Post-Mortems: Learn From Your Past

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In case this is a new term for you, let’s define it right away:

post·mor·tem / (pōs(t)-ˈmȯr-təm / noun: a process, usually performed at the conclusion of a project, to determine and analyze elements of the project that were successful or unsuccessful

At its most simple, this is a documented discussion that you should undertake when a customer has ended their contract. For the most part, if you are in enterprise SaaS, a contract ending is an unsuccessful ending, as the customer no longer wishes to use your product.

You want to start this documentation as soon as you can so that data and events are fresh in your head. It may seem pessimistic to start writing it as soon as a client gives notice to cancel, but preparation is never a bad thing. Start writing down recent events, make note of their usage numbers, review their contract. We’ll expand into what to document in a moment.

The goal is to understand how this happened. How did the customer decide to end their contract? And from this, there are two follow-up paths:

  1. How can we retain this customer?
  2. How can we retain the NEXT customer?

If you have the good fortune and enough time to try and keep this customer, do everything you can. However, if you’ve exhausted all avenues, take this lump as a lesson on how to make sure no other customers churn for the same reason. Don’t make the same mistake again.

Okay, so let’s get into it. The owner of this document / process should be the assigned CSM, as they have the most context on the post-sale relationship. They can start the document on their own, followed-up by a meeting with all relevant internal parties. Use the below as a starting template, and make sure to customize based on your business.

I. Background


  • Industry
  • Company size (ARR and/or employee count)
  • Contacts and roles


  • Account Executive
  • What got the customer to sign / Any expectations set pre-sale
  • Start Date
  • Renewal Date
  • Contract levels


  • Implementation Engineer
  • Launch Date
  • Time to Launch
  • Roadblocks encountered


  • Customer Success Manager
  • Any other members brought on to service account
  • Metrics and numbers
    • Total / YoY / QoQ / MoM / Any other way to slice

II. Engagement

  • Summary: 100 words of how it was sold, onboarded, managed, difficulties, and the path to ending
  • Early Signs: Insert all events that may have been a cause for concern
  • Actions Taken: Insert all events that were undertaken to try to course-correct
  • Last Straw: What was the single event that caused them to finally reach out and cancel or decide not to renew

III. Learnings

  • What did we miss early on
  • What were the root causes
  • What could we have done better
  • What do we look for NOW with our current customers that may lead us to early detection
  • What new systems can we adopt / upgrade

The CSM should fill out the first two sections, and then schedule a 30 minute meeting with the account executive, head of CS, a support team lead, and potentially a product manager, to discuss. It’s important that this meeting does not become a finger-pointing session where everyone tries to blame someone else for the lost customer. The goal is to discover learnings to prevent future customers from churning, so the name of the game is change management, a topic I know is near and dear to Emily’s heart. Expect an upcoming blog post soon!

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