The Hurtlocker Ratio: Measuring Proactive vs. Reactive Effort / by Joseph Palumbo

My first official venture into the world of Customer Success was building an on boarding team for the Rackspace Open Cloud. The genesis of the team came from an analysis of our growing support workload that determined a large percentage of  issues were preventable if the customer had been more knowledgeable about cloud architecture and cloudifying their app. However, since this was 2010ish, practically 100% of our customers were new to the cloud, coming from single-server hosting environments. 

We built the team from scratch, pulling people from sales and support and writing the playbook as we went along. We built a program that identified and addressed very specific needs of new customers in their first 60 days - planning, designing, building, going live and optimizing - with a focus on reducing churn, increasing spend and, of course, reducing support workload over the life of the customer's account. 

The metrics were undeniable. By shifting the support strategy for new customers from reactive (call us if something breaks) to proactive (let's build it right the first time), all the needles moved in the right direction. 

With our guidance, new cloud customers felt more comfortable shifting from a single "box" to a tiered, multi-node architecture - revenue went up

Because of this confidence customers were less likely to abandon their cloud projects - churn went down

We provided much needed guidance getting customers through one of the most difficult milestones in adopting the cloud - NPS went up

And because we shared our expertise with them early and often, resulting in more resilient infrastructure - support workload went down

That experience taught me that one of the most important metrics for any Customer Success team/program/company is the ratio of proactive to reactive work. 

Tracking your ratio of reactive work vs. proactive work should be a key indicator of your effectiveness as a Customer Success team. 

The Hurtlocker

The proactive approach became the mantra of our team. As both a reminder and an inside joke, I added hurtlocker@rackspace.com (now deactivated) as an alias for our more official, more boring team email address. The reference is to the movie The Hurtlocker which is about a bomb disposal unit in the Iraq War, the group of guys that find and diffuse bombs before they could harm anybody. That's exactly what I felt my team was doing. 

We spent our days working with customers to ensure they had the right expectations, plans, architecture and methodology in place before they sent live traffic to their new cloud platform. Needless to say many of these conversations were not easy, but having them on day 5 rather than day 50 diffused a lot of potential explosive situations waiting to detonate days, weeks or months down the road. 

Thus we coined the term: The Hurtlocker Ratio - the measurement of proactive vs. reactive effort and engagement for a Customer Success team. 

How to keep it proactive? 

It's great if you have the resources to dedicate to an official on boarding team, but in most cases its one group of CSMs that are responsible for all aspects of the customer journey. 

Shifting the focus from reactive to proactive customer engagements is never easy. Like many organizations, your CSMs are probably busy addressing all sorts of incoming problems. But, as is almost always the case, the first step to change is to get a baseline measurement. 

Even without a fancy CRM or Customer Success Platform, you can track your teams proactive:reactive ratio with a simple spreadsheet. 

My team has a tracker where CSMs will add a link to the documentation of their most recent engagement with the customer, the date of the engagement, and tag it either "Proactive" or "Reactive". 

From there, using a few =COUNTIF functions allows me to keep a near realtime assessment of my teams reactive and proactive efforts. 

While the big 3 metrics of Customer Success are, and will always be, retention, revenue and customer loyalty, keeping track of a few of these other KPIs is a great indicator of what direction your team is heading, and the long-term benefit of their efforts. 

Need help? 

If you'd like help putting together a spreadsheet to help track the hurtlocker ratio, feel free to email me or schedule some time to talk