How Being Proactive in Customer Success Can Backfire

One of the core goals of a customer success professional is to be proactive by helping solve customer issues before they know they are issues as well as providing advice on how the customer can improve. However, some forms of proactiveness may not be the best solution. It really depends on what the customer is looking for. I got a reminder of this recently and it was a good wake up call.

One of the first things I do every morning is review my Customer Success Dashboard. It includes a bunch of data points including who is up for renewal, how our onboarding projects are proceeding as well as a number of reports on the health of our customers (on a side note, if you don’t have a Customer Success dashboard, you need to build one ASAP). I noticed that a few of our customers were underperforming on key activities so I reached out to these customers letting them know this (which they may have already realized) and offering assistance.

One client responded and let me know that they have been really busy but appreciated the reminder. Another client had a different reaction and it’s something that I probably always keep in the back of my mind before I send out any future customer communication – it was that good. I’ve read and reread the email from the customer a half dozen times at least.

You Need to Know Your Customer – Data is Not Enough

I based my assessment that there was a problem on the data I was seeing but what I really should have done was worked more closely with my team and the customer to better understand their needs. The client that sent a detailed and respectful email response had a very succinct message: support me, don’t necessarily coach me. They were a very advanced user and had deliberately reduced their product usage during the summer months. They didn’t want to be told that their usage had dropped off – they knew this. What they wanted was more tips and tricks as well as more accessible product updates. We immediately started working on how we could improve in these areas but there was a bigger message here.


While you may be seeing usage data as black and white – it rarely is. Usage alerts and notifications that tell you that a client may be in trouble are helpful but don’t let those tools be your only gauge for customer success. You need to rely on basic customer relationships skills that include asking the customer what do they define as success and incorporating that in the customer notes that you maintain on a client. You can compare this to pilots that need to maintain excellent flying skills even though they have sophisticated auto-pilot systems (think of Sully Sullenberg).

Have you had situations where you’re proactive activities have backfired?



2 thoughts on “How Being Proactive in Customer Success Can Backfire

  1. Chad – great post.

    I read this a bit differently. The scenario you’ve described in the best in which you’ve identified a situation and you’ve approached your customer pro-actively wasn’t the true problem here;

    You’re challenge was more of reaching out to your customer with the right proposition for assistance.

    Drop in usage or low usage in general is one sign, however, it should be evaluated in a wider context – customer lifecycle stage, business objectives, level of expertise with the product…

    Data helps the CSM team get greater awareness into customers, but the decision of what to do next may differ.

    Would you agree?


Comments are closed.

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: