The end of 2020 has been and gone and on reflection, the biggest story of 2020 in Customer Success was, at least for most, all about retention and mitigating risk through a turbulent and unpredictable, constantly changing time.
Back in March 2020 I knew I was about to go through the biggest professional challenge of my career to date, I was about to navigate the team through a period that would be very difficult for renewing contracts but also for a individual members on a personal level.
This is what I’ve learnt through the experience:
1) Build a Culture of Customer Success
If your company is sales focused but wants to be more customer centric, use any opportunity to take the lead and give your team heightened exposure internally. We lost several members of the team to furlough and redundancy so it was an all hands on deck approach to work with customers on renewing contracts. I took the opportunity to advocate and coach anyone who would listen on what Customer Success is but also on what it isn’t. Having a baseline understanding builds a collaborative approach and a culture of appreciation of others and the part they play.
2) Write a Strategy for Risk Mitigation
As the pandemic spread the first thing I did was to write a COVID Risk Mitigation Playbook. This was our guiding light and it spilt over into different functional areas since it highlighted key tasks that needed completing by team members. Without this it would not have been a well coordinated strategy. It allowed everyone to be aligned in a chaotic and anxious time.
3) Keep on Top of Your Forecasted Risk
Leading indicators have been where my focus has been. I’ve looked at customer accounts from every which way to get a holistic view of whether to include them in forecasted risk or not. If I haven’t known or been 100% certain they’ve been included in my worst case scenario (which has looked pretty shocking at times) however my best case is a less of an ugly picture, focusing on some qualities, features or behaviours we do have intel on that would indicate a renewal. Getting as much information as possible has been key for this year and has shaped the way I’ll continue to forecast and report in the future but it’s taken this pandemic to speed up the process. I now have several Salesforce dashboards and reports to analyse data and all the information the team input to Gainsight too but it’s been terrific to get our focus on data clean up for more accuracy in reporting.
4) Training Continues to be Important
Despite running at 50% capacity, the team put time aside and discussed how we could upskill further, bring more best practice to our work and where our weaknesses and our strengths in the team were. Training started out with a wider group to look at the importance of Success Planning and the role that plays in the entire customer lifecycle. Aside from that we took extra time every other week to look at best practice topics, led by one of the team. I am a fan of empowering team members to bring their own opinions and be able to openly discuss in a safe space, the right direction for our operations and workflow. We’ve had some wonderful, exciting conversations on this topic! Some of the best conversations we’ve had during this last year. So the lesson is, don’t abandon training – find a way to carve out time dedicated to improvements both on a personal and a team level.
5) Healthscores Matter Like Never Before
If you’re not already in the practice of using healthscores for your customers, get there quick and start simply.If you’re starting from scratch think about the features and metrics that make up a super happy customer and work from there. What does good look like? If you’re at the other end of the spectrum, then chances are you’re running different metrics for different types of customers. A top end customer might be differently reviewed to those who pay a lot less (Enterprise or VIP account vs a tech touch/self serve customer).
The point for this article is that healthscores have been more useful to forecast risk during this year and also helpful for 121 with CSM’s. We’ve only really just started out so although we use Gainsight to track metrics we have a long way to go to ramp up, but the indicators they’ve provided have been useful for analytics. For example, we use Engagement as one metric (out of six) of our healthscore that has a 30 weighting in the overall score. It is specifically tracking when the CS spoke with a power user or decision maker last. If it’s over 75 days ago, they need to engage.
That’s our treatment model for a segment of our customer base, everyone will be different but it demonstrates an example. If we’re not engaged then they’re more likely to be at risk. We’ll be adding to our measures in 2021 and also updating different scorecards for different types of customers.
6) Look for More Engagement Opportunities
In order to best know how to engage with your customers, you need to know more than a little about them. If a CSM at the Enterprise level has 15 accounts in their book of business then, considering they’re not brand new to all accounts, they’ll have an idea of what information to convey to which customers. A few examples:
Is there an important life event for your main contact that you’re aware of (perhaps mentioned in a previous conversation that you’ve noted down)
Has news hitting headlines relevant or impacting your customer?
Has there been new content generated internally that will help a specific customer of yours?
Is there some work you’ve agreed to work on for the customer where you can provide a status update?
Is there an alignment for their success plan objectives that you’d like clarification on?
Outside of the regular process driven engagements that play a part of the treatment model, consider if there are other ways you can stay engaged to build trust, provide extra value and develop the relationship further.
7) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
As a people manager, not only is it important to communicate factual informtion clearly but on the day to day too, managing any verbal negativity and non-verbal communication that is displayed. I am a firm believer that managing people remotely is a skill that can be learnt but it does require a level of emotional intelligence to recognise when to connect with the team and to ask the right questions to support them. Spotting small behaviours and jumping on it right away can be really significant to building relationships with your team. The same rules apply for communicating with customers. Transparency, clarity and expecation setting is key to aligning relationships and staying on track with managing that customer relationship.
If you have an idea for what you’d like for me to write about in more detail from this blog post please contact me.