What to Measure in a Crisis (and How to Find Alignment on What Needs to be Done)

May 7, 2020

We’ve all seen an infinite amount of ads and emails that include phrases like, “In these uncertain times..” and “In these unprecedented times…” 

As annoying as the repetitive language is, there’s a confession behind those lines: no one knows with any certainty what’s going to come next—especially businesses. They just know they need revenue and want you to consider buying.

There’s a lot of unknowns right now, which makes it a great time to double down and focus on what is known.

You can know with certainty what’s happening right this moment, if you know where to look. And once you know what’s happening, then you have data to share and act upon, and in this you can give yourself a chance to control your company’s destiny.

Here are the key KPIs that need to be watched like a hawk during the COVID-19 outbreak (and beyond).

Note: All dashboard metric images are populated with sample data


Customer Success KPIs

  • Churn Rate / Cancellations

In an environment when Maintaining is the New Growing, nothing matters more than keeping the customers you’ve already brought in. Ideally this is an area where companies are already proactive. But even a slight, unexpected increase in churn is a reason to evaluate the situation.

Customer cancellation visualization built with SalesForce.com


  • Usage

Chances are you’re already monitoring usage, but now you need to protect it. Proactively reach out to your clients with encouragement and suggestions as to how your service can help them get through the crisis, and if you see a decline in usage, reach out with a personal touch immediately.

Account activity visualization built with PostgreSQL


  • Support Tickets

The last thing you need right now is a flux of bugs and errors in your service. Watch for a sudden rise in support tickets, as well as a clear process for flagging tickets that could represent system-wide flaws.

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Sales & Marketing KPIs

  • Web traffic & performance

No matter what your business is, chances are there is still an audience who needs your services even in a crisis. Watch your website traffic closely, particularly organic referrals, as those can often be remedied by fixing errors flagged by search engine tools.

Website visitor sessions visualization built with Google Analytics
  • Conversions

Similar to web traffic, conversions (people filling out forms to request trials or demos) show intent and interest in your services. If they drop, consider testing new calls-to-action, adding live chat, or utilizing a promotional offer. Also, a sudden rise in conversions means a significant event somewhere off-site (such as a press mention, or a recommendation from an influencer), which could result in a replicable result (create similar events) and an opportunity to boost the signal using your social media channels and prospect database.

  • Demos / Contracts in Pipeline

Moving to the bottom of the marketing funnel, closely monitor what’s happening with prospects who are on the verge of becoming clients. Be prepared to offer alternative pricing and contractual options if there is a precipitous decline in prospects willing to become paying clients.

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Finance and HR KPIs

  • Hard Costs and Cash Burn

Every penny matters right now, and if you want to avoid workforce reductions then cost controls and reductions must be put in place, with goals included. This means reevaluating vendor relationships, reducing overhead and fringe benefits, and possibly compensation reductions.

Cost reduction visualization built with Quickbooks Online
  • Employee Productivity

Now isn’t the time to push for maximum productivity, not with all the factors weighing on employee mental health. However, measuring productivity is still important for two reasons: 

  1. Things still need to be completed
  2. A precipitous drop in productivity could be a sign of disengagement, which means employees may feel overwhelmed, unprotected, or helpless
Example employee productivity visualization built with Asana

Measurement Needs Alignment

There are other KPIs that could be added to this list that are unique to your business, of course. Ultimately what you measure is up to you, and the more important part is you have alignment on what the data is showing.

Alignment is simply having everyone on the same page about what's happening and how to respond. Sounds easy, but working in a remote environment and communicating complex data make for a challenge. Your best bet to earn alignment is two-fold:

  1. Communicate the data in the clearest way possible. This is where a business intelligence dashboard platform like Grow Data Navigation comes in handy. No spreadsheets or complex queries⁠—just clear, visual representation of real-time occurrences. 
  2. Regular lines of communication. Whether it’s sending metrics from your business intelligence dashboard to Slack every morning, or reviewing them in a daily standup, it’s vital to discuss and make sure everyone on the team is aware of what is being communicated. Then leaders need to agree on action plans and create accountabilities.

If certainty is the most valuable commodity in a situation like this, then alignment is next in line. Even the most clear data trend is useless if it isn’t being observed and acted upon appropriately. 

#NeverStopGrowing

Maybe the greatest misconception many leaders have during the COVID-19 crisis (or any business-altering crisis) is that inaction is itself a course of action. The truth is every business has an opportunity right now, and it begins with the data. Be prepared to respond to any irregularities, and fight to maintain and even grow your positive results.

Use this time to create data driven habits. What’s critical to measure in a crisis is critical to measure all the time.

You don’t have to watch these numbers like a hawk when things clear up, but these comprise the DNA of your success and are worthy of regular consideration.

For now, hyper-awareness and response is needed. Open communication and alignment is more important than ever. That’s why Grow developed a dashboard that ties in all the KPIs mentioned above (which come from a variety of data sources). If you want us to help set yours up, request a trial. Or if you have important data stored in spreadsheets and want to give it a go on your own, sign up for a free business intelligence dashboard.

Everyone is excited to get back to “precedented” times, and we believe those times will return soon, we believe. But in the meantime, you don’t have to be in the dark about what’s happening or what actions need to be taken next to survive and grow. 

Download the B2B Digital Marketing KPIs Cheat Sheet


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