Creating customers for life: how strategic contract management can enhance customer experience

See how improved contracting operations can directly affect your ability to acquire and retain happy, lifelong customers.

In your services organization, is there anything more important than the act of acquiring and retaining customers? It’s the foundation at which your organization was built and at the end of the day will be what helps you grow, or what will keep you stagnant. It’s why you’ve built teams of people, from sales and partnerships to support and account management to quality assurance and beyond, who focus on gathering new and maintaining the satisfaction of that customer base.  

Don’t worry, I’m not here to remind you what you already know, which is: customers matter. But, what if I were to tell you that there is probably a laundry list of daily business functions that relate directly to customer acquisition and retention that are likely not even on your service-minded radar? It’s easy to get caught up in the standardization or monotony of a daily routine, making it difficult to ask questions like – is there a better way to do this, how does this job function affect the entire operation overall?  

Today, we’re going to focus on contracting. As mentioned, we know there’s nothing more important than creating new relationships and ensuring the ones that you have created go the distance – how do these relationships begin? With a mutually beneficial and agreed upon contract. Let’s take a look at the lifecycle of a customer, and identify the areas that can be approved in that journey, specifically when it comes to contracting:  

1. Getting the sale: prospecting, negotiating, forecasting, and more.

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. It’s no surprise that your sales team has one focus: closing deals. While that seems like an obvious statement, it might surprise you that most companies that have taken the time to implement contract management systems don’t often include or start with this team, which, as repeatedly stated, is built foundationally on the contracts they’re able to bring into the building. As your sales team works within their own CRM or system, how can strategic contract management lead to your ultimate goal of getting agreements signed as fast as possible.  

Creating contracts:

Regardless of the type of service you’re providing, each contract created is unique to the potential partner or customer that you’re hoping to do business with. While sales is focused on getting to the finish line as fast as possible, executive leadership, legal, and operations teams are more worried about the specific details within that agreement, i.e. are we adhering to pricing and service structures mandated across the organization, what is the current scope and timeline of the project, were standard SLAs adjusted to reach signature, and beyond.  

Contract lifecycle management systems (CLMs) can feed data into, or pull data out of the systems your sales team is working in, to not only protect revenue and compliance standards set by your organization, but also to significantly streamline the creation of these agreements, pulling that customer-specific data into a pre-defined and approved template, and sending it an approval workflow of your choosing. This unmatched internal collaboration speeds up the contract process for a potential customer, providing them with a flawless, transparent, and trusted sales experience that sets your relationship off on the right foot.  

Negotiating contracts:

When starting on your own paper, it’s easy to discount the affect CLM might have on the negotiation process, since you’ve already created a compliant contract from your own internal system. However, in this case, sophisticated CLMs that have taken time to connect with other systems like Microsoft Word or GoogleDocs to ensure that if there are negotiations, your potential customers can work seamlessly in systems they’re used to working in, while changes can ultimately be tracked, recorded, and stored, and then important updates be sent directly to internal stakeholders and systems, like a CRM.  

Trends and forecasting:

While the concept of forecasting might not seem like it has any correlation to the customer experience, let’s dig a little deeper. First, how do contracts connect? Forecasting is useless if you’re not using accurate data, again this information can be taken from a central source of truth, like a CLM and fed into individual systems that are used to create these reports. Now, how does that affect the customer experience? In forecasting, we’re looking to not only see what we have coming in but what trends we see and how the sales process is performing overall. Enter: scope creep. Deals where the close date is being continuously adjusted, or where implementation needs and overall price of the project is changing, these factors are directly affected by or affecting the beginning of this customer’s journey. It’s important to be aware of things like this, when built on trusted data, so you can shift and adjust processes, pricing and packaging, how you forecast, or whatever you may find as the underlying issue now that the data has become liberated and actionable.  

2. Keeping the customer: retention, upsell, and creating customers for life.

Onto phase two, the sale is over and often the management of this customer is transferred to a new team, that works in yet another disparate system, and whose goal is to maximize the rest of the lifetime of this client. Now, while customer service management systems and even some more extensive CRM systems might house most of the day-to-day functions, how can strategic contract management ultimately prolong the longevity of this customer relationship?  

Renewals, retention, and upsell:

Now, obviously the performance of the service itself has a major contributing factor into how customer experience progresses, but what administrative processes can be improved upon to further enhance that experience, simple changes that can directly affect the trust and attitude that a lifelong customer might have. We come back here to the concept of liberated data. While close dates and pricing tiers might flow directly into a CRM, the more nuanced SLA requirements, details of contract lengths and renewal options, etc. can also be surfaced. This data is then sent to account managers, customer service personnel, or directly to the systems they work in. You’re positioned to create meaningful, personalized, and timely conversations with customers with no additional effort required of your team.

Let’s talk takeaways:

There are administrative processes and daily business functions that, once reviewed, improved, and streamlined, can directly affect the customer experience. While it might not be something that they directly see, it can create speedy service and negotiations, personalized offerings and renewal/upsell management, and unmatched trust with a service provider, creating customers for life.  

Read more about how CLM can transform the customer experience, and your contracting workflow as a whole.

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