How Customer Success is Adapting to Virtual Business World

  • 24 March 2020
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The Gainsight Customer Success team is hosting webinars this week on how CS professionals are adjusting with the current times and discussing best practices, tips, and innovative ideas for transitioning to a virtual customer success world.

Please add your questions, comments, and key learnings from the session(s) here! We look forward to continuing this conversation with you.


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During the live sessions, participants shared lots of awesome ideas for how to support your customers during these trying times, as well as master the art of working from home! Below is a summary of the tips that were shared. Feel free to comment with your own!

Also, at a high level, this is a good time for folks in CS to ask themselves: What can we offer customers right now? Hopefully it can be highly valuable (free training, free trial, etc.), and it gives you an excuse to reach out and be in touch with them, even though their priorities might be scattered.

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Every suggestion below is an idea that a real Gainsight customer has tried and recommends.

Human-First Relationships, both internally and with customers

  • The pandemic is a challenge for many, so offering help and a listening ear is a big plus . Small gestures can have a tremendous impact.

  • Demonstrate that you’re here for them. Start calls by asking how they’re feeling personally. Acknowledge the tough time we are going through and allowing them time to share/vent. You can also ask what’s been surprisingly good during this time at home. And reciprocate their vulnerability by sharing your own human experience and perspective. Finish by asking if they have everything from your side that they need to ease their tension.

  • Reach out proactively to customers and colleagues at random. It doesn’t need to have an explicit business purpose -- just connect and support them as humans. Book time to do it each day, and do several. Even use this is a chance to connect with people who you don’t know well yet.

    • In Sweden, fika (coffee break) is an important part of the day. Have fika through Zoom. This could be work-related, or it could be personal-only. (Also do this with your spouse!)

    • ‘Donut’ app in Slack randomly chooses colleagues to meet up virtually for coffee, lunch, happy hour, or donuts

  • Even customers in the hardest-hit places value the human contact and are trying to stay positive. Hear their stories and absorb their optimism. Pass it along to others -- “If they can do it, so can you.” The same goes for your own experience being a source of inspiration for your customers and colleagues. Widely distribute positive customer stories and sales wins internally. Successes are happening, even in areas that are the most affected.

  • Expect moments of greater connection

    • “My wife had her 45th Birthday yesterday and nobody could come over because of the Lockdown. But at 8:00PM all the neighbors started singing Happy Birthday in the street !! :-) ”

    • “As a full time work-from-home employee, I have never felt more connected to my company and teammates, because now everyone is in the same situation as me.”

Human-First Remote Collaboration, both internally and with customers

  • Establish a routine to check with customers ahead of time, to help them remember to attend scheduled calls or proactively reschedule

  • Remember to do icebreakers, especially non-standard ones

  • Lean into the realities of life working from home

    • Offer to adjust mtgs around kids nap times

    • Explicitly welcome interruptions from kids, family, etc., even stating it in your standard meeting invite

    • Tell people up front that you’re planning to end each meeting 5 minutes early, in order to give them time to stand up to check in with their family

    • Meet their family on video, and get to know their routine apart from work

  • Connect over video

    • Be assertive about turning on video

    • Adds humanity and a greater sense of connection

    • Adds levity

    • Can see body language

    • Choose video background that’s a conversation-starter

  • When someone is uncomfortable being on video

    • State that you don’t care if they’re in gym clothes and baseball hats

    • Offer a tour of your own home to humanize yourself

  • Help others to be better at remote collaboration

    • If you’ve worked remotely before, but you’re speaking with someone who hasn’t, spend a few minutes talking with them about tricks you’ve learned. Expect to pick up a few new ideas from them, too.

    • Hold yourself to a high standard of virtual meeting etiquette (like stopping talking when you realize someone else is also talking), to reduce fear of interaction

Human-First Products and Services

  • Create reasons to reach out to customers with something potentially helpful to them

  • Advocate internally for the organization to create resources like these for your customers -- use relationships across Marketing, HR, etc. to make these things happen

  • If your customers have free time on their hands:

    • Offer free training

    • An opportunity to provide product feedback

  • If their finances are in flux, what can you offer?

    • Give free software or features now, and work out billing later

    • Short-term licenses

    • Flexible with fee structure

    • Postpone payment

    • Pause the account to be restarted at some future date

    • For upcoming renewals, give free months until the summer, and treat that as the renewal date

    • Offboard customers in a human-first way, so that they can come back easily when they’re ready

    • Offset losses with some customers against upsells with customers who are thriving during this time

    • When you’re on a call, ask for commitments for the next call, especially since many people want a sense of stability

  • Customers are trying to figure out the best way to be effective. Consider sharing these resources beyond your customer base.

    • Proactively provide useful resources (webinars, articles, videos, etc.)

    • Be very clear about business continuity plan, work from home strategy, etc., which a customer could even repurpose with their own customers

    • What services can you offer that would help a customer navigate this time?

  • Can your products help customers work better remotely? If so:

    • Offer free 90-day trial

    • Offer free consultative services

    • Expedite your work to help them use products they already have

Human-First Teams

  • Use this as a chance to improve team communication

    • Weekly all-company or all-team stand up meeting Monday mornings to "kick off a great week"

    • Meetings twice a week with the team to just check in, see what's going on, and ask how everyone is handling work from home

    • Make a point to connect with single people who live alone 1-on-1 — teammates, direct reports, or skip-levels — either planned or randomly

    • Management should offer daily communication to teammates to promote understanding and a sense of stability

  • Get creative about group activities

    • Create a group within the Apple Health app and challenge each other to get steps in each day -- set levels for prizes!

