Lessons in Crisis Management from your Peers in SaaS

~ 11 min read | April 10

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor”

Franklin D Roosevelt

 

The hair in the back of our necks tingled when SaaStr got canceled. With a sense of foreboding, we slowly started calling our employees abroad to return to their home bases. This was somewhere around the time when the Corona Virus was being labeled as a ‘pandemic’ from being an ‘epidemic’ by the WHO. We equipped our offices with sanitizers in every corner (this was before the sanitizer price hike) and started telling our employees to avoid foreign travel. One of our teammates had to forego a Bachelorette in Bali, one of our colleagues got separated from his wife because she was in Singapore. Panic started settling in slowly. Parallelly teams started doing work from home trials. As each cough and each sneeze sent a fresh jolt of panic across the workplace, we finally decided to ask our 350+ employees to work from home until the situation got any better. This was no herculean task but being prepared helped us accept the reality as soon as we could to regain our composure.

Viruses are not unknown to the world. Each year the world faces a couple of viruses that annoy humans from time to time but the Corona pandemic pushes the world into a recession much similar to the Great Depression of 2008.

This is because businesses, small or large are facing the ripples of a greater tide. We at Chargebee realized now is not the time to sulk but now is when businesses need a strategy and a sense of direction. So, we decided to take a pause, sit with our leaders with a cup of coffee and tried to understand the business impacts and future implications of this pandemic. 

 

 

We learn by helping others and that is exactly what we did through this coffee table discussion. This a gist from the discussion. If you’re not much of a reader and enjoy watching stuff, I am deeply offended but here is a link to our very own Corona relief page where you can watch this discussion and many others of the like.

Keeping our Ears to the Ground Becomes Important

Krish, our founder says that “Being in a position of power and having access to multiple data points, it is still naive to assume that people are comforted when I say, It’s fine, everything is under control”. Anxiety prevails and pervades all conversations. Working from home is different but working from home during a pandemic is a different ball game in itself. Showing vulnerability and accepting reality is a good start. Krish says that the best way to deal with this is to be with your employees, metaphorically. Have Slack channels and zoom calls to catch up with people on a regular basis. “Ask a lot of questions and encourage more questions! We have weekly AMAs and sessions where we talk to each other and ask questions”, recommends Krish as a way to soothe anxious nerves. Rather than feeling victimized, it is time to take the bull by the horns and seek your own answers.

“Showing vulnerability and accepting the reality is a good start” – Krish, CEO, and Founder at Chargebee. Tweet

Don’t be afraid to over-communicate

The relationship a business shares with its customers and prospects, especially during a time of crisis lays the ground for a long-lasting bond. Both potential customers and existing customers have some level of panic about the business’ continuity. The only difference between them is that they are at different levels in their customer journey. This understanding helps a business gain clarity in its approaches. “There can be a little crossover in your communications when you tell the same message to both the parties but it is important to over-communicate at times like these”, says Adam Tesan, our CRO. For example, at Chargebee we did something we wouldn’t do on a typical day. We shared our internal policy changes, work from home policies and strategies we are using to cope up with this situation to the public. This opened the doors for feedback and provided us and other businesses an opportunity to learn from each other. Also, it gave a sense of safety to our customers when they knew the employees working for/with them were being taken care of.

“It is important to over-communicate at times like these”, says Adam Tesan, CRO at Chargebee.  Tweet

Proactively reach out to customers who have a bigger hit on their business

At Chargebee we deal with a diverse set of customers. Some are affected more than others. So, as a measure, we started reaching out to customers to figure out ways in which our product can help them. “It is also about how flexible we can be in accommodating their (our customers) newly changed needs. We make sure that our customer-facing teams are equipped with the knowledge and tools to quickly adapt to this situation.”, says Krish, our CEO when asked about dealing with anxious customers. This stems from the simple belief that in the end, we are all humans who are faced with similar challenges and that we need to stick together to get through this. The Corona fear is at the forefront of everyone’s mind and having this conversation, even a single line at the beginning of a meeting to ensure if everyone is doing okay helps set in empathy between teams and to address the reality of the situation right away.

“We make sure that our customer-facing teams are equipped with the knowledge and tools to quickly adapt to this situation.”, says Krish, Founder at Chargebee.  Tweet

Three key metrics to ensure cash flow during the COVID19 pandemic

It is vital to keep a wary eye on cash flow in a situation like this. The metrics we need to focus on are invariably related to it. One such important metric is the ‘Net Cash Burn’. This needs to be calculated week on week and month on a month now due to the uncertainty prevailing in our environment. The other relevant metric is, ‘efficiency’ which justifies every dollar that goes out today from your business. “If the correlation with your spend is built, it would help you gain a deeper understanding of your spend on appropriate channels”, says KS our Director of Finance. It is not entirely taboo to talk about growth at this time either. The metric to keep an eye on would be the ‘Payback period’. It gives a rough timeline of when a business would get back the returns on what they have spent today.

