This is a guest blog post by Kristen Hayer, CEO & Founder of The Success League.
2020 has been, to be polite, an interesting year. Sadly, between the COVID-19 pandemic, global economic instability, and political challenges, accurately planning for 2021 is tough. Yet, as CS leaders we still need to plan for the coming year. I’ve shared our checklist for 2021 planning, but there are some other tactics you can use to plan for various scenarios that may come into play next year. This post pulls some ideas from a fantastic Harvard Business Review article called Learning from the Future, by Peter Scoblic, so if you want to do a deeper dive into the topic of scenario planning, this article is worth a read.
What Could Happen?
2021 will definitely not be business as usual. Customer success leaders will be facing many of the following challenges:
- Recovering from a year of high churn. How do you win back customers who left because of budget challenges? How do you ensure that new customers stick with you for the long run?
- Facing new competition. Many new companies used quiet time during the pandemic to build and grow. What can you do to prevent new competitors from stealing your customers? How do you know who to pay attention to?
- Building teams back up. How do you convince team members burned by furlough that your company is still worth taking a risk on? How do you build back up to the staff levels needed to support your clients?
- Dialing in pricing. The downturn highlighted gaps in pricing and go-to-market strategies for many companies. How do you tell customers that are facing a price increase? How do you keep your pricing balanced with the cost of serving customers moving forward?
- Engaging with clients safely. How do you replace the fun and high engagement that comes with in-person events? How can you creatively approach the customer journey to maintain safety, but still gauge the interpersonal dynamics effectively?
This is by no means a comprehensive list of the issues facing CS leaders going into 2021. Once you’ve identified potential challenges for your CS program, what do you do about it?
Planning for Uncertainty
There are some really interesting ways that organizations plan for uncertain futures, and I believe we can leverage many of these ideas in customer success as we move into 2021. Here are my favorites, which happen to work together:
Contingency Planning – participants prepare a plan for specific events that are possible or likely in the future. This provides a playbook for different scenarios, should they occur. This typically happens at the management or leadership level.
Crisis Simulations – participants are asked to automatically respond to a specific scenario, and then analyze their actions. This can be an add-on to contingency planning, in that you deeply explore each potential challenge. Including front-line team members will highlight responses you may not have anticipated otherwise.
War Games – this is a specific approach to an opponent, like a competitor or a complex, multi-faceted problem. Participants project what could happen and then game out the future. This can come ahead of contingency planning as a way to brainstorm possible scenarios to focus on.
(I’ll admit, I’m a child of the 80’s and the movie War Games may have influenced this pick, but I stand by it!)
By taking the time to explore potential scenarios and planning out approaches, CS leaders can go into 2021 more prepared to tackle various challenges. Leaders who take this planning down to the level of budgeting can plan multiple budget scenarios and work with their finance teams in advance to throttle the spend up or down depending on what happens. Including team members in simulations and war games mean your group will be more prepared to pivot as challenges come up during the year.
Good luck with planning, and best to all of you as we move into 2021!
Customer Success Around the Web
- Scaling Customer Success Part 1 – Understand the case for change and why scaling CS is necessary.
- Building Healthy Competition into your Customer Success Team – Check out these tips for motivating your CS team.
- Why CS & Sales Should be Friends, not Enemies – See six reasons why CS and Sales need to work together.
Fighting Churn is a newsletter of inspiration, ideas and news on customer success, churn, renewal and other stuff and is curated by ChurnZero.