Every day there are more and more stories about people, mostly in tech, getting laid off. It’s not only tech, as things have a tendency to reverberate through nearly every industry. The fear of a recession has a lot of companies getting rid of ‘bloat’ or excessive overhead.

For a bit of comfort, people have not stopped spending, investing, or growing. They may not spend as much, invest as much, or grow as fast, but forward momentum is still occurring. And this forward momentum means there are jobs and work that need to be done.

But what does this mean for Customer Success Managers? Are we at risk? Will our roles change? Should they change? Should we be worried?

How customer success can steer the ship in an economic downturn
If the turmoil and upheaval of the last two and a half years have made anything clear, it’s to expect the unexpected.

Customer Success Managers in a recession: 5 things we can do right now

Let’s presume there will be a slight recession. It may not last long or be as large as past recessions, but for the sake of this discussion, we are assuming that with all of the indications we have, one will arrive soon.

Let’s also presume that the big tech companies continue to evaluate their staffing allocations, which will inherently affect nearly all other industries in some way. These are safe assumptions, but remember some industries can still experience rapid growth, even in a recession.

I fully believe that Customer Success Managers (CSMs) are even more valuable during a recession. Here’s how that can play out.

1. Focus on what really matters and what is at the core of customer success

In a recession, we have to prioritize activities that add value to our customers’ business. We will need to make strategic choices that lean heavily toward reducing churn, providing even more outside-of-the-box thinking to add value beyond what our product does.

2. Dial-up empathy

Our customers will be dealing with a lot and we need to not just understand it, but really feel what they are grappling with. Listen more, talk less, and seek to find out what they are prioritizing.

3. Prioritize success outcomes even more

Think of how we can lend a hand with industry knowledge and experience to help our customers with bigger outcomes. How can we use our expertise in a given domain or industry to give our customers guidance and assist them beyond what the product or service offers?

4. Communicate with purpose

Recessions are stressful because there is a lot of uncertainty and a lot of difficult decisions to be made, both within our own companies and among our customers. In this climate, we need to be very precise with our communication but also open and transparent with cross-functional teams and leadership.

Our product and marketing teams can help us deliver more value as we communicate the voice of the customer. Our leadership can be made aware of why our customers might not be able to renew or expand. There will be many opportunities to communicate with more purpose and we as CSMs can play a critical role.

5. Seek to learn more

During quarterly business reviews and executive business reviews, we can seek to ask more questions and really listen to what our customers are saying and going through. Perhaps they will need more guidance, less tech touch, and more human touch. Perhaps they need to scale back. How is their industry being affected?

The more we can learn, the better off we will be when it comes to adding value to both our customers’ businesses and our own.

It also helps to know that customer success is not just for SaaS and tech. I am of the firm belief that every industry (yes, even non-SaaS) needs Customer Success Managers. The profession has grown out of the SaaS industry but there’s no limit to what it can do for non-SaaS businesses, and this is also why I believe Customer Success Managers can help even more during a recession.

Stay educated. Stay positive. Stay valuable.

It’s up to us how much or little we help during a recession, but the bottom line is that we are vital to the retention of customers, regardless of industry. And rest assured – no one wants to lose customers. It might get more stressful, it might require more work, but it will be 100% worth it when the recession ends. And we know that they do end.