“Understand your spend pattern and segregate it into committed and discretionary spend so that you’re in a better position to understand your cash flow. Then, correlate them with the above three metrics or any other metric you think is important for your business. This would help you understand if you have the ability to earn revenue for every dollar spent”, adds KS.

“Have a sharp eye on your ‘Net Cash Burn’, ‘Efficiency metrics’ and ‘Payback period’”, comments KS, Director of Finance at Chargebee.  Tweet

Focus on the post-Corona scenario to plan better now

There is very little information about Corona out there. At least not as much as we would like to be equipped with. This scenario of minimal or no information takes one back to the stock market crash of 24 Oct 1929 where a lagging ticker caused panic and a bearish mentality amongst stock traders. Lack of information creates panic which makes one take wrong decisions. “When it comes to cash flow projections and spend, we don’t know if we hit the bottom before the market recovery happens”, says Krish. The situation is new and it has hit the reset button on our economy but we need to be ready along with the market so that we emerge out of this in a stronger position. This perspective changes everything. It lets you strip down to the absolute necessities to address your customer needs and put in place measures to take care of your people. “Our promises to our customers and employees take center stage. Recovery is where one needs to focus to emerge stronger,” adds Krish.

“When it comes to cash flow projections and spend, we don’t know if we hit the bottom before the market recovery happens”, says Krish.  Tweet

Addressing the reality helps us to maintain a good ToFu lead flow

This goes back to an earlier point mentioned about having conversations with people instead of selling to them. It is true that website traffic, social media traffic, and lead flow through the funnel would start slowing down but there are also other aspects that make up for this. “Previously weekend traffic would be very minimal but now, considering everyone is working from home, there is a bit of uniformity in traffic throughout the week. The bigger truth behind all this is that we nourish these leads to MQLs by having genuine conversations and not trying to make MQLs out of leads as a priority”, comments Vikram our Head of Marketing, when asked about how our marketing strategy has changed now. At Chargebee we have started having regular conversations with our prospects through content and the things we say. “If history tells us one thing, we have seen problems as humans and we have been able to come out of it stronger,” adds Vikram. So as a business it’s important to think about how a business is positioning itself and sharpening its capabilities for a post-Corona world.

“The bigger truth behind all this is that we nourish these leads (ToFu leads) to MQLs by having genuine conversations and not trying to make MQLs out of leads as a priority”, says Vikram, our Director of Marketing.  Tweet

Shifting the focus to high engagement from high performance

We all react to a situation in different ways. Thanks to Chargebee’s size, it has been easier to be in touch with many people to gauge their reactions. “For example, we have a session with our managers called ‘Coaching the Coaches’ where we help managers in carrying messages consistently to employees who are working from their homes and helping them out when they need it,” says Krish.

Another way to engage employees would be to have non-business meetings or no agenda chats. Humans, in general, are social creatures and now we are forced into isolation which is against our primary instinct. So go ahead, have your Friday evening wine or a Monday lunch with a colleague over a zoom call. The difference is your medium of communication and not your perspectives or the people. Go ahead and use your business tools for social reasons.

That said, it is also vital to be mindful of people who are in production or execution. Too many meetings can hinder their productivity. A 5min conversation at the office would be a 25 mins Zoom call now (it has also been noted that many professionals are secretly rejoicing Zoom’s feature of curtailing conversations within 45 mins in its free version).

One of the biggest problems is we have a 5 ft distance between our workspace and home. This has thinned down the line that separates work from life tipping the balance a bit. All it takes to overcome the crisis is a positive attitude and the right set of tools in your armory

 

But when a door closes, a window creaks open. Crisis situations like these lead to unspoken opportunities and help sow the seeds for innovation. We have put together a Corona relief page designed specifically for you to go through these rough tides with the help of SaaS. We address questions relating to your cash flow, savings, crisis management, and growth, bringing in experts from various fields to address your business woes. Take a look at it, ask your questions or follow our social media handles to know more about the help available to your business. 

The unprecedented and harsh realities of life make us tougher and more capable of facing life’s challenges and end up offering us the best lessons in life – A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor indeed.

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Sinduja Pk

I am the human version of Daria Morgendorffer minus the glasses | Marketing specialist @ Chargebee