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How to Manage Customer Success During Covid-19

The Customer Success playbook for Covid-19 is being defined real-time. New customer retention strategies help customers & protect the customer retention rate.
Photo by Rob Walsh

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.

The breakfast is an opportunity for these leaders in Customer Success to convene, exchange ideas and further define industry best practices.

Given the current, extraordinary circumstances I was wondering whether to simply skip this planned session of the Customer Success executive breakfast and reconvene again next time.

Not surprisingly, given how the Customer Success community holds collaboration dear, members of the group started to reach out to me requesting that the session go on as planned, only virtually.

As is normally the case, they wanted to share ideas and learn from one another, but now, especially during these uncertain times.

And so, the first virtual Customer Success breakfast event was held.

CS Teams & Customer Collaboration in a New World

No fancy presentations (or breakfast) were on the agenda. The format was simple, a group discussion to examine: “How are You Preparing & Managing Your Team to Collaborate with Customers in Our New World Environment?”

Never could I have imagined how compelling the conversation would be!

Just the simple act of sharing what everyone is doing to manage their organizations through these unprecedented times brought about new ideas, validated thoughts or concerns and most importantly, provided the group with the assurance in knowing that we are all on this unchartered path together.

To that end, I would like to share with you some of the key themes that emerged from the discussion in the hopes that you find them valuable as well.

Customer Engagement:

  • Organizations across the board are upping customer engagement to assist clients through this unique period by listening empathetically to customer needs (e.g. around items such as flexible contract and payment terms) as well as providing them with information on product leverage (e.g. how to use the product to get a business online, work from home, disseminate more/new information such as handwashing guidelines) and subject matter expertise (e.g. how to budget, plan and forecast business finances in the next quarters, maintain network infrastructure bandwidth with a distributed workforce, conduct virtual sermons).

  • Contact with customers is increasing as is content development around webinars, thought leadership and training.

  • Customer Success is working with marketing to get information out to customers at scale.

  • Free access to online educational resources are being provided.

  • Teams are starting to plan what engagement will look like in the summer months as the situation evolves.

Contract Terms:

  • Customer Success Managers are listening to client’s business concerns, taking notes and going back to the internal team to brainstorm creative solutions to meet those needs.

  • Where vendors are able to accommodate, they are providing customers with flexible contract and payment terms (e.g. reduced fees or delayed payments), or providing the platform for free for a certain period of time.


  • Vendors are helping customers connect with their distributed workforce, in some cases providing the product for areas of the business that were not already using the product (e.g. Voice of the Employee template to keep a pulse on internal teams).

  • The same software vendors are also figuring out how to keep their own employees connected by conducting things like virtual coffees and social hours to keep morale up.

Customer Success Team:

  • Managing and executing Customer Success has been difficult these last few weeks. Some industries are extremely busy, others are at a complete stand-still. CS as a result is either running full tilt or wondering what to do to be of value.

  • Customer Success Managers (CSMs) are receiving training on empathy and guidance for how to handle unique customer conversations. Specifically with regards to contract terms, CSMs are being advised to listen to customer needs first, not make any promises, go back internally to develop solutions, and then go back to the next meeting with a proposal.


  • Not surprisingly, sales pipelines are low and projects are on hold.

  • The focus is increasingly on existing customers. Company’s conducting win-loss analysis previously are moving their attention over to churn.

  • Teams are conducting vulnerability assessments to create their revenue forecasts and forecasting is updated more frequently than before.

The group unanimously found the sharing to be very helpful therefore we decided to add an extra meeting next month to continue the dialog.

I look forward to sharing the insights from that session as well.

Until then, stay healthy everyone!

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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