A good customer success crisis plan can help you maintain relationships with customers and mitigate the effects of a crisis on your employees' productivity.

Crises are an unfortunate fact of life. All the planning in the world cannot prevent every emergency or protect against every potential hazard. However, having a plan in place ahead of time can make all the difference in how well your business copes with, and recovers from, unexpected challenges.

Having a good customer success crisis plan can help you maintain good relationships with customers. It can mitigate the effects of a crisis on your employees’ productivity and (even more importantly) their health. It can also reduce the stress of dealing with sudden change, as having protocols in place ahead of time will save you and your team from having to make difficult strategic decisions in the midst of a critical situation. It is never too late to revise your current plan or put a new one in place in order to optimize your enterprise’s resilience, both now and in the future.

So what does a good customer success crisis plan entail?

Managing Customer Success in a Crisis

An effective customer success crisis plan should cover all of the following ground, regardless of the specific type of crisis you are planning for. Your plan should:

  • Incorporate a 360-degree view of your current customer base and what it might look like in the future.
  • Protect your core business with a strategic, goal-oriented approach.
  • Promote seamless, consistent communication among team members and with customers.
  • Put systems in place that improve agility, optimizing your enterprise’s ability to adapt and survive in any situation.

Below, we will take a closer look at each of these pillars of a good customer success crisis plan and why they are critical to crisis preparation.

Maintaining a Clear View of Your Customer Base

A prerequisite to retaining your customers is understanding your customers. While this is a core component of business success regardless of the economic landscape, it becomes exponentially more critical during a crisis. Gathering, analyzing, and acting on customer data will enable your team to provide customers with the best possible value. Make sure your team has the Customer Success software they need to easily access relevant data and segment your customers in order to provide personalized, actionable communication that offers value during this time.

It will be important to understand the impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on individual customers and adjust your expectations accordingly. Customers may fall into one of the following categories:

  • Some may not answer your emails.
  • Some customers may say they are focusing on internal items.
  • Others will ask for financial help due to constraints.
  • Some might not be affected.
  • Some customers may benefit from the economic effects of the crisis.

The ability to pinpoint the customers who are affected and in what way they are affected will ensure that you expend time and effort on the accounts that need your attention.

Protecting Your Core Business

The fundamental purpose of a crisis plan is to ensure your enterprise’s survival during and after a time of hardship. As such, your core business values and goals should always play a central role in your strategy. Milestones and deadlines may need to be adjusted and budgets may need to be trimmed, but a good crisis plan will ensure your company will still be making progress toward long-term goals—even under unusual circumstances.

At the same time, your customers’ interests should still be at the heart of your strategy. Their success, after all, is your success. Track churn and retention metrics carefully during a crisis and make sure your team is prepared to act swiftly if a customer escalation occurs. Your customers will remember how your enterprise treated them during difficult times, for better or for worse. Providing a quality experience during a crisis not only helps you retain customers that will help your business endure, but it will also encourage greater customer-centric growth once the crisis is over.

A few ways you could help your customers through a crisis while protecting your core business might include:

  • Offering renewals at a reduced rate
  • Providing discount promotions on upgrades
  • Giving customers additional licenses free of charge

Promoting Seamless, Consistent Communication

Communication is critical during a crisis—particularly if your previously on-site Customer Success team is forced to transition abruptly to remote work. When disaster strikes, you do not have time to find and switch to a system that better supports communication and collaboration. Instead, put the system you will need in place now. The better your team can communicate with each other, the more smoothly they will be able to coordinate and implement your crisis plan. The more easily they can communicate with your customers (and vice versa), the more engaged and connected your customers will feel to your company—and the more likely they will be to stick around.

Fostering Agility to Improve Stability

During the chaos of a crisis, your team needs to be sure-footed even when foundations shake. This requires more than contingency planning—it requires agility. Your team should be able to update campaign strategies and playbooks and implement those updates quickly. You cannot afford to use a Customer Success solution that is a heavy lift or that requires you to go through other departments in order to make strategy changes. Choose a solution that allows your CS team to own the updates that are needed and pivot quickly when necessary.

Coping with the COVID-19 Crisis

Some crises, like the COVID-19 pandemic, seem to come out of the blue. If you did not have a crisis plan in place to cope with this situation, you are not alone. It is not too late to optimize your enterprise’s ability to surmount the unique challenges your business may be facing at this time.

To better support our customers and fellow business leaders alike, we have developed a free COVID-19 Customer Engagement Toolkit that can help illuminate a clear path forward, both for you and your customers. This toolkit provides best practices and templates that that you can start using right away to:

  • Identify meaningful business risks or opportunities within the customer base
  • Communicate COVID-19 readiness to Customers
  • Gauge how COVID-19 is impacting each customer
  • Track user activity over the past 30 days
  • Identify accounts with a 30 percent or greater increase in activity
  • Track new offering usage
  • Determine annual recurring revenue (ARR) at risk if negatively impacted businesses churn

Implementing Your Customer Success Crisis Plan

Formulating a crisis plan is pretty straightforward in theory. You imagine a nightmare scenario, outline its potential effects, and strategize to prevent or mitigate those effects as effectively as possible. Implementing your plan when the time comes, however, is often a bit more complicated. Variables change and circumstances may shift suddenly and without warning. The effects you predict may not always match those that occur in reality.

Because of this, it is vitally important to have a system in place that can make implementing your customer success crisis plan as simple as possible. A strong Customer Success platform allows for easy adjustments to your communication and processes. It simplifies data sharing, analysis, the ability to act on data, and fosters cohesion during even major upheavals. Just as a tree that bends in the wind will outlast one that stands rigid and unyielding, a platform that can adapt and scale quickly and without difficulty can be a key determining factor in how well your enterprise will weather a storm.

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