Jumpstart Customer Satisfaction with Better Contract Management

From signing NDAs to renewing sales terms, rocky contract experiences send prospects and customers running for the hills. Contract management plays a major role in overall customer experience. In fact, 61% of consumers say they’ll switch to a competitor after one bad service experience.

But if you offer a smooth and effortless process, contract management becomes much more than another internal process—it becomes a competitive advantage.

How contract management impacts customer retention

Think of contract management as one of the building blocks of an exceptional customer experience. If you deliver ease and efficiency during onboarding and implementation, your customers will stick around. If you can’t, you’re leaving money on the table.

Benefits of getting contract management right

Even one bad experience can cause customers to walk away from your company. If your contract management process is complicated or prone to error, you risk losing customers to your competitors.

An improved contract management process results in:

Fewer process hiccups and less friction

Data errors, complicated approval processes and disorganized handoffs all have the potential to frustrate customers. In a survey of contracting professionals, 33% said human error negatively impacts the customer experience.

As Docusign’s Senior Director, Strategic Services Group, Jeff Piper says, he sees experience bottlenecks all the time.

“A customer calls to retrieve their contract, and a request goes to customer service who has to find the physical copy, digitize it and send it back,” he says. “But what if the contract isn’t in their desk drawer? What if it’s stored in a digital filing cabinet with limited access or it’s five miles away in another facility? At that point, it becomes a degraded customer experience.”

Consider your customers’ journey. Which parts are seamless and where are they likely to face hurdles? Looking at the whole picture helps you simplify the process and figure out how to make each customer’s next steps effortless.

Examples of reducing friction include:

  • Triggering an onboarding email sequence once a customer signs up for your product
  • Automating notifications to ensure contract events like renewals or terminations are never missed
  • Digitizing the approvals process instead of doing it on paper to speed up the signing process

With each point of friction you eliminate, you make the customer experience easier and more engaging.

Knowledgeable, caring employees

When customers have a problem or need help with their contracts, empowered staff are the difference between disappointment and a great experience. An “I’ll go get that for you, no problem” mentality doesn’t just make customers happier. It’s also an opportunity to make more sales.

When an empowered employee visits a customer and notices they need a service outside of the current agreement, they can help them sign up for an enhanced service plan on the spot through a mobile device.

To fully enhance a customer’s experience, employees need visibility into their customer’s available options. If your employees are up-to-date on what they can and can’t provide, they can ensure they meet customer experience expectations and fulfill their obligations.

Satisfied customers who stay customers

Every industry has its own standards for CSAT but one thing is true across the board: Low wait time throughout the different stages of a contracting process is always a good thing. In a 2023 survey, 31% of customers who experienced delayed support for products and services they purchased said they suffered actual emotional distress as a result. “Emotional distress” isn’t a KPI any business wants to see increase.

With that in mind, look at your internal processes and track how long customers are waiting at each step of the contract-approving journey. Then use that information to set new benchmarks.

A pro-tip if you’re looking to boost CSAT: Give your customers self-service options. If a customer wants to access past contracts or review current terms, there’s no reason to send them to a call center. Good contract management takes helps your staff and gives customers access to a range of self-service tools.

A modern, self-service contract experience for customers prioritizes ease of use, transparency and security. This includes letting customers:

  • Submit data to start the contract process themselves
  • Rely on automatically generated documents
  • Sign contracts without a visit to the office or store
  • Search and download past and current agreements

Want to improve customer loyalty? Ask these two questions

B2B customer loyalty is earned, not bought—and one of the first places to earn that loyalty is in the initial contract management process. You can send your customers all the delightful swag you like, but no tote bag will make up for a frustrating contract experience. Ask these two questions to “gut check” your contract operations.

1. Is there a defined process and owner for each step of a contract’s life?

If your answer is “no,” it’s time to kiss those piecemealed contract management rhythms goodbye. Large companies deal with thousands of master service agreements (MSAs), sales contracts, statements of work (SOWs) and invoices each year. With so many people working on different parts of the process, things get messy without a clear understanding of the start-to-finish contract workflow.

Deal teams and contract renewal pros should work together to craft, communicate, and implement a customer-centric approach to contract management. Even better if they use artificial intelligence (AI). Leaning on AI during contract lifecycles is a secret weapon for managing customer renewals at scale. Who doesn’t want to predict future risk and uncover hidden opportunities?

“AI can answer questions that you may not have even thought about when you entered into an agreement,” Jeff from Docusign’s Strategic Services Group says. “It takes the data that’s locked inside the four corners of the contract and gives you a repeatable, predictable analysis process.”

2. How much work do customers need to do to move the process forward?

Your answer to this question influences your customer satisfaction scrore (CSAT). Customers value convenience in a big, big way. In fact, a 2022 survey found that 70% of customers would pay more for a more convenient experience. If customers have to work hard to sign up for your service or renew a contract, you’re creating friction—the opposite of convenience. Check each step of your current process to see what you’re responsible for and what you expect customers to do. Then, try to take as much off their plates as possible.

Not only does a frictionless workflow bring order to chaos in the short-run; it also puts businesses in a spot to rapidly scale without contract management growing pains. Establishing top-notch contract operations is worth every penny for start-ups, scale-ups, and even established enterprises.

A final invitation to earn more customer trust from the start

Here’s the bottom line: It’s significantly easier to continue delighting (and renewing) customers after a seamless contracting experience than it is to play CSAT catch-up after a convoluted start. 

When it comes to contracts, customers have high expectations for great onboarding and renewal processes. The survey of 1,300 contracting professionals we mentioned earlier in this article found that gaining contract alignment and approval across legal, pricing, and procurement is still a massive headache. It delays operations for 30-40% of businesses. This is a solvable problem.

Skip the complexity of a manual contract process and try Docusign CLM to start your customer relationships off on the right foot. Not only does Docusign CLM automate tasks, manage complex workflows and remove blockers, it helps your team deliver seamless experiences for customers.

Learn more about how Docusign CLM can elevate your contract process.