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Best practices for customer retention automation

Customer retention automation is one of the best ways to supercharge your customer relationships and boost your bottom line through technology.

According to a study by Paddle, if you increase the number of new customers by 1%, your profits go up by a little over 3%.¹ However, if you reduce the number of customers leaving your service – often referred to as churn – by 1%, it can boost your overall profits by about 7%.

This significant difference in profits speaks to the impact that customer retention can have on a business's results. Retaining your existing customer base is not just a way to prevent losses, but a potent driver of increased profitability.

One of the key strategies in customer retention is staying ahead of the curve throughout the entire customer journey. Further, you want to be able to anticipate customers’ needs before they even arise, enabling you to improve their experience with proactive support

This is where automation comes into the picture. By allowing companies to automatically and efficiently handle different customer journeys at scale, automation platforms can help ensure that your business rarely loses customers. 

In this article, you’ll learn more about automated customer retention and the positive impact it has on companies. In addition, you’ll discover the best practices for nurturing long-term customer relationships.

What is customer retention?

Customer retention refers to a company’s ability to retain its paying customers over time, cultivating them into loyal, long-term buyers. Customer retention measures how successfully businesses are satisfying and retaining existing clients, no matter what stage of growth they’re in.

In addition, customer retention is one of the most important bottom-line metrics for any software as a service (SaaS) or subscription-based business. It’s the Holy Grail metric to measure the impact of customer onboarding, product tours, feedback, and more – all key elements of a proactive support strategy.

What is customer retention automation?

Customer retention automation uses platforms and creates processes to keep customers loyal to the business. Retention automation saves your team from the constant need to personally engage with each customer to identify and tackle churn risk.

How does customer retention automation work?

A customer retention strategy has the potential to be highly effective at reducing customer disengagement by taking a proactive approach. Rather than waiting for customers to disengage, companies need to anticipate potential issues to avoid churn.

Different customers can have different individual journeys with the same product or service. Recognizing these distinctions is essential to providing customers with the right information at the right moment – strategies that are tailored to their individual usage.

Addressing these unique customer journeys can be a challenging task, and this is where customer retention automation can be a valuable asset. Automation empowers businesses to act proactively in retaining their customers, even when those customers are deviating from what might be considered a typical or expected journey.

Here’s an example of how two different customers could experience the same retention campaign:

Source: Intercom Customer Retention Starter Kit

What is the impact of customer retention automation?

Higher customer lifetime value (CLV)

These two metrics are positively linked: as retention rate goes up, so does the customer lifetime value (CLV). Automation streamlines personalized outreach to make retention gains that exponentially grow CLV.

Customer lifetime value represents the total projected revenue expected to be generated from a customer over the duration of their relationship with your business. The longer you can retain a customer, the more substantially they’ll contribute to your bottom line, making customer retention a key driver for maximizing CLV.

Increased number of loyal users over time

Retention is often the initial step that sets the stage for customer loyalty over time. We believe proactive support can directly impact engagement and retention, and each interaction becomes a chance to build lasting customer relationships.

Lower churn among existing customers

Customer retention and churn are inversely correlated. As retention increases, churn decreases, and vice versa. It’s also crucial to remember that lowering churn can bring more profits than acquiring new customers. 

In simple terms, focusing on keeping your existing customers can be more than twice as effective as attracting new ones.

How to automate customer retention?

When considering customer retention automation, there are several key actions that can significantly benefit your efforts:

1. Make customer onboarding a standout experience

Providing an outstanding onboarding experience for new customers is key for retention and engagement. Customers who feel successful and supported from day one are much more likely to stick around long-term.

Research from ProfitWell found that software customers who were satisfied with their initial onboarding were far less likely to churn within the first 21 days of use.²

For SaaS companies in particular, customers require extra guidance as they familiarize themselves with new software and features. This is a testing period when users will decide if the product is a good fit for their needs and evaluate how it compares with competitors.

This means that the onboarding period is a critical time to support your users and ensure they are getting the most possible value from your product or service.  To implement automated customer retention for SaaS, it’s critical that you create an effective onboarding series that fully automates the process from start to finish, tailored to the specific context of how your customers use your product.

To make the best out of your onboarding process, there are a few factors you should keep in mind:

  • Map out possible customer paths to understand different profiles and define the onboarding journeys.

  • Set clear milestones, outlining what the customers will learn or achieve during the onboarding and how to help them reach their “Aha” moment.

