If you're in Customer Success, I know you do it every week. I’ve been watching and I know you do. I also know that you dread it. I know because everyone dreads it. You can’t possibly have all the answers and the ones you do have may very well not satisfy your boss/CEO. It’s no fun but it is at the very heart of what you and your team are supposed to be doing. It’s all about managing risk, right?
Of course I’m talking about your Code RED meeting, or your RED/Yellow/Green meeting or your At-Risk Customers meeting or whatever you might call it. It’s that hour you set aside with your team every week to talk about customers who are at risk of churn. And for many of you, it’s actually two meetings. One with your team to understand where each account stands and the second is your Executive Staff meeting where you get to relay that information, as best you can, to your CEO and the rest of the top brass.
The question on the table today is how you and your team prepare for those meetings. Trust me, I know it’s not easy.
Moving Toward Customer Success: Tracking At-Risk Accounts
It starts, obviously, by tracking which accounts are at risk. How do you do that? For most companies, the Customer Success team, somewhat arbitrarily and almost certainly incompletely, manually codes customers in their CRM system as red, yellow, or green.
I’m sure you have an answer to this question - “What does it mean for an account to be RED, Yellow, or Green?” But, my next question is harder – “How confident are you that all your CSMs would answer that question consistently?” I’m guessing you are not 100% sure about that answer. This leads to Goal One in effectively managing your at-risk customers meeting:
How to Manage your At-Risk Customer Meeting
Goal One – Consistent Definitions of RED, Yellow, and Green. If you aren’t there, don’t feel alone because you’re not. Unless you have a very rigorous process, and a system designed to help track this, it’s virtually impossible to be both complete and consistent in this effort. Everyone needs to define these for themselves but here are a couple of suggestions:
Good Definition: If the renewal was tomorrow, >= 50% chance of churn
Great Definition: Account Health Score = 0-50
Good Definition: Likely renewal but some risk, imperfect customer
Great Definition: Account Health Score = 51-80Green
Good Definition: Will definitely renew, fully using our product
Great Definition: Account Health Score = 81-100
In the above examples, the “great definitions” are obviously driven by some kind of overall health scoring model that is most likely automated. There are ways to do this. Keep reading for a link to a recent blog post I wrote that talks about this exact process.
Goal two is harder – ensuring completion of the risk assessment across all of your customers. This is an important process but one that easily loses momentum as customers are added and intimacy is lost with each one as time goes on. If this remains a manual process, you may have to choose to keep this up to date only for the top segment or two of your install base. If you want to have a consistent and timely health/risk score for every one of your customers, you will ultimately have to automate the process. See my recent post on Account Health Scoring for some insights into how you might do this.
How to Manage your Code RED Customer Meeting
In the meantime, our Code RED meeting awaits. Assuming you have an accurate representation of the customers you know are at-risk, the meeting with your team will be most effective if it’s fact-based and date-driven. It’s quite easy for these meetings to get repetitive and descend to very general status updates. If you’re not careful, you will find that you are reviewing many of the same customers week after week, with basically the same update. I know this is going to sound like simple common sense, but that’s never a bad thing. When you go through the accounts with your team, get answers to the following questions:
- What’s the very specific next step?
- When will that next step occur?
- Who owns the next step?
- When do you project this customer will return to Green status?
If you do this consistently week to week, you’ll be able to track progress and hold the account owner responsible for that progress. It will also improve your ability to pinpoint when to intervene yourself. This will not only prepare you sufficiently for your Executive Staff meeting, but allow you to walk in and answer the key question they should be asking – “how can we help?” We all know they will ask other questions as well but, despite how it may sometimes feel, it’s almost 100% certain that their goal is exactly the same as yours – healing these at-risk customers and ensuring they stay customers.
Customer Success Spreadsheet Template
Below is an Excel example of a working list of RED customers. No doubt you have something that looks a lot like this. As I said before, it’s largely common sense. The thing that’s much harder is creating the consistency and accountability for the inputs to this spreadsheet. We all know that, when it comes to customers, there are things that are out of your control. I have to empathize with that every single day. However, shouldn’t we hold ourselves to the same standard as we do our Sales guys? Does your Sales VP shrug his shoulders when his Rep tells him a deal is stalled or the champion has lost heart and it’s slipping away? No way. We need to be just as creative in getting results as a great Sales person is.
One of my CSMs recently asked me, when dealing with one of those customers who had gone dark, if it was OK if he camped out early in the morning at the entrance to the building waiting for him to arrive so he could talk to him. Is your team willing to do that to save a customer? I hope so. Please don’t blame me if someone gets arrested for stalking but I think you get the point. I bet you all know a Sales Rep who got a signature on a deal in the parking lot late in the evening on New Years Eve. We should take that same “no excuses” approach to saving customers.
This report won’t solve all your problems but it will give you a consistent format and approach for getting good updates from your team and allowing you to walk into your E-Staff meeting with a bit more confidence. And I know the process is largely manual today but, trust me, there are solutions to that as well. Good luck and keep up the good fight to save those customers!