May 15, 2020

Read Time 4 min

How Customer Success is Rising from Response to Recovery: Usage Insights from ChurnZero


As an emerging discipline, Customer Success has not experienced a global health or financial crisis during its relatively brief lifetime. Facing massive economic instability for the first time, Customer Success teams had to devise crisis preparedness and communication plans as well as customer retention strategies to minimize churn.

With Customer Success teams beginning to transition from response to recovery and adapt to their “new normal,” we wanted to share some basic benchmarks showing how ChurnZero customers have reacted to the COVID-19 crisis.

The data in this article is sourced from SaaS businesses across 20 industries that use ChurnZero. The percentage variances are based on the year-to-date period prior to March 8, 2020.

Customer Success outreach peaks the week after the World Health Organization (WHO) declares COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

COVID-19’s official pandemic classification seemingly set Customer Success teams’ crisis communications into motion. The weeks of March 8 and March 15, 2020 saw spikes in digital customer outreach across all channels including email, In-App messages, and Plays. With companies temporarily forced to work from home, reaching a newly remote customer base by phone proved problematic—driving the shift to cross-channel digital messaging. Fueling this focused outreach, Customer Segment creation was also up as Customer Success teams targeted accounts in impacted markets and geographies.

  • 2x emails sent

Email sends hit an all-time high following the aftershock of the pandemic declaration with an increase of 135%. In the subsequent weeks, email sends plateaued but are still up 22% from the pre-COVID-19 period. Surprisingly, despite a significant surge in email sends, Customer Success teams saw a healthy uptick (+7%) in open rates. Highly targeted customer emails that were personalized based on contextual data (such as market impact, renewal date, and product usage) saw the highest open rates. Even with email fatigue growing, customers will pay attention to correspondence from Customer Success Managers when there is an established, trusted relationship and relevant message.

  • 11x In-App messages created

In-App message creations saw a staggering 1,054% increase. In a proactive effort, many subscription businesses anticipated how their customers’ product usage may fluctuate and change during this crisis. Customer Success teams used In-App messages—the most logical, organic channel for instructional, action-driven product communications—to efficiently guide their customers through recommended product adjustments. After reaching this culmination, In-App messages plateaued but continue to maintain a 2x usage increase compared against the pre-COVID-19 period.

  • +40% automated Plays created

During this pivotal time, Play creations were up 40% as Customer Success teams looked to maximize their efficiency and quickly scale their outreach to communicate with customers about the evolving crisis. The week of April 27, 2020 saw a second spike in Play creations as Customer Success teams adjusted their messaging and cadence to return to a semblance of normalcy. Play editing rates also increased as Customer Success teams continuously adjust their communications (both regular and crisis-focused) based on new information and developments.

  • +25% new Customer Segments created

The backbone of personalized and relevant communications, new Customer Segments saw a 25% increase as Customer Success teams targeted accounts based on the severity of COVID-19’s current and forecasted impact. Refocused segment criteria most often included geographic location, industry, health score, organization size, renewal date, product usage data, and role type. After the initial establishment of these new target audiences, segment creation stabilized at a 20% increase from the pre-COVID-19 period.



The post-COVID future of Customer Success

What’s next in our “new normal”? As workplaces begin to reopen and operations gradually resume, we must prepare for and embrace our new reality. Customer Success will confront nuanced challenges as they look to recover lost ground from atypical customer churn, concessions, and compromises. Subscription businesses will continue to seek creative ways to protect their customer base and stimulate growth in a recession. Although uncertainty remains prevalent in many facets of post-COVID-19 business (and life), the need for effective communication is clearer than ever. In-App messages will become even more crucial to reaching customers as their information influx ebbs and flows from volatile news events. As most customers’ preferred communication method, email must instill empathy while distilling (often overwhelming) information into meaningful, pragmatic advice to remain a viable channel. Customer Segmentation will keep Customer Success teams (and their customer engagement) laser-focused on sensitive, key accounts as well as situationally aware of their changing circumstances. To meet the heightened need and demand for high-touch support at scale, campaign and workflow automation will be absolutely essential. With many Customer Success teams stretched beyond their operating bandwidth, programming basic tasks will alleviate tension—allowing teams to prioritize high-value and at-risk customers.

Recovery will be a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure your Customer Success team isn’t burnt out and running on fumes. Build their endurance and increase their stamina by giving them the extra nourishment and care they need to consistently go the extra mile when it matters most. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.


Customer Success Around the Web

Fighting Churn is a newsletter of inspiration, ideas and news on customer success, churn, renewal and other stuff and is curated by ChurnZero.




Subscribe to the newsletter   

Empowering your customer success team through community

Has your customer community lost its spark? Teams are often eager to launch this new initiative, however, sustaining that same enthusiasm in the months ahead can be a challenge. “It's one thing to create excitement and another to keep people’s attention,” says Shauna...