With the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire world has had to change the way it conducts business virtually overnight. Shelter-in-place orders have been issued in states across the U.S., and businesses are encouraging their people to work from home. This is the time when your Customer Success team really needs to step up to reassure customers and keep the revenue coming in.
If you don’t already have a Customer Success team in place, then you should seriously consider creating one. Unlike customer support, which is reactive following a sale, the Customer Success team is proactive, working with customers to understand their business needs and help them to achieve their business goals.
Customer Success is a more strategic approach to post-sales support and is structured to solidify the relationship between vendor and customer so that everyone benefits.
In a time of crisis such as the current pandemic, your Customer Success team has to be on the front lines, reaching out to customers to see how they are affected by the crisis and offering to help wherever possible.
During a crisis, it’s the companies with the strongest Customer Success programs that will be able to show customers how much they care and, as a result, reduce churn and increase revenue.
Setting up Tools for Customer Success
No one could have predicted that a global pandemic would have all of us working from home, or that your customers would have to interrupt their operations. Your Customer Success team should shine in this kind of crisis, and your first responsibility is to support the team with the resources they need to aid customers:
- Access to business tools: If the Customer Success team is working from home, do they have access to the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) system, financials, and support software? You probably have a virtual private network (VPN) set up or secure access to critical office applications. However, have you tested the systems for remote access at scale? If your entire Customer Success team is trying to access the same data at the same time, it could create bottlenecks.
- Normalize the work schedule: If your team is working from home, it’s best to try normalizing their work schedule. Working from home can be difficult and requires discipline, so scheduling regular meetings via teleconference, asking for periodic reports, and finding other ways to make the team accountable will help keep them motivated.
- Revise the success plan: An event like the COVID-19 pandemic is bound to change all the key performance indicators (KPIs), projections, and objectives for the team. Try to assess the impact of the crisis on your customers’ businesses, consider shifting priorities, and adjust your team’s projections accordingly.
With the right foundation in place, you can deploy your Customer Success team to work with customers and help them through the crisis.
Start with Customer Communications
The Customer Success team’s first job is to contact customers to see how they are doing and how you can help. The team’s immediate goal needs to be to assuage customer fears and be a resource. Remember that a 5 percent increase in customer retention can lead to a 95 percent increase in profits, and so the objective is to minimize churn.
When communicating with customers, you want to be direct, using COVID-19 or coronavirus in the email subject line. Be clear about the actions you are taking, and their impact on your customers. Focus on their concerns rather than your problems and emphasize that the customer support team is there to answer questions and help wherever possible.
Every vendor will be sending out similar messages, so you want to stand out by being positive, assertive, and helpful. If you can offer assistance in a time of crisis, you will promote greater customer loyalty.
Offer Proactive Solutions
The Customer Success team’s role is proactive support, so offer solutions to customers before they ask for them. The pandemic is having a negative effect on everyone’s business, so anything you can offer to help their operation and promote customer retention is going to be welcome. You might consider actions such as:
- Creative payment: With businesses everywhere in a state of chaos, offering alternate payment terms is an easy way to help ease customer cash flow and give them a break on immediate financial concerns.
- Extend discounts or trials: Extend trial periods and onboarding schedules for new trials and consider offering free use of software as a service (SaaS) during the crisis.
- Offer free add-ons and discounts: Offer discounted services and free add-ons or value-added support. This is not only a goodwill gesture, but it also gives you a chance to acquaint customers with new solutions and value-added upgrades.
- Pause services: If customers have had to close their doors or lay off employees, you might offer to suspend service until business is back to normal.
- Extend contracts: Extend the terms of your contract at a discount for the duration of the crisis.
There may be other things you can offer to help customers through the crisis. As part of Customer Success outreach, make it a point to understand each customer’s circumstances and pain points during the crisis and develop strategies to help.
Find the Opportunity in the Crisis
Part of the Customer Success team’s job is deepening the customer relationship. A crisis that disrupts normal operations could be the perfect time to uncover new business opportunities while assisting the customer. Consider offering:
- Training: With everyone working from home, this could be a good time to offer customer training. Offer refresher courses on systems and services and see if you can get them interested in learning about new features and add-ons.
- Demonstrations: This could also be a perfect time to engage with the customer to demonstrate new products and new features that they may find valuable. If they have the time and the inclination, you could also share a product roadmap.
- Success strategies: This could also be a good time to engage with customers to learn more about their current operations, their issues, and their plans for the future. Work with the customer to develop strategies to solve those issues and explore opportunities to upsell and cross-sell.
Of course, the challenge of addressing a crisis is that it is unexpected, which means that you may not be prepared for it. If you are having difficulty scaling your Customer Success strategy or developing strategies to drive customer retention, you may need to look elsewhere for assistance.
Outsourcing Customer Success is a good way to remove some of the strain from your internal team during the crisis and scale your operations to optimize Customer Success.
During any crisis, including a global pandemic, your Customer Success team is your first line of defense. They need to be prepared to reach out to customers and offer support, even if that support is just a friendly ear.
It’s during a crisis that your customers will need your help, and it’s up to the Customer Success team to provide triage and build customer loyalty. And if you find your team is overwhelmed or you can’t ramp up Customer Success services, this may be the perfect time to look for help from outsourced solution providers like MarketStar.