Customer Retention in SaaS: Best Practices for Subscription-Based Models

Churn, by nature, is baked into the SaaS industry. Whenever you run a subscription-based company, a certain percentage of users will inevitably churn. There’s no getting around it. That said, you want to stay on top of turnover and do everything you can to maximize SaaS customer retention.

To quantify, revenue intelligence company Gong says you should aim to keep your churn rate under 3%.

In this post, we’ll go over ultra-practical steps you can take to accomplish this, while also providing your customers with a consistently positive experience.

Start with Retention Analytics Reports to See the Big Picture

Like any sound business decision, it’s important to start with objective data so you can see what’s happening and what’s causing the bulk of users to leave. To obtain this data, I suggest using a customer journey analytics tool like Woopra.

It offers detailed retention analytics reports that let you:

  • Measure your churn rate
  • See how long customers use your product before churning
  • Determine why you’re losing customers
  • Identify specific areas of improvement that can lower your churn rate in the future

For instance, you can get a bird’s-eye view of your churn rate over time.

You can see how many customers return after using a core product feature.


You can see what your product retention rate is for mobile users…

..and much more.

Armed with this data, you’ll be able to diagnose any leaks that are contributing to higher-than-ideal churn so you’ll know which areas need your attention. That way, every decision you make is based on tangible evidence rather than merely going on a hunch.

Identify At-Risk Customers

Another helpful feature of retention analytics is that it can help you identify at-risk customers — those that have a higher-than-average chance of churning.

Say, for example, a particular customer hasn’t logged into their account for an extended period of time or is engaging with your product far less than most other users. They would likely have a higher chance of churning than another user who logs in every day and frequently uses a variety of product features.

By proactively catching at-risk customers before they leave, it gives you an opportunity to create a better experience and appeal to them before it’s too late, thus increasing their chances of hanging around longer.

Here are a few potential ways to do that:

  • Have a team member reach out to the at-risk customer directly to see what they can do to improve their experience
  • Provide resources to help the customer get the most out of your product
  • Offer an incentive such as a discount to encourage them to keep using your product

Note that any feedback gained through team member interactions should be logged so it can be used to prevent similar issues from happening in the future. For example, if a customer mentions that a specific product feature is frequently glitchy, you would want to fix it ASAP.

Optimize SaaS Onboarding

Research by customer success platform Retently found that the number one leading cause of churn is poor onboarding, accounting for 23% of overall churn.

And this makes complete sense. Just put yourself in the shoes of a new customer who is initially excited about using your SaaS product. However, after experiencing an excessive amount of friction during onboarding, they could quickly sour and jump ship to another competitor.

If this happens at scale, you can have a serious churn crisis on your hands. That’s why efficient onboarding should be a top priority for every SaaS company.

By making onboarding smooth and seamless, this not only minimizes early churn, it sets the tone for long-term rapport-building so you can maximize customer lifetime value and get more loyal brand advocates.

Here are some specific ways to optimize SaaS onboarding:

  • Send welcome emails with tips on how to efficiently learn how to use your product
  • Offer an extensive onboarding resource section with tutorials and walkthroughs
  • Create a detailed troubleshooting and support section for users who run into issues
  • Provide every user with a point of contact if they need one-on-one assistance

Also, be sure to continually ask for feedback so you can identify problem areas that need work.

Rev Up SaaS Customer Support

Unsurprisingly, poor customer support is another chief reason for SaaS turnover, with 14% of users leaving because of lackluster customer support.

I think this is an issue that nearly everyone can relate to. Personally, I’ve found this to be something that’s turned me off from continuing to use tools, and I’ve switched to other products because of bad customer support. After all, nothing is more frustrating than having an issue and struggling to find a quick resolution, especially after you’ve spent good money on a product.

The bottom line is that you should strive to offer A+ customer support, where users can seamlessly get assistance without jumping through a bunch of hoops.

Here are some suggestions for achieving that:

  • Offer 24/7 support through a variety of channels, including phone, live chat, email, and social media
  • Create a self-help center where users can find solutions to common issues
  • Provide walkthroughs on product updates so users can easily learn new features
  • Follow up with customers after they seek support to ensure their issues have been fully resolved

For more details on creating amazing customer support, I suggest reading this guide from Help Scout.

Making Customer Retention a Top Priority

SaaS is an incredibly competitive industry, and excessive customer turnover can make it incredibly difficult to gain any momentum. After all, if you’re on a hamster wheel of continually replacing lost customers, your progress will be minimal.

However, by following best practices like implementing retention analytics, identifying at-risk customers before they leave, optimizing onboarding, and fine-tuning customer support, you should keep churn in check and boost overall customer lifetime value. Not to mention, it makes for a more enjoyable customer experience, which sets your business up for long-term success.

Ready to build an elite team of SaaS salespeople? Register with HireDNA to attract, recruit, and retain the best of the best.

