Three years ago, I wrote a post on “How to start a customer success program from scratch” and outlined all the reasons to do so:
- The ROI from increased referrals, cross-sells and upsells
- The potential for a customer success program to become a “growth engine”
- The sheer impact of returning revenue and customer lifetime value
- The ‘free marketing’ of brand advocacy
And the list goes on. But, we’ve all had some paradigm shifts recently, haven’t we? So I’m not going to talk about what customer success can do for you. Because it’s not about you. It’s never been about you. It’s always been about other people.
What they need most, and what they need right now.
I predict that the companies that will grow from the Covid-19 pandemic crisis are the ones who deeply, genuinely care about their customers’ wellbeing. Not just their success.
How are your customers feeling right now? And how can you support them?
We can answer the first question ourselves — we’re all feeling isolated, lonely, cut-off, mournful, insecure, anxious. Maybe our kids/partners/dogs/cats are driving us a little crazy at this point. Maybe we’re self-isolating alone and wish we had kids/partners/dogs/cats around.
What we need most right now is to feel connected and cared about. And I’ve seen two companies step up to meet this need in vastly different ways.
[Yes, if we were to put traditional “Customer Success” verbiage around this, we’d say “what success looks like for your customer right now is to *feel* less alone. Not to get their work done faster. Not to multi-task with better focus. But to *feel* connected.]
When these lockdowns started, many of us shared memes that read: “Check on your extravert friends… they’re NOT okay!”
As time dragged on, however, even the introverts among us started to crave human connection. Human beings thrive on community, and you may be in a unique position to give it to them.
Wootric held informal CX “office hours” via Zoom for CS and CX professionals who want to offer each other support, ask questions and compare notes on how they’re adapting (or anything else, for that matter).
“I’m part of an online community of marketing leaders. There’s something incredibly valuable about being with others who are facing the same challenges that I am, so offering that kind of forum to leaders in the CS/CX trenches became a priority for me, ” says Lisa Abbott, VP Marketing at Wootric.
On the last CX Office Hour call, a Customer Success professional at a startup shared that she was feeling overwhelmed after losing her team and being placed on the front lines, dealing directly with customers. Members of our newly formed community jumped in with advice on how to prioritize and set boundaries, helping her get through it while maintaining her sanity.
Consider creating a similar forum for your customers—a live video conference where they can come together, connect, and share their wisdom and support.
Be there for a chat
I got an email last week from one of my favorite online companies, Greetabl, a service that sends beautifully packaged thoughtful gifts. I’ve been using them for years to cheer up friends from afar or show appreciation to clients and colleagues, and I didn’t think I could love them more, until I found this in my inbox:
Hey there Greetabl Insider,
Brittany from Greetabl here (you might recognize my name from Greetabl’s marketing emails). If you saw Joe’s note on Medium over the weekend, you know that Team Greetabl has cleared our calendars of all scheduled meetings and we’re reaching out to our people to see if they want to talk. About anything.
There’s a lot of uncertainty right now and social distancing can get lonely FAST, so I just wanted to let you know I’m here to talk. No sales pitch, no agenda; just a virtual coffee meeting to talk about whatever’s on your mind. Drop some time on my calendar if you want to chat.
Director of Marketing
Joe Fischer, Greetabl’s CEO, had everyone clear their calendars of their regularly scheduled meetings and instead, reach out to talk to people. Brittany, their Director of Marketing, sent out this charming email, and my favorite part is “No sales pitch, no agenda; just a virtual coffee meeting to talk about whatever’s on your mind.”
My friend, copywriter Lauren Van Mullem, took her up on this offer and says “Chatting with Brittany was the highlight of last week for me. We just hopped on a video chat, and we were both in our comfy sweaters, and just talked about life, these weird times, and some of the best and worst things we’ve seen from companies right now. It felt like talking to a friend, but almost better in a way. Our social circles are sort of confined right now. You don’t get a chance to talk with a stranger very often these days. So having a chance to connect with someone I didn’t know was really special. I can’t wait for a chance to repay that kindness by sending Greetabls, especially since I know that wasn’t the point of the call at all.”
SaaS companies are uniquely positioned to help
SaaS companies of all sizes have something to offer that even the big companies don’t have: Many of us are used to working remotely and using online tools to stay focused and connected at scale. We’re agile by nature, able to navigate quickly-changing environments. We’re adept at creative problem-solving, finding opportunities in challenges, and listening – really listening – to what our clients need.
Those are life skills not everyone has right now.
So now, more than ever, listen to your customers and your community.
Create the solutions they need right now.
Give them the frictionless customer journeys that get them where they need to go under the current, world-upside-down, circumstances. And don’t assume their “ideal outcome” this month is the same as it was just a few weeks ago. Everything has changed.
And above all: Reach out. Genuinely. Meaningfully. Human to human. Because generosity and human connection are what’s really going to get us all through this.
What can you do as a CSM right now?
Back to Customer Success – what can you do as a Customer Success Manager to support your customers during COVID-19?
Focus on empathizing with your customers and doubling-down on retention.
Because in times of crisis, existing customers are the lifeblood of your SaaS company.
Four questions to ask your customers
Be proactive. Reach out and get the conversation started. How to begin? Recently, on a CX Office Hour call, customer experience thought leader Melinda Gonzales suggested that CSMs ask every customer these questions:
- How are you doing, personally?
- What is the impact of the pandemic on your business?
- How do you think it will impact your plans for 2020?
- How can we help?
And, many clients right now are ranking their spending to decide what gets cut. Where your company lands on that list may depend on…
How can you show empathy for your clients? Both personally, individually, and for their businesses? What solutions might greater empathy lead to? Here are some options to consider:
- Being open to negotiating contract terms – especially payment terms.
- Offering a short-term discount.
- Show your customer how they can get more value from your product without spending another dollar. Are there features they are paying for but not using? Can you share a best practice that will help them see more success?
- Presenting downgrade options from a Customer Success standpoint (give them what they need to succeed right now, with the awareness that this may mean reducing spend).
Sure, will a few opportunists try to use COVID-19 as an excuse to negotiate a better deal? Maybe. And if you get one of those, present the “downgrade” option and make it very clear what that means in terms of reduction of services and reduction of results.
But for most customers, give them the benefit of the doubt. So many industries and individuals are struggling right now. And the long-term ROI of empathy is worth some short-term sacrifices.
What you choose to do right now can ignite and cultivate long-term, lucrative relationships in the future.
And for our CSM friends and clients, can we just say: We understand how hard this time is for you too.
You may not be able to do your best work right now, or afford the best tools to support your work. You may have dogs/kids/spouses/cats interrupting your client calls. You may be feeling what we’re all feeling — frustration, helplessness, fatigue, fear for the future.
Take it easy on yourself if you can. Upsells aren’t likely to happen right now, and that’s okay.
But your core goal remains the same: Helping your customers reach the results they need, by whatever means necessary.
Measure and improve customer experience. Get Net Promoter Score, CSAT or Customer Effort Score microsurvey feedback with InMoment.