  • Anticipate pain points by gathering feedback to uncover where users struggle, so you can proactively offer solutions for potential issues.

  • Develop strategies to re-engage users who may not complete the onboarding process.

While the onboarding process requires careful planning and attention to detail, a good customer service solution makes it simpler to visualize and implement it.

Take a look at how Intercom allows you to create an onboarding series with a code-free builder:

2. Set up product tours for new feature demonstrations

Customers don't usually forget about a product or service; rather, they’re more likely to simply lose interest in it over time. To retain users, you must continue engaging them throughout their journey.

From onboarding signups to showcasing new features, automated product tours improve adoption across the customer lifecycle.

Some important tips for an effective product tour include:

  • Welcome new customers and let them progress to the next step by typing in or clicking on website elements.

  • Display tours automatically to a specific audience on particular pages, such as new features for paying customers.

  • Proactively assist customers by incorporating tours into conversations, messages, and chatbots.

  • Re-engage inactive customers by sharing tours through emails, or engage existing customers by linking tours within your product.

  • Create a more personal tour using video pointers to guide customers through your product.

3. Automate feedback and customer data collection

Your customers really want to know that their voices are being heard and that their suggestions are actually making a difference in shaping your product or service. 

To help you with that, set up automated feedback surveys at the right time and place as part of your customer retention automation strategy.

With the assistance of an in-app survey tool, you can ask them questions like “Which feature would you most like us to add next?” or "Why did you choose this feature?"

Collecting customer feedback when it matters most is an incredible asset, allowing you to learn which product gaps are most glaring to your customers, and giving you the opportunity to make meaningful improvements.

Using tools such as Intercom’s Surveys makes the data collection process more effective by asking customers about your product on-page – exactly when and where it’s most top of mind.

Just remember to take action on the feedback you receive, and circle back with your customers to let them know when you've added the features they asked for. This can go a long way in demonstrating to them that their voices are being heard and valued.

4. Improve and analyze cancellation flow

Even cancellations provide opportunities for understanding what’s working and if there's room for improvements. By crafting a customized cancellation flow that actively listens to customers’ feedback, you can gain valuable insights into what areas of your business are in greatest need of improvement. 

During the cancellation process, you can orchestrate messaging campaigns based on targeted questions that uncover real-time perspectives on concerns or unmet needs.

For example, by asking for specific feedback, you may discover that a customer didn't go through proper onboarding. Then, at the final cancellation page, you can show them a guide on the best way to get started if they’re still interested. 

And if the reason for cancellation is about your pricing? There’s also the opportunity to automatically offer a renewal at a discount, or give them the option for a subscription pause, instead of opting for a full cancellation. 

To make the best of your customer retention automation, evaluate each outcome and continually test different counteroffers for the optimal approach.

Read more about: How to learn from churn – designing good user offboarding.

5. Choose a centralized platform

It's important to choose a solution that can aggregate all relevant customer data in one place. This includes information from e-commerce platforms, email marketing, social media profiles and activity, website, web forms, CRM, and more.

Retention strategies rely on gaining a holistic view of customers’ behaviors and interactions across their whole journey. For this reason, an automated customer service platform is a valuable tool that integrates automation features for implementing these strategies.

Our sponsored research, Future‑Proofing Businesses with Modern Customer Engagement, reveals that many businesses lack the integrated tools needed to provide personal, in-context communications.³

Outdated tools prevent companies from engaging customers in a timely and personalized way. It’s no surprise that nearly half (48%) of respondents say they are investing in new or improved customer engagement technologies, including customer relationship management (CRM) and artificial intelligence, in the next 18 months.

6. Automate customer support for speedy resolutions

More than ever before, customers expect quick resolutions whenever they have questions or issues. They demand swift, precise answers to their queries related to support. 

By leveraging modern customer support technologies such as AI chatbots, automation, and proactive messaging, you can automatically solve basic inquiries and frequently asked questions for customers. 

These tools allow around-the-clock availability while also empowering customers with a self-service option to find solutions on their own. This gives them the ability to easily help themselves, which cultivates high levels of satisfaction and strengthens loyalty to your brand.

📌 Learn how to make customers stick around: Download The Customer Retention Starter Kit.

7. Personalize customer experience at scale

Today, customers expect personalized and in-context interactions. In practice, this means that companies should be automatically sending the right message to the right person at the right time, such as when they are using your product, app or website.