Use These Metrics to Ensure Continuous Improvement in Sales Candidate Sourcing and Screening

Like in most areas of business, I’m a firm believer in incremental progress with sales candidate sourcing and screening. I find that, in most cases, major progress doesn’t happen overnight, but gradually over time.

It’s all about creating an initial process, continuously analyzing that process by looking at the right KPIs, and using your findings to make data-driven decisions to spark tangible improvements. Following that logic, let’s look at some essential metrics that can help you drastically improve the initial stages of sales recruiting.

Volume of Candidates Per Source

Starting from the top, it’s important to know how productive each sales recruiting source is. While this won’t necessarily indicate the quality of each source (we’ll get to that in a second), it should give you a baseline of which sources are producing the most sales candidates.

Here’s an example of what that could look like:

  • 30% – Job boards
  • 20% – LinkedIn
  • 20% – Other social networks
  • 10% – Your website careers page
  • 10% – Referrals
  • 10% – Other sources

Having a basic breakdown like this is helpful for understanding which of your sales recruiting efforts are bringing candidates to you. So if you’re putting a ton of time and money into a particular channel and it’s getting minimal results, it would either need tweaking or you may want to scrap it altogether and focus on other channels that are carrying their weight.

Screening Assessment Completion and Pass Rate

From the screening side of things, there are two main metrics that should shed insight into how effective your current system is and if anything needs changing.

First, there’s the assessment completion rate, which is the percentage of sales candidates that successfully complete any assessments or tests that are part of your screening process. What you’re trying to avoid here is a low completion rate, as this may indicate that your current screening process is too long or complex.

If, for instance, you find that only a small fraction of candidates are making it through the assessment, you may want to trim back the number of questions or exercises and simplify it. The end goal is to find the sweet spot, where you can accurately assess candidates without creating a negative experience.

Also, it’s helpful to look at the pass rate. If your current pass rate is extremely high, this may mean your screening assessment is too easy, which may reduce overall salesperson quality. On the other hand, if the pass rate is overly low, it may mean your screening assessment is too difficult.

Getting it just right will likely require some trial and error, but with some ongoing adjustments, you should be able to optimize it.

Number of Qualified Candidates Per Source

I think we can all agree that effective sales candidate sourcing isn’t just about getting a large volume of candidates. You need to ensure you’re getting qualified candidates.

At HireDNA, for example, we vet sales candidates by examining a wide variety of selling competencies, such as motivation, responsibility, relationship-building, and the ability to handle rejection.

To get your sales candidate sourcing to a high level and ensure it’s continually improving, it’s important to measure how many qualified candidates you get from each source. By “qualified,” I mean candidates with the essential skills and experience for the sales positions you’re hiring for.

Say, for instance, job boards are bringing in the majority of sales candidates. However, only a small percentage of those candidates are truly qualified. You would likely want to improve your job postings to filter out unqualified candidates more effectively. Or, you may want to put less effort on job boards and double down on a different sales recruiting channel that’s bringing in a larger percentage of qualified candidates.

These are just hypotheticals, but you get the idea. The end goal is to find sales recruiting channels that bring in a sizable number of candidates while ensuring the majority of those candidates are qualified. If you can do that successfully, you’ve already won half the battle.

Interview Acceptance Rate

Now let’s talk about the next step in the process — measuring the number of candidates who agree to an interview for a sales position.

This is pretty straightforward, where you simply divide the number of candidates who agree to an interview by the total number of candidates during a given period.

So if four out of 10 candidates agreed to an interview, there would be a 40% acceptance rate.

From my experience, 20 to 30% is about the norm for the application-to-interview rate. This, of course, can vary depending on the exact sales position you’re hiring for. An entry-level sales rep position, for example, would likely have a higher acceptance rate than an account manager.

But if your rate is at 20% or higher, you should be in fairly good shape. That said, going higher to 30%, 40%, or more is even better.

Source to Hire Rate

Going one step further, it’s extremely helpful to know what percentage of successful hires come from each recruiting channel. That way, you not only know which sources are leading to the most interviews but which are leading to the most job offers.

Identifying this should help you figure out which channels are getting the best results, which should translate into more offer-worthy candidates later on. Again, there may be one channel that is driving the lion’s share of candidates, but only a small percentage are converting into actual job offers.

If that’s the case, you would likely want to reassess that channel and either figure out ways to make it more productive or shift your focus to other channels that are getting better results.

Keeping Your Sales Candidate Sourcing and Screening Going Strong

You never want to take your foot off the gas with sales recruiting, and optimizing it should never been seen as a one-off type of deal. Focusing heavily on the initial part of sales hiring in the sourcing and screening phases is particularly important, as it helps set up the subsequent phases.

A big part of improving involves leveraging the right metrics like the ones mentioned above, which should give you an objective overview of what’s working and what’s not so you know exactly what to focus on.

If you’re looking to filter through your sales candidate pool to find the best of the best, I suggest using The Objective Management Group Sales Assessment. It accurately predicts which candidates will thrive in your unique sales environment, with 92% of recommended candidates going on to reach the top half of their sales force. Learn more here.

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