top of page

What to do when your customers need first aid

The other week I had a meeting with myself to review my accomplishments for the first half of 2020. The accomplishment I’m most proud of is saving a woman from choking.

I was onsite with a client at a WeWork office in San Francisco earlier this year waiting to use the restroom in the kitchen area when I heard someone say, “She’s choking! Does anyone know what to do?” Thankfully, I know what to do. In 2019, I got certified in first aid and CPR so I could teach fitness classes at my local YMCA. I rushed over, swiftly performed the Heimlich Maneuver on the choking woman and she regained access to her airwaves. Did I save her life? I don’t know. I do know I helped her breathe more quickly. The culprit? She was eating an innocent beet.

The crazy thing is the day after I reviewed my 2020 accomplishments and remembered the We Work incident; I got another chance to be a hero. My husband and I were barbecuing on the patio. In the middle of dinner, he looks up at me and gave me the universal sign indicating he was choking. Since he wasn’t coughing, I knew oxygen wasn't getting in. I jumped up, performed the Heimlich Maneuver on my husband and his breathing resumed. This time a grilled red pepper was blocking his oxygen.

Be prepared.

What does the Heimlich Maneuver have to do with customer onboarding and Customer Success? A lot, actually. According to Wikipedia, the Heimlich Maneuver is a first aid procedure used to treat upper airway obstructions by foreign objects. I performed abdominal thrusts to compress the lungs and exert pressure on foreign objects lodged in the trachea to expel them. In the cases above, the foreign objects were healthy vegetables!

Just like getting trained in first aid and CPR, you need impactful procedures when your customers need first aid. Think of first aid as a series of playbooks. There are playbooks for bleeding, broken bones, and choking, to name just a few. I learned how to administer these plays and practiced them in order to get certified in first aid. I learned what the signs are for each incident and how to provide the right care at the right time. I also learned to call for medical aid when appropriate.

Have a plan.

If I had to study how to do the Heimlich Maneuver before I performed it, I wouldn’t have helped anyone. The benefit comes from deploying the maneuver swiftly. While it’s most important to provide proactive guidance to customers, sometimes an incident needs immediate attention and heroics. Don’t waste time figuring out what to do for each unique incident. Instead, do your best to create playbooks for common issues that arise, or that you anticipate arising, and run consistent plays.

Ed Powers shares it’s not crises that impact customer relationships, it’s how you handle the events. In his article, Olark: Textbook Service Recovery, Ed emphasizes it’s how you handle situations like network outages that makes or breaks your level of customer retention and loyalty, not the incidents themselves. In this case, Olark, a cloud software company, had a playbook in place for handling outages and service recovery. Their playbook includes plays such as clear communication and follow ups to restore relationships as well as outages.

Next time a customer needs first aid, make sure you are prepared. Since you don’t want to live in reactive heroics, build plans for how to address common and anticipated issues. Then, train team members so everyone knows how to deploy the plays in the right way at the right time. Include details for when it’s time to call in the experts, and address issues quickly.



bottom of page