Murphy's Law in Customer Success

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By Amin Akbarpour

We all know Murphy’s Law, right? It’s something along the lines of “if anything bad can happen, it will happen.” In customer success, a lot can go wrong very quickly even if you prepare to the utmost degree. I want to share a few of my more embarrassing misses as a customer success agent and – in hindsight – how I’d handle them if they happened again.

Technical Issues

This has to be at the top of the list for all of us, no? Whether it’s an in-person meeting where you can’t connect to a projector, or a phone call where no one can use the dial-in number, these are disasters that can derail any meeting. Some of the most common instances that have happened to me are:

  • Client is unable to join the screen-share solution

  • No means to properly project during an in-person client presentation

  • Internet lag times during a walkthrough of the product offering

  • R.I.P. PowerPoint

That last one is actually a fairly new one to me. So new, that the first and only times (three, to be precise!) it’s happened to me were all in one week. If you were to run into any one of these issues, it can completely derail your meeting and kill momentum. I’ve started to prepare for these mishaps in a few ways:

  • Ask the client ahead of time what web conferencing tool they use internally and adapt to them. This sometimes means having to download their software ahead of time and asking them to tack on credentials to the invite. Sounds like a tall ask but it also guarantees their ability to join seamlessly and the meeting to start without a hiccup.

  • Send a .pptx or .pdf version of the deck or material you were planning to cover ahead of time. That way if this comes up, you can quickly adjust. I tend to stick with sending it to just our main point of contact so that not everyone gets a look before the meeting. Definitely part of my inner thespian, but I enjoy the showmanship of presenting fresh material.

  • At some point, you start to pick up the parts of your app or product that take a while to load. I preload these pages in multiple tabs or windows just in case there’s a delay so I can still show them efficiently throughout the presentation.

  • Always. Always. Always. Make a .pdf version of your deck and have it open and in the ready in case PowerPoint crashes. Also, if PowerPoint crashed once, assume that it will crash again.

Human Error

Have you ever accidentally called a client by the wrong name? Or written it incorrectly in an email? Or even worse – referred to them as one of their direct competitors? If you have, then you’ve felt that catastrophic level of shame. There’s no cheat sheet for this one. If it happens, your best bet is to just own it in the moment and apologize. You can try to avoid this in the first place by double-checking everything written that goes out, and practicing before walking into any call or meeting. I personally have a habit of writing everyone’s name and the company name into my notebook a couple times before the meeting. It could just be a placebo, but muttering it, writing it, and then being able to look down and read it throughout the meeting might help to ensure that you don’t say anything contrary.

Ultimately, you will most likely run into one or more of the aforementioned scenarios throughout your tenure as a CS representative. Don’t beat yourself up if Murphy’s Law happens - it happens to everyone. You can’t prevent every bad outcome, but at the very least preparation can minimize the impact.

Want more practical tips on how to succeed as a CSM? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers online training and workshops, including our popular CSM Training Program. For more information on this program and our other classes and workshops, please visit TheSuccessLeague.io

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Amin Akbarpour - Amin is a customer success coach and architect.  With relationship-building at the core of his practice, he molds teams by instilling the necessary principles to transform them into trusted advisors. Understanding what's needed for organizational change, he translates theory and ideology into practice and habit. Amin is one of the founding advisors to The Success League. In addition to his work with The League, Amin currently serves as an account manager for Persado. Originally from Southern California, Amin is a University of San Francisco alum who now calls New York City home.