A McKinsey & Company report found that 78% of customers are more likely to make repeat purchases from companies that personalize communications.⁴ 

The report also reveals that 71% of consumers now view personalized experiences as a basic expectation. Moreover, companies that prioritize personalization experiences can generate 40% more revenue compared with those that don’t.

Automated systems keep an eye on customer data and tweak experiences in real-time. This ensures that customers always get the most relevant and personalized interactions.

Check out some tips on how to personalize your customers’ experiences:

  • Avoid one-size-fits-all messages. Instead, personalize them so that they feel relevant for each customer.

  • Use a conversational style that feels more like one-on-one communication.

  • Ensure messages are relevant to the individual customer's context and needs.

  • Assign messages to the right team based on criteria like language or keyword.

Automated customer retention examples


Many businesses encounter the same dilemma: How can we achieve highly personalized customer engagement that improves retention while maintaining efficiency and selecting the most cost-effective technology for scaling this effort?

That was the case for Amplitude, an intelligence platform that provides digital product tools that help teams run and grow their businesses.

When the company implemented Intercom, their customer success team built an onboarding program called “activation autopilot,” which focused on getting users up and running with their use cases as quickly as possible. 

Craig Vincent, Head of Global Success Programs, Customer Success, at Amplitude says:

“Activation autopilot has shown some really strong results. In less than a year, we’ve been able to raise our activation levels by 11% across the board, which means that users who participated in the program built 11% more charts in their journey than users who didn’t. It’s had a tremendous impact, especially when you consider how big and broad our customer base is. So, Intercom definitely plays a role in our goal of driving higher net dollar retention.”

Being able to meet customers where they are has played a crucial role in the success of Amplitude's program. 

Using Intercom's in-app messaging features, Amplitude can effectively reach customers at the appropriate location with precisely tailored messages that inspire action.


Bitly, a well-known tool for shortening links, had a big challenge following their early success. The company needed to find a way to balance a free product with becoming the enterprise Link Management Platform that marketers were telling them they needed to be. 

To address that challenge, Bitly devised an ambitious plan to rebuild their platform, while being able to handle communication at key points along the customer journey, including onboarding, retention, and product updates.

Almost two years after the initial platform release, a new version emerged – one that the customers actively contributed to shaping. Remarkably, user engagement and customer retention remained strong across all segments throughout the migration process. 

What's even more impressive is that Bitly managed to boost engagement and retention by an impressive 15% in the quarters that followed.

“We've had incredible user growth on both our free platform and paid platforms. A big portion of that is the engagement driven through Intercom.”

Dan Touchette, Director of Mobile and Enterprise Product at Bitly.

Proactive customer support is key to customer retention

A good customer support is the anchor that keeps your customers securely tethered to your business. In fact, 32% of consumers have cited poor customer service as their primary reason for ending their relationship with a brand.⁵

However, by being proactive in your support efforts, you can reduce the volume of queries reaching your support team while elevating customer satisfaction and retention rates.

Nowadays, customers assume that highly accessible, near-instantaneous support is the norm. If your current customer service doesn't meet these expectations, you run the risk of losing your customers to a competitor who does.

More and more leaders are unlocking the power of automation. In our State of AI in Customer Service report, 67% of support leaders believe they are already seeing value from their automation efforts.⁶

An automated customer retention platform is essential to meeting customers where and when they need support through proactive outreach. Using the right mix of automation and human-led support tools, you can seamlessly address issues across all customer touchpoints.

Are you ready to be more proactive and kickstart your customer retention automation? Ask for a demo or start a free trial today.

What’s next for your automation efforts? Read more:


¹ Paddle, Customer Acquisition.

² Profitwell, Product Onboarding Study.

³ Intercom sponsored Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, Future-Proofing Businesses with Modern Customer Engagement. Survey conducted with 317 business leaders across a range of industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, technology, financial services, and more, in April 2022.

⁴ McKinsey and Company, The Imperatives for Automation Success. The online survey was in the field from February 4 to February 14, 2020, and garnered responses from 1,179 participants representing the full range of regions, industries, company sizes, functional specialties, and tenures.

⁵ PwC, Customer Loyalty Survey 2022. PwC surveyed 4,036 consumers in the US between May 5 and May 19, 2022.

⁶ Intercom, State of AI in Customer Service Report 2023. We surveyed 1,013 global customer service leaders and practitioners.