Keeping customer success teams steady amid rapid change

Work Unleashed

Welcome to our work unleashed series: a collection of posts from Box executives and conversations with Box customers on navigating the "new normal" of work today. Here, you'll find insights and resources that enable your teams to do their best work, anywhere, anytime.

Right now, people are getting inundated with emails from every company they've ever done business with, addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and how they're handling it. As a customer success leader, I have a unique dual vantage point. I recognize that brand communication is important, but that customers may have higher priorities to contend with right now.

It's a balance of making ourselves available without presuming that Box is top of mind for customers — and, obviously, without thinking of this crisis as a business opportunity. Here are the takeaways we've landed on so far at Box.

1. Be proactive in providing solutions customers really need from you

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the US, Box leadership asked “What can we do to help customers that are getting hit pretty hard right now?” With unique expertise in the area of remote work, we knew could provide quick value to our customers in that domain. Here are a few of the early steps we took:

  • We extended an offer to our current customers to expand their provisioning of Box licenses to all of their employees at no additional cost for 30 days
  • We made our Administrator and End User training courses free for any new or existing Box customer
  • We worked quickly to put together a webinar: The art of organization: Tips and tricks from Box
  • We launched free remote consultations to help customers with their remote work strategies

2. Consider how you can quickly pivot customer services to virtual

There may be work that you literally just can’t do right now. The things that are "in between" — you don't usually do them remotely, but you could — are the things to pivot to. 

At Box, our own consulting team is pivoting its normal in-person meetings to virtual meetings. We're learning firsthand the benefits and drawbacks of doing so. For instance, with virtual meetings, you lose the benefit of physical white-boarding in a conference room, so you have to find other ways to support brainstorming.

Still, we've been able to collaborate as effectively in a virtual setting as we did in-person. We've built some new assets in just four or five days via virtual collaboration and cloud-based content. Of course, for a company that builds cloud content management tools that's not an outrageous pivot. We've always been comfortable with a degree of remote work, and we can take these learnings that we generate in-house and bring them directly to our customers working through similar challenges.

We took many steps specifically geared toward customers, but as a leader of a large and geographically-distributed organization, enabling internal team members is just as crucial.

3. Keep your team members focused on their areas of expertise

We typically want our customer-facing employees empowered to solve any and all customer problems. But in times of crisis, it's arguably more useful to direct customers to other experts who can help them more quickly and efficiently. 

For instance, it's common for a Box customer to approach their account executive or customer success manager for support, and pre-COVID, that Boxer would try to solve any problem the customer was having firsthand. But now, it's often more useful to direct the customer to a trained support representative who can take care of the problem quickly. As a leader, you have to free people up to make those judgment calls in the moment — with guidance and handrails, of course.

4. Make a conscious decision around how you’ll communicate to your teams

Now's the time for leaders of customer-focused organizations to be intentional about how they communicate to their teams. When everyone is feeling increased pressure, it's important to help them focus and prioritize. I am apt to throw a lot of ideas at my team to see what sticks. But when they're already feeling overwhelmed, leaders need to step back and apply a filter to their well-intentioned idea generation. And, we need to enable them to push back when we're coming up with too many ideas at once.

At the same time, I encourage people on my team not to automatically say "no" to an idea just because they don't have the resources in place. People tend to be constrained in their thinking if they think only in terms of the resources they feel they directly control. In a crisis, I want my teams to be able to think creatively about solving critical problems, regardless of the current resourcing. If the idea is good enough and has a big enough positive impact for customers, I'll take on the responsibility of finding the resources they need to execute (if possible).

5. Don't forget you have a business to run

It's important to recognize that while we're all spending a lot of time on crisis management right now, we still have a business to run. There are aspects of that business that remain very normal. For instance, we still have scheduled consulting projects to tackle. We have to stay available for these clients, while acknowledging that we may have to flex a bit on how we accomplish tasks. 

The takeaway here is to use your executive influence to help your team prioritize and then be available to help in a hands-on way on the more critical projects. As a leader, you drive the focus on what will make the biggest impact on customers.

At the same time, leaders have to acknowledge that there are going to be some things you can't impact, and you'll need to let them slide and then refocus on level-setting based on "the new normal."

Leadership in a time of uncertainty

There’s plenty of uncertainty across every aspect of life for all of us at the moment. From the health front to wondering whether we're going to be able to get groceries, everything seems unclear in a way that was unimaginable just a few weeks ago. Your job as a leader is to help create focus and priorities. That might mean attending meetings you weren't attending before, or creating short daily stand-ups to make sure everyone is coordinated remotely. Showing up for these meetings proves to your team that you have their back under pretty trying circumstances. And wherever possible, remind the team to stay focused on the things that are certain: your customers, your product, and how their skills can bring the two together in a way that's impactful to the business. 

As a leader of a customer success team, my first responsibility is to my team, then to my customers, and then to the business. But I — and you — can all make decisions that will positively impact all three.

Check out our Remote work page, which is being updated frequently with best practices for enabling teams to work from anywhere.