Customer Success in the age of Coronavirus

If you’re human and have access to the internet you’ve no doubt been bombarded with Coronavirus help guides of all varieties telling you how to WFH better, how to keep your kids busy or how to not lose your mind.  And since I have 45 mins until my toddler wakes up why not throw one more on the pile.

The job of the customer success manager is unique in that its focus in addition to the traditional requirements is wholly dependent on what drives value for customers.  With that in mind, here are 3 principles for your Customer Success team to abide by in these strange times:

Principle 1. Ensure every interaction is dripping with empathy.

In spite of the short 45 mins snippets we have into our customers’ lives during Zoom meetings, we simply don’t know how this crisis is impacting them personally and professionally and because of that, it’s crucial your default is an approach filled with empathy.  Waiting for an overdue signed contract back from your main point of contact? Make sure your opening and closing of that interaction are saturated with empathic statements that communicate acknowledgment that your ask is not the top priority of the moment. Have a critical QBR/EBR scheduled with a large group?  Proactively offer flexibility to reschedule or reduce the duration in case there are other pressing needs of their business. This is a moment in time to let your humanity shine.

Principle 2. Figure out what’s important to your customers.

Identifying what’s critical to your customer is Customer Success 101 and keeping current with that list is a CSM’s top priority.  In this type of market, the importance of that effort is magnified exponentially. Because of type A, leader personalities that normally get into Customer Success it would be easy for your CS organization to fall into the trap of thinking more is better right now, however it may be worse.  Identify the needs of your customers (keeping #1 in mind) and then deliver on those needs even if it means less from you and your CS team in the interim.

Principle 3. Frame the ways in which your technology can help them .

If Principle 1 and Principle 2 are applied correctly, you’ll reinforce yourself as a trusted voice amidst the chaos for your customer and give yourself a great platform to show them how various elements of your platform can solve pertinent problems of the day for their organization.  Unless your marketing team is bizarrely prophetic, it’s unlikely that your marketing collateral will be as relevant during these weird times and your customers changing priorities. With this in mind, the third principle requires us to lean into what little we may have learned from that creative writing class in High School and orient a story of how your product and features can help alleviate the problems you’ve been learning about from your customer conversations via Principle 2.  While their priorities might have changed your ability to solve a problem has not, make sure you’re telling a pertinent story for the times.

Sometimes it takes a crisis to bring us back to the basics of our business and at the end of the day, we got into Customer Success because we liked helping people win and now is a great time to ensure your actions are singing that same tune. Welp, the living, breathing version of the Apples to Apples game is awoken and is requiring my assistance of some variety.


Stephen Poppe is a writer for the Chicago Customer Success Podcast. He is currently the Senior Manager of Customer Success at Label Insight.


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