The World Health Organisation on Wednesday has declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, with the virus finding a foothold in every continent except for Antarctica. This has affected businesses in every industry and every scale globally, and many are activating their business continuity plans to combat the threat of the virus.
Governments have issued travel bans and nationwide shutdowns in a bid to slow down the pandemic’s spread. In these chaotic times, our customers require innovative solutions and support from their software vendors to adapt to new ways of doing business.
We took feedback and recommendations from some seasoned CSMs in the industry to find out how to approach the Covid-19 pandemic and fight churn.
1. Go Digital
Engaging through digital platforms amid the spread of the coronavirus has become commonplace amongst many businesses and government institutions. There are many examples of how this can be done, such as through webinars for content delivery, and video conferencing for remote customer meetings. Many of these practices have been implemented even before the pandemic took place.
Some best practices on how to keep quality levels of engagement on digital platforms will be to implement a “Question & Answer” section, where customers can ask top-of-mind questions, or to propose a giveaway for customers who attend these sessions. It is also important to have a clear agenda and to stay human during video conferences. This ensures that there is value delivered during these sessions for each attendee. For more tips on working from home, check out this article by The Guardian.
Also, for companies who have community gatherings (like our Customer Success Singapore group), it will be great to keep the momentum going via virtual meet-up sessions. This will reduce the chances of the virus spreading through crowds and large gatherings.
2. Provide Advisories & Updates
Many governments have provided assurance to its citizens through transparent and open communication of what they are doing to support the country and combat the virus. Providing information in a timely manner on how your organisation continues to support your customers in a safe and socially responsible way will help to solidify your relationships with them.
Companies such as Microsoft have taken the initiative to let their customers know that their employees are currently working from home, and that their “our top priority is the health and safety of employees, customers, partners, and communities”. Microsoft is also providing their communication and collaboration platform “Microsoft Teams” for free to all users during this time. Other companies such as Zoom have also indicated that they will be providing educational institutions with free licenses on their video conferencing tool.
In an environment of uncertainty, these companies have demonstrated the ability to adapt quickly and provide visibility on their approach to support customers and employees. Accountability in these scenarios build trust and belief that people need, reinforcing the relationships between vendor and customer.
3. Engage Early
The global pandemic has slowed down business processes; with many global companies evacuating their employees from offices when they discover a confirmed case within their organisation. It has also slowed down procurement processes as quarantine orders have been implemented on a far-reaching group of business travelers.
To mitigate with slower procurement processes, the practise of engaging and renewing early has been raised in a few conversations I have had with other Customer Success Managers. A great approach will be to position this early engagement as a way to support your customers and their business processeses. This will also be a confirmation to CSMs if subscriptions under their purview might be delayed, and more time can be taken into account to formulate a save plan.
4. Multi-year Deals
On March 11th 2020, the United States entered a bear market, where stocks declined more than 20% from their most recent highs. The looming presence of a recession around the corner has spooked many organisations, and have been aggravated by the outbreak of Covid-19. Fortunately, for the software world, the option to do multi-year subscriptions with customers is available and handy in such situations.
Many businesses and CSMs are strong proponents of multi-year subscriptions because they help to lock-in the customer for a longer period of time. Barring the fact that multi-year deals also benefit the customer in terms of locked-in pricing, it is also a solution to help vendors tide over these times with greater predictability to revenue streams.
Of the companies we surveyed, three-year subscriptions stand to be the most popular option amongst both vendors and customers. This is a good time period for both implementation, and also validation of the benefits of the solution.
5. Training & Personal Development
Working from home is now a norm in most technology-driven organisations. Personally, I have taken the time I have saved on my commute to take virtual lessons on the Django framework, and reading up more on how other companies are supporting their customers during this time.
Some governments have also provided federal funds to bolster learning & development initiatives for employees during this time, providing subsidised schemes for employed individuals to attend accredited courses.
The virus has affected businesses in a multitude of ways, which includes decreased customer engagement. Many companies have adapted and taken this time to up-skill their employees and to provide online training sessions. Many certification providers deliver their content online, and this is a great use of employees’ time to eventually bring more value to their engagements with customers.
Customer Success Managers are a creative bunch who are able to adapt to crises in the most innovative ways. Some of these creativity may not be mentioned here, but I would love to hear more and learn about how your organisation has approached the virus situation.
How has Covid-19 affected you as a Customer Success Manager?
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