Conversation has always been part of marketing and customer relations. As David Weinburger put it back in 1999, “markets are nothing more than conversations.”
Back then, conversations were mainly held and directed by the company; personalizing messages at scale was basically impossible. Today, on the other hand, we have the technology to reach out to millions of people through many diverse channels and to use data to target specific segments of these people with offers and information specifically tailored to their needs. But despite this advanced technology, many businesses are still struggling to adjust their approach, to shift towards truly conversational marketing and relations.
What is conversational marketing and relations? At it’s core, it is all about personalizing engagements and being available. It’s about bringing value to the customer, not just through the products sold but through the entire relationship between the customer and the company. It’s about encouraging customers to engage with the brand. It’s about putting a friendly face to the company. Conversational marketing and relations is the death of one-way shouting and the birth of two-ways conversations.
So what does all of this have to do with customer success? Companies like Buffer and Eurostar are already demonstrating how approaching all engagements like a conversation can have a deep and positive impact on their customer relationships. These companies are pioneering customer success programs that strive to make the company actively available to customers at all times and that approach all interactions in a friendly, conversational manner. The result? Their customers feel special and appreciated and their experiences are seamless. In short, these companies are communicating more effectively and therefore are able to consistently produce delighted customers (i.e. people who are willing to share their experiences with others). Sounds like the customer success dream, right?
Shameless plug: ChurnZero believes strongly in the power of conversational engagements. Our solution promotes this effective style of customer success by empowering CSM teams reach their customers when it makes the most sense: while they are using your app. If you want to find out more about how you can reduce the friction in your customers conversations, we’d be happy to show you.
Built backwards – why companies fail their customers
Why are so many large companies so inefficient when it comes to delivering great customer experiences? Because most of them are built backwards. Large corporations and OEMs are traditionally organized around product lines. This has a traditional logic to it. It allows management to have a direct line of sight into development cycles and sales performance, and thus provides for clear team ownership accountability.
But while this product-based approach has some benefits in terms of assessing core transactional issues, it comes at a tremendous cost. It creates a siloed organization that lacks any kind of coordinated vision. It fosters internal competition for customers. And it contributes to a myopic mindset that blindsides management to sudden changes in the marketplace. And unfortunately, most of the time this structure also works. It doesn’t work particularly well when it comes to consumers, but in some cases it can still keep business moving and keep board rooms happy.
With the rapid rise of the customer success industry and the general acknowledgement that a customer focus is enormously important, the sad truth is that many companies still have not addressed this fundamental flaw in their structure. This begs an important question: how do you make the systemic changes needed to instill customer insight into the framework of your company? It starts with these four steps:
- Get rid of stand-alone business units. No more product groups with dedicated sales, marketing, and back-office support. Products are important, but they should not be dictating the way companies are structured.
- Product divisions with dedicated profit and loss targets should be replaced by customer segment teams that are just as financially accountable.
- Companies should be searching for new customer needs to address, not new features to implement. Foster institutional expertise in the people buying your products before you start designing new products for them.
- The overall strategy of the organization should be how to create the best solution for the customer, not how to ship the best product.
We strongly recommend checking out the full read; shifting your company’s focus to be customer-centric is paramount to effective customer success.
Habits of Proactive Customer Success Managers
Many of us have read Stephen R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (if you haven’t, go get it now!) – and now there is a version for customer success pros!
As as a CSM, being proactive is what sets you apart from other customer-facing teams like customer support. While both teams are focused on serving the customer to ensure success, as a CSM you are most successful when you are proactive, while customer support’s role is to be reactive.
Though we know all this, it can still be easy to fall victim to the trap of reactiveness and get to a point where you are relying on your customers reaching out out to become engaged. Sound familiar?
If it does, follow these 5 habits of proactive customer success managers to keep you on the proactive track:
- The calendar game – Consumed with busy schedules, time is our most valuable resource because it forces us to assess and evaluate our priorities. Take 15 minutes at the beginning of each day to create a calendar gameplan. This will help you remain focused as you prepare for and move between meetings, calls, or other activities. As simple as it seems, this habit will improve your organizational and time-management skills, as well as ensure your priorities are where they’re supposed to be.
- Understand pulse of customer health – Once organized, the next thing you need to understand is the health of your clients, particularly those who you are meeting with that day, are at risk or coming up for renewal. Pretty simple; if they are not satisfied, a game plan is created to improve their health and overall success.
- Create customer based action items – Based on what you discover during your first two habits, specific action items are created in order to help you accomplish what needs to be done. Whether you need to prepare an agenda for an upcoming call or respond to a client inquiry, action items foster urgency for and guide your work.
- Quickly respond to customer questions – Even when swamped with work, you should always strive to be quick to respond to your clients. A quick response time is one of the best things a customer success manager can do to build trust. When you don’t know the exact answer or are busy with another engagement, at least try to respond and let them know you’re on it and have heard their question. You can even occasionally set them up with a co-worker to get resolve the issue, if necessary.
- Calendar prep for the next day – For a CSM, nothing is worse than not knowing what’s coming next or missing out on something to which you are already committed. A good defense is the best offense; before heading home for the evening, review what’s coming the next day. Don’t get too specific, but you want to know what’s coming.
Word to the Wise
This week’s wisdom comes Jessica Weisz, Chief Customer Officer at Soapbox. As a leader in the customer success space, Jessica knows a thing or two about effectively managing and inspiring CS teams. Her best advice for other leaders boils down to understanding that a CSM team is going through the same thing your customers are: a journey.
So for the perfectionist customer success leaders out there, take this to heart! The biggest impacts you have on your team come when you accept the consistency of change and strive to be a role model for adapting and overcoming. Set the standard you want you team – and your customers! – to follow.