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How does the ‘Sundown Rule’ Relate to Customer Success?

It’s amazing to see how Customer Success relates to different aspects of all walks of a normal human life. Consider the following scenario: you have a question or a need, and you contact your lender, health insurer, lawyer, or even a house repairman. What if they don’t react within a day or a couple of days? It’s difficult to know what’s going on and when you’ll get a response or answer. And your customers are no different. In this blog, we explain how it relates to the famous ‘Sundown Rule’. 

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What is a ‘Sundown Rule’? 

The “Sundown Rule,” coined by Sam Walton, is a guideline. This is based on the classic proverb, “why put off till tomorrow what you can do today?” Sam developed a rule at Walmart that required the firm to respond to requests from customers (especially significant) or other partners or suppliers by sundown on the day they were received, rather than deferring them until a later date.

People know that you care when you follow up fast with answers to issues and concerns,” he used to say. Over time, this became known as the Walmart “Sundown Rule“: try to respond to requests by sundown the same day they are received.

While Sam Walton established the guideline for Walmart employees decades ago, it remains an integral component of the firm’s culture. Also, a driving force behind how the company handles its vendors, customers, partners, and others who rely on its services.

Employees and executives at Walmart follow this rule seriously. And, they believe strongly in:

  • Serving customers as their top priority. 
  • Making shopping a pleasant experience for customers.
  • Helping employees to serve customers the best.

Walmart management and employees alike take these ideals, as well as the Sundown Rule, seriously. It’s normal practice in their stores, where their professions rely on one another, to complete tasks as quickly as possible. Before the sun sets, but most importantly, to respect the customer throughout the process.

These beliefs help Walmart to do more things today. This in turn helps them accomplish more than their competitors. No wonder, why Walmart stands out from the crowd!

How does Sundown Rule relate to Customer Success? 

Now that we know the Sundown rule, let’s understand how does it relate to Customer Success. As a Customer Success Manager (CSM), you have the power to set an example for the rest of your business on how to handle customers, whether internal or external. One of the most effective ways for your team to service the client is to ensure that they receive a response the same day as their inquiry – regardless of the nature of their request or query.

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Your CSMs may not be able to address client problems or respond to inquiries the same day they are received. Depending on the complexity of the request, the TAT may vary. However, the Sundown Rule can still be applied by developing a set of recommendations for your CSMs.

  • Easy to Solve -If required, work and communicate with every cross-functional team to fully address the client’s problem. Or at least, respond to their inquiry, and respond to the customer with all pertinent data.
  • Tricky to solve -If you can’t solve the customer’s problem or respond to their request, take as many steps as you can. And describe the path of action to them, with next steps for the next day, week, month, and so on.
  • Impossible to solve -If it’s impossible to even begin to handle the client’s problem or respond to their concerns, acknowledge the query. And inform the client that a follow-up with the next steps will be sent shortly.
  • Off-hours request – Similar to the above situation, inform the vendor/customer that a response will be available the next business day after thoughtful consideration. 

It is surprising to see as to why only a handful of leaders are willing to put this simple notion into effect. How many times have you written an email to anyone during business hours and received no answer after 24 or 48 hours? What effect does it have on you? The following is the more challenging question. How many times has someone sent you an email during business hours and you didn’t react for 24 to 48 hours?

Acknowledging the email in the first 2 hours is like winning half a battle! Customers love when you acknowledge them. They think that at least somebody has heard them and is working on it. At CustomerSuccessBox, we follow a principle of ‘zero hour’. The moment we receive an email, the support desk acknowledges and routes it through the concerned department. The effort is to acknowledge the request within the first hour. 

Your customers are your company’s most precious asset. Therefore it’s up to you, your CSM team, and your leaders to make sure to treat them in a manner that benefits them.

Key Takeaways: 

How do you make sure that everyone in your company follows this rule seriously? Try answering the following questions:

  • Is there a set of customer response criteria in place at your company? 
  • How will you guarantee that CSMs and others on the front lines follow the principles? 

If you have solid systems in place, then you need not worry. Even if the resolution isn’t fast, handling customers’ concerns – whether internal or external – in a reasonable timeframe will make the consumer feel valued.

The Sundown Rule in Customer Success is a terrific approach to show that you care about others. It’s worth a shot. The results will wow you! 

Content marketer at CustomerSuccessBox | An avid reader, a passionate writer and a life long learner | Writer @ Hacker Noon | B2B SaaS & Customer Success enthusiast |