Jun 28, 2019

Read Time 5 min

4 Customer Success Lessons That You Can Learn From Playing Tetris



I’ve never considered myself a gamer. While Guitar Hero was a part of my life growing up – though I never really nailed those solos – my video game consoles have mostly gone unused. Our time has never been more valuable, and between all of our personal and professional engagements, it can be hard to partake in leisurely activities like gaming.

Fortunately for us, gaming is no longer confined to consoles. With powerful phones in our pockets and an increased use of personal tablets, mobile gaming is just as popular and even more accessible. These days, we’re never far away from a quick game. After years of being an idle gamer, I’ve discovered my new go-to mobile game. I’m not talking about Farmville or Candy Crush, but rather the classic game of Tetris. Tetris, the tile-matching game that emerged from the Soviet Union in the 1980s, is considered to be one of the most iconic games of all time. But what could it possibly have to do with Customer Success? Surprisingly, quite a bit!

Continue reading to discover the four lessons that Customer Success practitioners can learn from this well-aged classic game.

1.) Think Ahead

As any Tetris aficionado will tell you, thinking ahead is of the utmost importance. For those new to the game, Tetris features puzzle pieces that fall vertically into place with increasing speed. Your goal as a player is to prevent horizontal lines of blocks from stacking until they reach the top. You can rotate the shapes, make adjustments, increase the speed that the pieces fall and strategically position them to destroy the lines and prevent you from ‘topping out’ and losing the game.

A similar lesson can be applied to Customer Success. In essence, a successful CS team is proactive – they think ahead. In fact, this is one of the major differences between Customer Support and Customer Success. If you are a Tetris player or a Customer Success Manager (CSM), you know that small actions can have huge impacts and yield unexpected results. As a Customer Success professional, you should always be thinking one step ahead. Whether it pertains to upcoming customer milestones or perhaps a potential upsell opportunity, great CSMs can identify small actions that can drive business outcomes. Just like adjusting blocks in the game, CSMs adjust and influence their customer trajectory in order to drive their customers’ success.

Unlike the game, however, there are tools and resources available that can help CS professionals decide their next steps. Consider a playbook or a customer health tool that can help you think ahead, recognize opportunities, be aware of gaps, and know when it’s time to pivot. Similarly consider methods to not only collect feedback, but encourage it among your peers. Properly applying these types of tools are just one way to score a win for both your customer and your team.

2.) Mistakes Can Pile Up (Quickly!)

One small oversight can have a major impact on long-term customer success. Anyone involved in implementations can attest to this. No matter the depth of your client relationship, or your Tetris skill level, mistakes can result in immediate and profound consequences.

The same can be said when it comes to the complex nature of many B2B SaaS products. Customer retention is becoming a top-of-mind KPI in boardrooms around the world, and even the smallest errors can have profound impact on your bottom line.

When reeling from a mistake, remember to step back and look at the whole picture. Work to identify how the mistake happened, why it happened, and what is needed to rectify the issue. While the situation may have been out of your control, proper analysis and viewing the situation at a 10,000-foot level will allow you to identify and close any service gaps. But like a game of Tetris, time is of the essence when recovering from a misstep. Most importantly, should a crisis occur, don’t forget to communicate with both internal and external partners. During moments when you’re being inundated with calls and emails, it may be tempting to lay low and wait for things to blow over – this is one of the worst things to do. Communication is key to any customer relationship and a lack of proper communication can unseat any well-established relationship. By ensuring consistent communication through both thick and thin, you can manage your customer’s expectations even when the customer experience changes.

3.) Take Calculated Risks

In addition to preventing your Tetris blocks from stacking and reaching the top, another objective is to score the most points. Points are scored by clearing lines of blocks, with different scores depending on the number of blocks destroyed. It’s easy to clear one or two lines of blocks at a time, but you’ll get a higher score if you take a calculated risk and stack them higher. Customer Success also relies on a willingness to take risks. As you work to drive a forward in their journey, it’s tempting to do the bare minimum – with a variety of tools that exist to automate processes and send alerts, keeping a customer on the right path is easier than ever. Despite this, remember that a large part of the power a CS practitioner comes from their intuition. The intimate relationships that CSMs establish with their customers can enable your organization to take calculated risks that can drive even more success for your customers.

Like Tetris, some of the best results in Customer Success arise when you take risks. Acting as a trusted advisor, a CSM is well positioned to identify the calculated risks that can lead to immense payoffs. Whether sharing a potential product application or an alternative feature use with a customer, not all of your feedback will be considered a slam dunk by your customers. But for the feedback that does stick, your account will consider you their customer champion.

4.) (Customer) Fit is Key

In both Customer Success and Tetris, ‘fit’ is a key predictor of success. These key factors can have a profound impact on your success potential. In fact, customer fit can make or break your company.

For your Customer Success organization, the impact of a bad fit is more profound than any game of Tetris.

  • Poor Fit Customers Lead to Churn: The impact of churn on revenue cannot be understated. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to close the revenue gap created by churn (or a bad fit) by adding new clients – this is a losing battle. Just like in Tetris, poor fit is difficult to solve after the fact.
  • Poor Fit Customers Aren’t Easily Upsold: This ties in closely with the idea of trying to minimize the negative impact of churn through other revenue streams. A customer who lacks a product fit is less likely to be upsold or renewed.
  • Poor Fit Customers Aren’t Advocates: As with B2C consumers, B2B buyers are more likely to share an unsatisfied experience versus a positive interaction. In today’s hyper-competitive world, customer advocacy is more essential than ever. One poor fit customer has the power to undo years of labor.

Ultimately, customer fit is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Consider asking yourself what ‘fit’ really means for your organization. By establishing the types of fit that predict success when using your product, both your team and other stakeholders will know how to drive success. The question of fit should go beyond Customer Success. Proper communication with Sales can ensure that your ideal customer profile is being considered through-out the entire customer (and buyer) journey.

Feeling nostalgic? Test your Tetris skills by playing the game on Tetris.com. Looking for more entertaining Customer Success content? Subscribe to the Fighting Churn newsletter. 


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