    • MTV Cribs-style home tours

    • Team Jeopardy

    • Jimmy Kimmel’s Formal Friday approach: his family all suits up at home in quarantine on Fridays

    • ‘Spell Your Name’ exercise challenge on a team call. You have to use the long version of your name (Katherine, not Kate), including middle name(s): https://images.app.goo.gl/Hiy3JrywR1ve3Va29

  • Regularly-scheduled Happy Hours, Wine Club, or ‘Quarantini Time’

    • On Zoom

    • Weekly

    • If you drink alcohol, you must bring booze

    • Can’t talk about work

    • Prizes for the best zoom virtual wallpaper

    • Trivia game, like in Jackbox.tv

  • For anything that involves prizes, could be fun to do stay-home items like snack boxes, or a gift card to something like DoorDash

Work-from-Home Hacks

  • Create working-from-home Slack channel company-wide

  • Create a physical space for work

    • Make your work area comfortable

    • Get a supportive chair, or even just a real chair besides a bed or the floor

    • Create a makeshift standup desk, like 10 books under your monitor/laptop

  • Draw absolute delineations between when you’re working and when you’re not. Creating mental separations helps you sustain joy and sanity.

    • Take a shower and get dressed as if you were going into the office

    • Continue old daily rhythms, for example, if you used to stop at 6 for dinner and family time

    • Have a mental marker to end the day, such as working out at a specific time, where you don’t go back to work afterwards

    • Regardless of your approaches, prioritize being consistent

  • Take breaks that remove you from your workspace. Take a moment for you. Even if it makes your day a little longer, that’s a good trade.

    • Get up as much as you can

    • Take walk -- bring the dog, or even take a call on the go

    • Short yoga flow

    • Quick chore

    • Cook lunch

  • Stay physically fit

    • Eat extra-healthily

    • Work out more regularly, and/or more frequently

  • Stay sane

    • Prioritize keeping your sanity with whatever hobbies or practices you know help you (hiking, cooking, meditation, etc.)

    • For those who WFH all the time, changing up your space than where you normally work so you don’t feel trapped

    • Give back to, or participate in, the community however you can (e.g., virtual group workouts)

    • Put on music while you’re cooking and dance it out

Working-from-Home with Kids

  • “We are having better family quality time. We've also played lots of board games! ”

  • High-five your partner regularly

  • Sense of Humor is essential!

  • Establish shifts with partner to care for children

  • Create schedule for kids, even if it’s loose, that balances outside play time, schooling, screentime

  • Accept that it will be different and accept that you will have kids around during meetings. It will help you be less stressed and in turn reflect less stress on the children.

  • Communicate with your family

    • Closed door means “I’m in a meeting - do not disturb”

    • Create visible signal to kids for when they’re welcome to come in, and when space and quiet are needed

    • Agree with family on your approach for separating work-life and home-life

  • Older Children

    • Assign house chores. Give them some money, so it's a win-win.

    • Offer to family or friends to “virtually babysit” their (non-baby/toddler) kids with webcams and virtual board games . Sharing age-appropriate online games with people (definitely some great strategy games like Dominion for mid-teens and adults) .

    • Older kids need socialization. Need to empathize with that and get creative on ways to help.

  • Young Children

    • Sit down on Sunday night with your partner to coordinate schedules, color-coding calendar entries that require quiet, and then reconnect each night to adjust schedules

    • Have a family discussion before every important meeting, and give the kiddos a new project or game to keep them busy and distracted

    • Have an extra keyboard on your desk for your toddler

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@justin_bills from Higher Logic, good content to share with the broader team.

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I found this session very satisfying for a few reasons:

  1. I feel fortunate to have a community of customers that are so engaged and want to share their learnings with others.
  2. People are tuned in to the new reality and working through it. We are a flexible bunch of people.
  3. Every suggestion was amazing! I have younger kids and the suggestion around having an extra keyboard was especially helpful!:fire:  :sparkler::beers:
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I really enjoyed hearing some of the personal stories our customers shared, like the neighbors singing happy birthday to in their driveways, and also some really fun suggestions, like Zoom happy hours (I’ve got 2 coming up!) and showing your colleagues your “crib!” A little empathy, humor and encouragement goes a long way in making this situation more bearable.  

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I really loved this session! It was so real and human! It just goes to show that no matter our roles or positions, we are all in this together.

 

What I got out of it was to draw absolute delineations between when you’re working and when you’re not. Creating mental separations helps you sustain joy and sanity.

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This session was very uplifting to be a part of. It was as much about being in Customer Success during these trying times as it was about being human! I felt a great sense of camaraderie with everyone on the call. I was also amazed at the creative ideas others had in helping their customers right now. 

The other piece that really hit home for me is that everyone has something to contribute right now. It can feel like we are all isolated in our homes and can’t do anything to help others. For me, I can take knowing how to work from home for granted. After hearing how many people are struggling with this, it encouraged me to share my knowledge and insights to help others. Everyone has something to offer!

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