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Employee & Customer Success: Helping to Deal with Ambiguity and Stress

The Toronto Customer Success Executive Breakfast is a forum whereby local industry leaders get together over breakfast to discuss the still young and rapidly evolving field of Customer Success.

Organized by DesiredPath, senior executives in the field of Customer Success are invited to share their knowledge and expertise amongst their peer group in an intimate and highly interactive setting.

With current circumstances as they are, the Toronto Customer Success Executive group gets together virtually for “breakfast” to gather insights from one another and to share ideas for how to handle the evolving situation.

This month the group was asked: With the second wave of Covid happening now, are you and your teams doing anything differently this time around to work with and support customers?

The general consensus from the group was that business wise, nothing significantly different is occurring to the first wave.

How to manage Customer Success during the pandemic is still as awkward as it was in April with people working from home, but business is still moving forward.

Bright spots to remote working have included much more authentic conversations with customers (people are emotional, in their home with children or pets appearing on screen, or in their bedroom, making relationships more human) and more efficient use of time (with previously duplicated or unnecessary meetings being reduced and converted to working time).

There has however been a huge impact on culture, especially with respect to people interaction and employee experience.

Many still have not adapted to working from home.

Finding space to work free from distractions in a home full of family members, dialing into back-to-back video calls and seeing yourself on the screen all day long, or adapting to, and figuring out how to get, kids back and forth from school, are taking their toll.

Others with disabilities are having extraordinary problems doing so. For example, people with writing difficulties which normally could be alleviated by having more in-person meetings are having to write more to communicate.

The expectation to be on video may also be increasing the discomfort that some feel by exposing their poorer living conditions – working in tight quarters with family members or revealing that they may not have as good living accommodations as others.

People are also feeling isolated and struggling for connection despite “meeting” all day long.

According to inkblot people can only take ambiguity for so long and we’ve gone past everyone’s threshold.

If our employees are feeling the stress, then so too are our customer’s employees.

What can we do then to help people cope with today’s current ambiguity and stress?

Here are some of the ideas that the CS executives are applying at their companies:

  • Ask people how they are doing? Use 1:1’s with your employees to open the dialog up. Allow employees the opportunity to discuss more than just business if need be. Be mindful of the entire person, not just their role in the company.

  • Include the social aspects of connectedness in employee onboarding: New employees are going to have a harder time connecting with peers remotely than if at the office. Augment onboarding to include a focus on the social aspect of connecting with peers.

  • Use collaborative tools in addition to video: Video meetings are not the only way to collaborate. Allow for other forms of collaboration with tools such as slack, teams, etc.

  • Migrate some meetings to “walking” meetings: Not all meetings require employees to be sitting at their desk. Consider asking meeting participants whether the meeting could be held over the phone while walking. This has the added bonus of getting people moving and outdoors for a change of pace and scenery.

  • Add some levity or humour to video calls through the use of background screens: One executive changed the background of his screen on three different back-to-back calls. If anyone had attended all three, they would have seen this executive in an airport lounge, then on the plane and then on a beach at his final “destination”. If no one attended all three calls, he at least has fun with this virtual travel.

  • Provide employees with something to strive for: Employees need something to strive for. Set a goal. Double down on goal. Have that be the focus. Then help them celebrate their success. Help them deal with the stress.

  • Remind employees of the resources they have access to: If your company offers employees access to mental health professionals or services as part of their health benefits, remind them of these and/or have those professionals present at a company all-hands.

What are you doing to help your employees and customers deal with ambiguity and stress? Share your insights here in the comments below!

If you are an experienced leader responsible for your company’s Customer Success strategy and are interested in joining the group, please contact me at

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