

  • Has your audience evolved?: Many markets change annually in small ways. If you receive answers you don’t expect about your churning clients’ needs, you may need to seek help redefining your ideal customer profiles (ICPs).
  • How many red flags come up about your content or messaging?: Communication issues – whether they’re errors, omissions or misinterpretations – can cost you long after the sale, too. Seeking help to improve your account-based marketing strategy could be the way forward.
  • Can you use this to build stronger cross-departmental relationships?: It’s easy to use disappointing client feedback to point fingers or deflect blame. But sharing this information with your peers while reinforcing the message that you’re all in this together can be a team building moment – and result in quality improvements.

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