About 8 weeks ago (or maybe more depending on your location) the world changed. The spread of COVID-19 has had a massive impact on many aspects of our lives, customer success is no different. Customer engagements abruptly slowed down and within days were put on hold or stopped completely. At that time, did customers care about value and success? Did anyone care about KPIs? Or were they mostly worried about keeping themselves and their loved ones safe?
It is difficult to say, but customers were (and may still be) in a state of shock. And that makes perfect sense. We moved quickly to a new mode of survival as the foundations of our lives changed dramatically. People wanted to stay home, with enough food for their families, and keep themselves safe. Would they be interested in renewing service subscriptions or making any progress with the implementation of that service?
Unless you are a vendor with a significant value to your customer in a state of shock, you will have to accept reality. Your KPIs, reports, or discounts will receive little or no attention while they fight for their survival.
There are various tactics for customer success teams to engage and retain their customers during a state of shock. Basically, we will do anything in our capacity to retain our customers, even if we need to compromise on short-term revenue. This new reality creates unprecedented challenges for customer success teams that thrive on keeping and growing the engagement with the customer. If you get any attention from a customer, do your best to listen. Find a way to support and help somehow to keep the engagement in motion.
But this is just the beginning of the new reality we all need to accept. We need to ask ourselves: What’s next? COVID-19 will eventually be contained, and new challenges will emerge for customer success. In that respect, I can clearly see a new phase, in which most of us already operate or will operate very soon. This is the next step that our customers will follow:
The steady state.
What is a steady state?
· Customers have been working from home for a few weeks to see that they are safe
· They manage to work from home effectively with fewer technical/environmental interruptions.
· They were reassured that their well-being is the highest priority for the company’s senior management and that they can safely work from home.
· In certain geographies, they will accept the fact that they will be working from home in the foreseeable future.
How would you know that your customers move from a state of shock to a steady state?
· They should start engaging with their vendors (Emails, calls).
· They will have a better understanding of their budgets and priorities.
· In certain cases, they mix remote and office work.
· They realize that they have “work to do” as they need to help their organization to emerge stronger post COVID-19.
How can customer success leverage this change? As always, it depends on the level of engagement/ service you provide. I will offer a few insights that can easily be adapted to your customers’ needs:
· Share a report related to the service you provide (especially if this report can prove a value, which the customer was not aware of during recent months).
· Share a best practice that had a positive outcome for other customers.
· Arrange an Informal call to get more insights about priorities and planned activities. This will help you to make the case for the value your product/service can offer during the steady state.
· Landscape “re-mapping” – Most likely COVID-19 put various plans and initiatives on hold. I suggest reviewing the plans with your stakeholders. Are there more stakeholders that got involved? Can they resume the “on-hold” activities? Can you collectively think of ideas how to be more effective and efficient?
· Identify /re-connect with the budget owners/ decision makers. The stakeholders that benefit from your product/service may be under pressure to cut costs and limit non-business critical activities. They can be your supporters, but with very limited impact on budget owners/ decision makers that do not know you as a vendor.
· Conduct webinars with new content. Help your customers to learn something new and, if possible, demonstrate your value given the challenges of remote work.
· Offer additional support/training. Your users might have not used your product/service for a while. They may need extra support, and they want to know that they can count on you.
You can find additional recommendations and observations about the changes in the Customer Success landscape from this survey:
We live in very unusual times. Customers Success teams (as well as their customers) have great challenges and most likely, the “playbook” to handle such situations will be written in a later stage. We should welcome the challenges, use common sense, and re-think strategies, tactics, and expectations. I am very much eager to find out more (and share more) while engaging with my customers.