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Crafting the perfect dunning strategy | Danielle Rojas

Neel Desai Dec 15 2021

Forums and surveys are essential to understand the positives and problems your customers face. However, customer conversations cannot be manufactured. If you can’t go to your clientele you have to get creative. Sometimes, in the case of today’s guest, the voice of the customer program is a powerful way to connect.

On today’s episode of Retention Talk, I speak with Danielle Rojas, Manager of Customer Experience at LinkedIn. At the time of our interview, she was the Director of Customer Experience & Growth at GoSite. In the episode we talk about nailing the core principles of the voice of customer programs, getting a dedicated dunning strategy, and the two kinds of customer loyalty to focus on.

 

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Show takeaways

Key points discussed in the episode

 

We're looking at the entire ecosystem and trying to think about where we can get that insight and where do we not have that insight.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

– Danielle Rojas

Nailing the core principles of the Voice of the Customer Program

Every single interaction with your customer is either a value-add or a value-diminishing interaction. A VOC (voice of the customer program) survey can very easily be a value-diminishing action. Asking for a lot of information takes time. But it doesn’t have to be a survey per se. Get creative. Look at or evaluate through a community forum, review sites, and more.

 

If you don’t have a dedicated dunning strategy, get one

Having a sole, individual responsible for reaching out to customers about failed payments is better than nothing. However, adding some sophistication to the process isn’t as difficult as you might think. Sending automated emails or implementing win-back campaigns can go a long way… okay we may be a bit biased… we wrote the book on churn—literally.

 

The two kinds of customer loyalty to focus on: behavioral and attitudinal

Behavioral loyalty involves customers who are renewing month over month or year over year (depending on your payment term). Attitudinal loyalty is about willingness to trust the business, willingness to forgive bad experiences, and willingness to refer a friend. Evaluating this loyalty against net revenue and logo retention reveals discrepancies in order to close the gap.

 

Take Action:

A dunning strategy doesn’t have to be complex but it should be comprehensive. Luckily, we’re pretty experienced in this field and have plenty of advice to share.

Nevertheless, dunning is a process you have to work at. A great dunning process is the best way of finding out why a customer account is not sending you payments. It requires direct, sometimes repeated, communication with your customers and can sometimes turn into a long and unwieldy process. But a dunning process done right saves you potential customers, recovers lost revenue, and drives down delinquent churn.

You don’t need a lot to optimize your customer success strategy, but it should be a company-wide focus. The relationship with your customer is at the core of recurring revenue. Cementing these relationships has an immensely positive impact on your bottom line. 

Here are 5 best practices for your next dunning campaign:

 

1. Make your intentions & next steps CRYSTAL clear


It’s not unusual to get spam emails or false dunning letters from companies asking you for money. When composing a dunning email, choose your language and tone of voice carefully, and make sure the following are clearly expressed:

  • Who you are—a friendly agent from a trusted company
  • The payment type (credit card, automatic account withdrawal, etc.) and suggestions as to why the payment may have been declined
  • The amount and nature of the outstanding balance. For instance, “You’re on the $10 per month plan and owe $40 for the last four months.”
  • When you will process the next payment
  • A link back to your payment page and any further payment instructions

2. Get your subject line right

Subject lines are what get customers to open an email. Make sure it is professional and clear, so they know it’s important.

An example of a good subject line is, “Action required: Payment failure due to [EXPIRED CARD].” It’s direct and to the point. You can tailor your approach to your company’s general persona without sacrificing directness. For instance, Spotify, which takes a more informal approach to customer communication, will give a dunning email a subject line that reads, “Oh no, your payment failed.”

Don’t use poorly automated subject lines that look like spam (“Account NO#X9999903 Payment Query .x”), poorly contextualized subject lines (“Payment Due Now”), or subject lines that take an altogether too chummy approach (“There’s a Payment We’d Like to Talk to You About”). Bad dunning emails are not only likely to get your customers reaching for the spam button—they risk damaging the trust your customer has in you.


3. Be empathetic

Now that you have your customer’s attention, be empathetic. View them as a customer, not as a debtor, and approach the correspondence with the same tact and friendliness you would when trying to make any other garden-variety sale. Remember, the dunning process is an opportunity to recover lost revenue.

And the recoverable revenue is not restricted to the last payment that didn’t go through. Make a point of telling the customer that you want to make sure they keep enjoying your services into the future as well.

What you must absolutely not do is blame your customer. Chances are your customer is completely unaware of the following:

  • that their payment hasn't gone through 
  • why their payment wouldn’t have gone through

Explain why their payment wasn’t made with as many details as you can provide. Your customer is smart—they'll sniff out your assumptions about them if you signal your doubt in their good intentions to pay what they owe. Doing so will reduce the likelihood of actually receiving that payment (if for no other reason, a customer being harassed by their service provider is highly likely to churn).


4. Keep it concise

No one likes to receive long, depressing emails about making payments. A couple of paragraphs, and sound formatting choices can get the job done in a dunning email.

If you’re including technical information about payment plans or aspects of service, use lists and bullet points to make the information digestible. Make sure that any key metrics or other points (e.g., deadline dates, amounts due) are in bold text to draw the reader’s eye.

And remember, most people read their emails on a mobile device—format accordingly!


5. Know when to stop

The verb “to dun” literally means to harry someone with unwanted information. Perhaps that’s the source of its bad reputation, come to think of it.

While you should see it as an opportunity to recover lost revenue, there’s still a point where you have to let go and accept that a customer may be lost. If you have sent four emails over the last payment period with no response, it might be a good time to stop and terminate the service you’re providing to that customer.


 


If you’d like more insight into your own retention—or even a free retention audit where we can benchmark you with actual relevant data—reach out to me at neel@profitwell.com.

 


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By Neel Desai

Product Lead, ProfitWell

Subscription market insights you won't find anywhere else.