Building a Scalable Organization During a downturn

What to Expect

Customer Success

...Check out more of our "What to Expect in a Downturn" Series

Focus on your team, your internal processes, and communication between divisions. Evaluate your current company-wide planning on how efficient it is and how you can improve. Build in feedback loops often. For example, the engineering team should understand what would help the sales team sell more or how the customer success team is affected by your product roadmap. And vice versa, how the customer success team could help define and prioritize product objectives.

We'll now dig into three main areas and discuss tools to optimize these individual teams.

Your current customers should be your primary focus and are more important than ever. First, you need to control voluntary churn as much as possible, as involuntary churn, especially for SMB and mid-market customers will increase (link to customers in a downturn piece). If your product offering helps companies save money or increase revenue, then demonstrate that (e.g. through an ROI calculator) so they will not only stay your customer, but they will increase their usage and become your biggest promoters.

Additionally, you need to emphasize the importance of customer success within your company. Because sales will slow down, it might make sense to allocate more resources to supporting your customers through their current journeys. This means answering support tickets faster, executing product roadmap items that customers are asking for, and ultimately understanding better why your customers use your product and what you can do to maximize their experience. If this is done successfully, then upsells will come organically, new sales will come through word of mouth, and ultimately, your company will be able to grow with less cash burn.

One place to start is creating accessible troubleshooting documentation -- whether written, videos, or other ways –is helpful in reducing the amount of customer support tickets because it allows customers to solve their own problems immediately. Additionally, you could use companies such as walk-me to create tutorials to educate customers on setting up and using your product, saving your implementation team time.

Right now is a great time to focus on sales operations to confirm your sales team is functioning as efficiently as possible. You can make sure your CRM has clean data, is up to date, and that everyone is tracking info correctly. You can discuss and reconfigure your dashboards to verify that relevant and helpful data is being collected, not just for your sales team, but to help drive decisions for the rest of your organization. Additionally, now is a good time to review goals and comp to make sure incentives are clear and work properly.

The global economy is going to see a massive slowdown in growth as companies, consumers, and countries assess the economic fallout from COVID-19. In the near term, until an end to lockdowns, shelter-in-place orders, and social distancing is in sight, companies will be reluctant to sign new contracts, spend money, and make any long-term decisions. Once the virus panic comes to an end, companies will then need to assess where they stand and what the path to recovery is. After that, companies may only then resume spending if their situation is relatively favorable and even then, they may be slow to ramp back up to previous levels.

For high growth SaaS companies, this is going to be a major problem, as their ability to sign new customers or upsell existing customers will see a drastic slow down across all customer segments. Additionally, churn, voluntary or involuntary will rise in the near term, sales cycles will increase and so will payback periods (see our section on Customer Behavior).

Because of these macro factors, it is the perfect time to slow down, take a step back, breathe, and build your processes for scale. We recognize that young companies are typically under pressure to grow as quick as possible, which can lead to non-optimized and sloppy processes. Now, the pressure is shifted toward achieving profitability and scalability. To be successful, you need to ‘grease the wheels’ of your current organization to maximize results and efficiency.

Optimize Across the Company



Your product roadmap and execution are pivotal both to keeping your current customers happy and unlocking the highest-value future customers. Most companies have a backlog of tickets and requested features that keeps growing. You need to spend time thinking through what the priority is for various tickets and which will get the most bang for your buck. Use the 80/20 rule – which fixes are the easiest that will result in the most customer happiness? Additionally, which features are going to be most useful for new sales.


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