What Your Customer Success Team Needs in an Economic Downturn

Rachel Skroback
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September 14, 2022
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6 minutes

During an economic downturn or recession, many businesses must re-evaluate their priorities to make sure their money is being spent most effectively. In a time when many organizations are strapped for cash, they’re cutting costs, building different strategies, and sometimes even cutting their workforce. In the tech industry in particular, customer acquisition is costly, causing many tech companies to shift their focus from acquisition to retention. According to Profitwell, “it may cost up to five times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one.” Retention, of course, is absolutely essential to business survival during an economic downturn—and the weight of this responsibility is carried largely by customer success teams. 

Customer success teams are the motor behind customer retention. These individuals are the ones responsible for building fruitful relationships with customers, maintaining trust, and ensuring that your customers will keep coming back year after year. The challenge here is multifaceted: customer success teams themselves are often burdened during times of economic uncertainty, while they’re simultaneously tasked with retaining customers who are navigating the same challenges. 

However, there are some key tactics that your business can use to keep your customer success team successful even during an economic downturn. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the top challenges your customer success team will face during an economic downturn, and how to support them through it all. 

Strong internal communication 

In order to effectively support your customer success team during an economic downturn or recession, communication is key. Your customer success team is largely responsible for retaining the business your company has worked so hard to acquire. To alleviate some of that burden, make sure your customer success pros have an open line of communication with company leadership and other cross-functional teams, such as sales, marketing, and product.

To optimize the communication that your CS team desperately needs, conduct regular check-ins to connect and work through any major roadblocks or pain points. It’s also crucial to open up the floor for feedback from the customer success team and vice versa, whether that be through an anonymous survey or direct 1-1 communication. With the opportunity to provide and receive feedback openly, your team can continue to function like a well-oiled machine even during uncertain times.

Streamlined processes

In busy times at work, there is nothing worse than encountering roadblocks with technology or internal processes. While streamlined processes are always important, they’re especially crucial during an economic downturn—because wasted time and resources equal wasted money.

Has your team been operating inefficiently because you’re doing things the same way you’ve always done them? If so, it may be time to run a process audit and have your customer success team share which processes are holding them back from what’s really important, which is connecting and building relationships with customers. If they’re stuck spending hours per week on repetitive, manual, and tedious busywork, now is the time to work together and find solutions that work better for everyone involved. 

This is also a good time to consider automation. Relationship building is what matters most in a customer success operation, and wasting hours per week building out QBRs and other resources for customers is not an efficient way for CS team members to spend their time. If your customer success team members are struggling because there simply are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything they need to, consider bringing in some automation tools that can cut some of that repetitive work.

Automation tools are helpful always, but especially when the workload is heavy and the workforce is sparse. By employing software and tools that provide a cost-effective alternative to additional headcount, you can enable your team to do more with less.

Access to data

Customer success teams need access to hard evidence so they can prove the value of your product to customers—high-level information simply doesn’t cut it when it comes down to renewal time during a recession. Often, customer success teams are unable to easily process all the data they need to show their accounts key insights on product usage and progress toward goals, which hinders their ability to keep customers onboard.

To build trust and credibility with customers, customer success teams need to be able to share the data their customers care about. And to take that a step further, rather than throwing obscure data at customers, they need to provide data-driven content that tells a story. In order to do this the right way, it’s important to make sure customer success teams can easily access the data they need and can compile it into a digestible format without tons of tedious backend work. Consider working with your data and analytics teams to make sure customer success employees don't have to jump through unnecessary hoops in order to do their jobs, and be sure to emphasize the importance of data-driven storytelling.

A library of valuable resources

While your customer success team members are responsible for keeping your customers coming back year after year, they’re going to need more than just their charm to do so successfully. During an economic downturn or recession, companies are reevaluating their tech stacks and eliminating any non-essential software. Your team needs valuable resources to share with customers to prove that your software is essential.

Consider asking your CS pros what resources they need to be more successful—whether it’s extensive help documentation that helps customers troubleshoot common errors themselves, or on-brand, client-specific QBR presentations that break the mold. Work with your team to make sure customer success has a reliable lineup of quality materials that they can share with customers to guide them in their journey and prove value. 

Flexibility and empathy

As we all know by now, burnout is very real at work and can happen to anyone in the blink of an eye. It’s particularly common in times of stress—and with that in mind, company leadership must make sure they’re granting some degree of flexibility and empathy to their employees and themselves. 

Especially in times where it may be more difficult to do so, it’s important to make sure every member of your team still has a work-life balance. Since economic challenges are stressful for everyone, be sure to remain empathetic and understanding. Does one of your customer success team members need to work from home for a while? Does an employee need a mental health day or personal day? Is a team member interested in taking a course to build upon their professional skills? Let them take it. Mutual respect and understanding go a long way in the workplace, and it’s something your team desperately needs during an economic downturn.

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