A couple weeks ago, I shared with you my perspective and vision in regards to modernization processes. Modernizing your IT legacy – whether an app, a website, or an internal system – seems like a win-win for you and your customers. But some users may not see it this way. In fact, getting users to modernize with you can be a struggle, especially if they’re set in their ways.

The concept of losing users during a modernization is called customer churn. Customer churn is very real and can be costly for companies. We’re talking about 7 and up figures in annual loss. This phenomenon can happen for a variety of reasons, but during a modernization process, you’re mainly doing one thing. You’re introducing changes. Let me tell you, people usually tend to resist change, even if it is for the best.

We have faced this problem many times in the past, and we still face it during every endeavor we undertake with a new client. Let me share some thoughts on how you can minimize customer churn during software modernization.

What you think your users want is not necessarily what they actually want

Let’s start from this foundation. The fact that you think you know what they want doesn’t necessarily mean you’re right. Even if you are, I can bet that you’re missing very important pieces of information if you don’t talk with users before starting a modernization project.

So, let’s start with the first tip.

Don’t assume things that you can validate with data

In many business models, you should always think user-first. Users are a very important part of the engine that keeps your business running, but not the only one.

Many times during the modernization process, companies make a huge mistake. They think about “users” as people who pay for the product or service they provide. If this is how you see things, let me say one word… “employees.” During modernization projects, changes will impact your employees directly. The way they act, the way they perceive, the knowledge they have over the legacy… the list goes on and on.

In my opinion, employees are the first customers of any organization. They are the face of your organization and the ones working 8 hours a day to make your business grow. The last thing you want to have during a modernization project is unhappy, demotivated, frustrated and threatened employees.

Now that we have addressed that, let’s go back to the main topic. Ask your users what they want, what they need, what would make them happy, what would make their job easier, what are the gaps that need to be filled in order to make your product or service even more successful.

There are many different ways to do this, including interviews, surveys or even phone calls. Take the time to collect and analyze your data.

Of course you won’t blindly implement everything you get. You must understand the “why” behind every request and then make decisions.

During our modernization project with Valley Agricultural Software (VAS), we focused on the improvements customers actually wanted. Through user interviews and UX research, we discovered that VAS users wanted cloud-based data, offline support and customized reports. So, we built these features with their constant feedback as part of this modernization project. It’s as simple as that.

Don’t just change – improve

Often businesses believe that a shiny new app will be successful no matter what. Unfortunately, that’s not how customers tick. Users don’t want change for the heck of it, or updates for superficial reasons. They’ll always prefer real improvements.

Always think about why you’re doing what you’re doing, what is the actual problem you’re trying to solve, what is the gap you’re bridging. Maybe a redesign looks pretty awesome and modern, but the performance sucks. I’m sure that waiting minutes for an action that should be done in seconds on a prettier user interface doesn’t address the gap or solve the problem. We’ve all been there, right?

When you go to modernize an app, don’t just change – improve. Users will be thankful for your thoughtful updates that provide value instead of smoke and mirrors.

Map app improvements with users

Service and journey mapping are essential steps in the modernization process. With them, you can easily take a view from the ISS to how the user interacts with your service, what actions must be taken, when and why.

With this, you can segment your service and tackle specific problems on specific modules you want to modernize or improve and start mocking the future version.

Mocking-up new versions and putting them in front of your users and receiving feedback from them has many benefits:

  1. You can get some visual prototypes that will look and feel like the new version, for a very reduced investment.
  2. This prototype goes through several back and forth rounds of revision with real users before even reaching the programming stage. That way, you make sure what to implement during the development phase. This is actually what your users are expecting. You’ll delight your customers.
  3. Following the point above, this means almost no re-work. In other words, less time = less money.

Educate users on improvements

You may have created the best-modernized app ever. But if you don’t teach users how to handle the changes, you’ll run into trouble. Be sure to include an onboarding process for users, which could include tours, training, webinars, tutorials and/or demos. Whatever the case, it should be easy for users to find the information they need to successfully use the app.

Do you remember your “other” users?… Yes, those, your employees!

You should also provide onboarding sessions for them, so that they feel comfortable and confident with the new version. Explain to them how this change is something better for them and not something to worry about. Keep open communication and support. Remember, you are getting people out of their comfort zones. That’s why you should do all you can to keep them comfortable during the transition process. People take time to adapt to change (even if it’s for the better!).

Inspire trust with a strong support strategy

Users are fickle friends. They may have plenty of questions, problems and criticism to give you, and you’ll need to respond to it all. As you modernize an app, create a support strategy so that you can provide top-notch customer service to your users. This way, even when they get frustrated by something new, they’ll be amazed by your quick service in helping them. There’s no better plan than bolstering customer support so that users feel confident in the company even when they’re still learning the new product.

Analyze for the best IT architecture

Do your homework when it comes to deciding the IT architecture and infrastructure.
Here is your best opportunity to build the future for many years to come.

Scalability is key. Today you may have a set of features that will increase based on your product roadmap in three, five, or even 10 years.

While modernizing, you can get ready for where you want to be in the future.

There are many cloud-based services that provide a lot of flexibility and opportunities for you and your business. Don’t think about cloud services as an invoice that comes on a monthly basis. Instead, think about it as one of your main channels through which you can deliver value to your users. It’s the trampoline that will eventually help you to quickly scale, continuing to evolve.

Wrapping up

Wow, that was a lot! This is such an interesting topic to talk about. I tried to keep it as brief as possible. To conclude, avoiding customer churn can be tricky. However, these points will help you think through customer needs and problems within the modernization process. You’re sure to lose users if you don’t consider their experience first and find out how to address their issues quickly. Modernizing an app can only go smoothly if you help your users modernize with you.

“Together is better.” – Simon Sinek.