Dear Abby Hammer - Handling Unresponsive Customers

By Abby Hammer posted 01-15-2021 11:25 AM



Dear Abby Hammer,

A few of my CSMs are facing customers who have stopped responding to calls or emails. Between our customers working from home and the start of summer, it is hard to tell if non-responsiveness should be a cause for concern.

How can my team re-engage these customers? Can ChurnZero identify which “silent accounts” need extra attention? I’d like to quell my team’s concerns and ensure we’re providing support to the accounts that need it.

 -Gone Dark, or A Goner?



Dear Gone Dark or A Goner,

Dealing with unresponsive customers can be frustrating even during the best of times. With the added uncertainty all of us are currently facing, I’m not surprised that customers who have ‘gone dark’ are giving your team pause. Between SaaS buyers scrutinizing their purchases more than ever, the end of the quarter, and the start of vacation, it’s difficult to determine what should be cause for concern and what shouldn’t!

If you’re struggling with a customer who’s missing-in-action, consider this tiered approach. It will help you identify whether an unresponsive customer is a cause for concern and provide some strategies for re-engaging these customers. Check them out below:

Review Usage Data

If you are concerned about customers who have gone dark, your team’s first step should be reviewing your customers’ usage data. Remember – an unresponsive client is not necessarily an immediate concern. During the summer months, many people take vacation time or work limited hours, and their product usage may decline temporarily. Oftentimes there is an explanation!

First, use ChurnZero’s reporting to pull usage data that captures a specific user’s engagement with your product. How much time are they spending in-app, for example? Are they logging in regularly? If that person is indeed using your product regularly, then this is a great opportunity for you to send an In-App message to capture their attention. However, if the data shows the user has little to no activity, this is where you’ll need to dig a little deeper.

As a second step, review the usage data of that customer’s colleagues. One inactive user could be attributed to things such as a job change, leave, or vacation. However, if you review and find that all users at a company have gone dark, this should be a cause for concern.  A significant decline in usage may signal changing customer priorities and an increased risk of churn.

Take a Value-Based Approach to Outreach

By now, your team has likely tried the usual tactics to re-engage your customers. Assuming those customers never responded, consider approaches like sharing useful content or humor. These can be sent via email, in-app message, or any other way you typically communicate with your customers.

Your goal is to provide an item of value without necessarily asking for something in return. Often, the best way to cut through the clutter is to engage your customer in ways like these:

  • Share Useful Content
    • Look up news about your customer’s company. Connect this information to the reason you’re reaching out to them.
      • For instance, if a customer recently received funding, say “Congrats on your recent round of funding. I know you must be super busy and I was wondering if I can grab 30 minutes, as I have some ideas how we can make your teams’ lives easier."
    • Alternatively, consider what content (industry related, product related, etc.) would be of value to this specific client. This could be a benchmark report, blog post or even a webinar. A client who is busy or overworked is likely to ignore a meeting request if no clear value is offered. Sharing useful content shows helpfulness and demonstrates the value you bring. Even if they don't respond, what you’ve shared may still help them!
  • Humor
    • Leading with something of value should be your first line of defense for reengaging a customer. That said, humor can provide a great way to engage with hard-to-reach customers by leveraging the element of surprise.
      • Consider fun subject lines like “Free Puppies.” I mean who wouldn’t open an email with a subject like that!
      • Share a funny GIF or photo to break the ice. “You’re probably wondering why I sent you a GIF of a..."

Put on Your ‘Sales’ Hat

Occasionally cleverly crafted messages and fun GIFs won’t cut it, and you’ll need to take the professionally persistent approach. Sound familiar? It’s an approach that many of our colleagues in sales have mastered. Here are a few more ideas to re-engage your customer if softer approaches have failed:

  • Approach your Customer via a New Medium
    • Social selling is all the rage. Sales teams now find that their prospects/customers spend more time than ever on social media. Consider the various mediums your customers use. A LinkedIn InMail or even Twitter DM may be all you need to cut through the static.
  • Send One Final (Heartfelt) Note
    • Sometimes all it takes is one final note with a human touch. Consider approaching from the "Are you okay? I'm worried about you" angle. A subject line with “Are you okay?” is seldom ignored
  • Consider Other Points of Entry
    • Sometimes when all other attempts fail, you need to look at others in the team. Send notes to related stakeholders like Executive sponsors or contract signers to express your concern.  

-Abby Hammer