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Three Customer Success strategies to safeguard business stability and spur growth in a downturn
This article was originally published in Forbes.
A turbulent economy feels like change is coming at you from all directions. Your most lucrative sales channels can dry up. Your best customers can become flight risks. Your top strategies can turn ineffective. Companies that lack the agility to adapt to a shifting business environment will be crippled by inaction or continue down the wrong path.
In your subscription business, you can turn the tide in your favor by investing in customer retention and your customer success team. This can help you unlock your potential to generate revenue from existing accounts and alleviate the financial pressure of a constricted sales pipeline.
When equipped with the right data and directions, there are some remarkably effective ways your customer success team can anticipate and reduce churn risks, grow revenue and help position your company for what’s next.
1. Identify distressed customers, and offer proactive support.
Your customer success team’s product usage data is an early warning system for customers experiencing distress. By paying attention to product adoption dips, they can spot and engage with these customers early and offer in-the-moment support to mitigate risk.
One of our customers, whose primary clientele is restaurants and bars, executed this tactic well at the start of the pandemic. When the company’s customers began to shutter their doors, app usage dropped overnight. Its customer success team stayed on top of things by tracking key product interactions such as login frequency and geolocation data to monitor the effect of mandated business closures as they happened. These insights gave the company the agility to prioritize customer outreach in real-time, thus optimizing its approach to fighting churn.
2. Stay one step ahead of employee churn to protect accounts.
When your customer’s primary point of contact leaves their position for a new role, whether internal or external, the churn risk for that account increases.
Employee churn is nothing new. However, thanks to tech layoffs, a more transient workforce and the Great Resignation, the odds of your point of contact leaving have never been higher. Your customer success team should take measures in advance to minimize the potential impact. Account mapping is a practice that can help customer success managers reach additional influencers and stakeholders in a customer’s organization to reinforce their presence and value.
To start, document a primary point of contact’s main profile: title, team, key product use cases, organizational influence, purchasing authority and internal inner circle, including their direct and indirect reports as well as their supervisor. Next, follow the same process for your champions and power users. Don’t overlook a user based on their job title or hierarchy. Individual contributors can heavily influence a leader’s decision to renew.
Use the resulting account map to strategically build relationships—and set up an alert to notify you when a significant point of contact’s product usage flatlines so you can jumpstart your response plan.
3. Fast-track the value you deliver to stay relevant.
A downturn can drastically shift your customers’ financial and strategic priorities. Their top initiative this quarter might become a trivial concern by the next. This means that you need to provide value as quickly as possible by focusing on what matters most to customers in the moment.
Your customer success team can consider fast-tracking customer onboarding to deliver essential functionality first. Prioritize features that generate visible results. If your solution requires a months-long, intensive implementation, consider reducing its scope so customers can launch in half the time and see the effects right away.
The same applies to your product roadmap. Listen to your customer success team’s feedback—they’re the ones closest to your customers—and pause less impactful requests to accommodate the early release of in-demand features.
In a downturn, agility counts.
Every downturn is different, and its effects are hard to anticipate. As the eyes and ears of your company, your customer success team is your key to responding quickly and decisively when budget cuts threaten your retention and revenue. Empower them to be agile, and you won’t just weather the storm; you’ll position yourself to succeed once it passes.
Learn more about how Customer Success helps build financial fortitude and resilience in our podcast recap with ChurnZero CEO You Mon Tsang and the Punk CX podcast: “Why Customer Success is your best investment during an economic downturn.”