The Power of Early Warning Systems

October 2, 2017 Paul Philp

The Power of Early Warning Systems

In September 1995, as I was driving down from Toronto to take a scuba diving trip in Florida, I experienced first-hand the impact of an early warning system. As I reached Jacksonville, authorities began instructing the inhabitants of Florida to evacuate due to the category 4 hurricane headed their way, Opal.

Although you can’t prevent a hurricane from happening, early warning systems allow us to save what can be saved and seek shelter when it's most critical. Let’s look at what we can learn from a hurricane’s early warning system when it comes to Customer Success.

To donate to the red cross disaster relief fund, click here. For more information on how to help those in need in Puerto Rico, click here.


Why do you need an early warning system?

Be Proactive and Timely

When I was driving to Florida in the midst of hurricane Opal, I was given instructions early enough to change my plans and backtrack. An early warning system should be timely enough to enable rational decision making, but not too early that one learns to ignore it. Learning that a customer is at risk of churning is one thing, but if you’re not giving yourself the time to address the problem, you’re defeating the purpose of having a warning system at all.

Organize Team Work

Saving a customer sometimes requires the help of various departments. Customer Success Managers can enlist the help of Sales and Product when they are alerted of an at-risk customer. An effective early warning system pulls people together with enough time to coordinate.

Avoid Churn

The end goal of an early warning system is to save what can be saved. For Customer Success, this means preventing churn, and in most cases, churn can be avoided.

Watch the webinar recording "Building an Early Warning System for Customer Success" here.


What makes an early warning system effective?

Know the Risks

The key behaviors that indicate a risk of churn are different from product to product. You need to spend some time figuring out what exactly takes your customers down the path of churn. You might find that churn begins with increasing amounts of tickets, or on the other hand, decreasing engagements. Your risks are singular to you, so make sure to clearly identify them. 

Monitoring Program and Clear Signals

Clear Signals

Once you’ve identified your indicators of risks, monitor them. When they happen, you need clear signals that indicate you need to take action. Set up trip wires with your Customer Success Management platform and make sure the appropriate players in your organizations are alerted just in time to save the relationship.

This is what our signals look like for at risk customers:

Amity Rule Editor

Standardized Playbook


When signals are triggered, it’s time to act. Define your “save” playbook prior to any of this happening. Having a set playbook allows for more than just effectiveness, it allows for iteration and scalability. Once your playbook is set and ready to be used, it should be shared among team members ensuring a uniform and coherent customer experience. Based on the results you observe, iterate and adjust to improve your strategy.


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About the Author

Paul Philp

Paul Philp is a leading innovator in SaaS and Customer Success. As Founder and CEO of <a href="">Amity</a>, Paul has spoken with Customer Success professionals from over 1,000 SaaS providers. Paul has a lifelong passion for helping business put customers first.

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