March 11, 2020, was a warm and sunny day with a beautiful blue sky. I had just enjoyed a relaxed lunch at a sushi restaurant just north of San Francisco with my client.
As we devoured our sushi tacos, sashimi, and teriyaki we discussed our fears over the canceled events and conferences like Austin's annual South by Southwest festival and Coachella. While we were concerned, we didn’t even consider that in just a few days we would be forbidden to dine at any restaurant like this one and we would be confined to our homes for an indefinite period of time.
As I drove back to my hotel in San Francisco that day, I heard over the radio that the NBA put their season on hold due to a few Utah Jazz players testing positive for Covid-19. I was shocked. The other professional sports leagues quickly followed suit. My company had already mandated a work from home policy two days ago so I knew that things were getting serious but the extent of the crisis didn’t hit me as I was on the road visiting clients. I noticed the traffic back to San Francisco was much lighter then it’s ever been and there was an eerie emptiness on the streets. I cut my trip short, flew back to New Jersey the next day and have been camped inside my home ever since.
From that point on we saw a number of changes including the limiting of travel, banning large gatherings and only permitting essential services from operating in most large cities in the US. We also saw the crisis directly impacting our clients. While Covid-19 isn’t like anything we’ve seen before in Customer Success, we leveraged a tried and tested methodology to cope with the situation: 1. Listen to your clients 2. Execute and 3. Measure the results. It can be easy during these times to get wrapped up in elaborate plans. It’s best to keep things simple and move quickly. Your customers and your team are depending on you.
When you are in a situation such as Covid-19, you really aren’t sure what the best course of action is. Having had the luxury of just meeting a number of clients face to face, I anticipated that they would be anxious and may even need immediate help. We started to do the following:
It was very evident that our clients needed us to throw them a lifejacket in many cases and address contractual questions. Other clients needed a sherpa to guide them through how to manage their teams in this new work from home environment. As Kustomer is a customer service CRM platform, many of our clients have customer service agents that would now be working out of their homes for the first time. Some companies also needed to reduce the sizes of their teams which means they would need to do more with less. It was time to execute so we could help our clients and get through this crisis together.
We have a saying at Kustomer: Don’t just talk about it, be about it. If you don’t execute, nothing happens. It sounds simple but in crunch time, you can’t seize up. You need people to step up. Our company immediately sprang into action to help our clients. We worked in a coordinated effort on a number of initiatives. Here are a few of them:
It’s important to note that in many cases we were listening and executing at the same time. This isn’t a time to measure twice and cut once. You need to keep cutting as our clients need solutions when faced with something that the world has never seen before and iterate as needed.
As this crisis is still unfolding it’s too early to determine how successful all of our initiatives are. We are continuing to collect client feedback across the various channels and surface those to the various departments and executive team. We have set up special client health monitoring for this crisis for the clients hit hardest at this time that goes beyond our normal client health process. We are also reviewing client calls with Gong to see if there has been feedback from our product enhancements and complementary product upgrades. We’ve made tremendous progress at this point and have a number of other initiatives we are working on. Whatever feedback and data we do get, we continue to improve what we’re currently doing so we can create a better customer experience.
Beyond the subjective feedback, we will look back on other metrics such as NPS, client retention and product adoption to determine our longer-lasting impact. For now, our most important task is ensuring that we connect with our clients and help them out in any way that we can.
I still think back to my trip out to San Francisco. On that return flight home, I knew that the world would never be the same. My heart goes out to all those that have been directly impacted by Covid-19 and to those that may have lost loved ones. We’re living in very strange times.
There are many things that we can’t control right now. I’m trying to focus on what I can control as a leader in my organization and as the representative of our clients. We can help our clients and it doesn’t need to be overly complex. Just listen, execute and measure your results. This isn’t an easy time for those of us in Customer Success but we can get through this and we can come out on the other side of this with even a stronger partnership with our customers. Hang in there and stay safe.
Chad Horenfeldt is the Director of Customer Success at Kustomer. He has 15+ years of experience building and developing Customer Success teams, including implementing Customer Success strategies resulting in exemplary customer satisfaction, retention and growth rates.
Chad’s reputation to drive and create outcome-focused programs drives long-lasting relationships based on trust and creating a culture that puts the customer at the center of everything that he does. He specializes in hiring the best people, leveraging technology to increase efficiency and above all is committed to fostering the Customer Success community. You can read more about his work in Customer Success on his Enlightened Customers blog.