Have you ever worked retail or in a restaurant? Chances are you’ve run into more than one attempted toy return (that they broke), food being cold despite them requesting it to be put on the warmer, expired coupon redemption, or any other number of seemingly ridiculous issues. Customer Success can sometimes have a similar feel – until we gain a bit of perspective.
As a Customer Success Manager, our job is to make sure that our clients reach their desired outcome and sometimes items such as bugs, misaligned expectations, and other items can stand in the way that responsibility – but it’s also our job to make sure we remove that roadblock for our clients.
Knowing how to address your customer’s issues to ensure that you’re getting to the route of their frustration so that you can get their issue resolved quickly is a skill and the beautiful thing is that it can be practiced.
Hopefully some of these tips will help next time you get a phone call from a less-than-enthusiastic client:
Don’t Let it Happen
The best way to avoid an issue is not to have an issue at all, right? I’m not joking. As CSMs, it is our duty to be our customer’s advocate and extension of their organization within our own. That means identifying opportunities to improve specific sections of the product we offer, identifying roadblocks internally and removing them ahead of time, or simply giving them a call to let them know that you noticed XYZ issue and that you’re already on it. If you have an opportunity or your team does to defuse a situation before it blows – then don’t be shy about asking for help and get it done as a team. Sometimes a quick ask internally can go as far as to save an account.
Listen, Listen, Listen
Have you ever had an experience that you just needed to vent about (even to yourself) to let off a bit of steam? We try not to but we all do it. It’s very possible that your customer just wants to know that they’re being heard. I let my customers just vent for 20 minutes before and in the end, they thanked me and told me they knew I would get it handled without saying much at all. Had I tried to interrupt (don’t do this) then it likely would have resulted in a less than graceful way. Take a moment and just truly listen to your customer. You might learn a thing or two.
This one goes together with listening and being your customer’s advocate. It can be easy to get into the daily grind of knocking out administrative tasks, fielding requests from management, and trying to make sure you hit your KPIs. What we need to remember is that this customer went through some potentially tedious process to decide that your company was the one that would help them achieve their desired outcome. Further, they could have put their neck out to get the solution itself approved to help them meet the goals of the organization and so they feel a bad result could reflect poorly on them as well. We all work hard and for them to run into an issue when they’re just as busy as you are could be a significant impact on their workflow – try and truly put yourself in their shoes and think about how you might feel if you encountered the same issue that they are before responding with a cookie-cutter response.
Ask for Clarification
Have you ever played the game telephone when you were younger? One person starts off by stating a sentence and it gets relayed all the way down the chain only to have the person at the end announce a sentence that doesn’t sound remotely close the original one. The point is that a lot of folks think they understand what a prospect is saying but it’s perfectly acceptable to summarize the call, ask for clarity on their issue, and make sure you’ve got a true grasp on their challenge. There’s nothing worse than going to resolve an issue you thought they had only to have it still lingering. Now you’re both behind and they’re beyond frustrated – this quick step will help you avoid a lot of headache in the future.
Offer a Solution
You don’t have to offer up a solution right on the spot. It’s OK to let the customer know that you’re going to take time to dive into their solution, get it prioritized with your team, and return to them with next steps on exactly how you’re going to address the problem they’ve brought to you as their trusted partner on this journey. Don’t hesitate to ask others to get involved if it’s something that you cannot tackle alone. Everyone in your organization plays a critical part in the customer’s success and the result could be a dedicated customer that trusts you to take care of them for years to come.
Deliver on that Solution
Never promise something that you know you can’t deliver on. If you’ve ever been promised that there’s going to be desert at a function only to be met with a fruit salad bar – then you know all too well what I’m talking about. You have told your customer that you’ll solve their problem and now it’s time to execute. There’s nothing that will dissolve a customer’s trust in you and your organization like being offered a solution and being left in the dust. Set reminders and deadlines internally to make sure that you’re hitting the mark to deliver to your customers.
When appropriate, it makes sense to follow back up with your customers after resolving an issue to make sure they’re not having the same headaches they had previously experience or run into a new problem. This not only lets your customer know that you’re thinking about them but offers you an opportunity to get a resounding, “Yes, this has been resolved.” You’ll find relief in knowing that your customer is truly satisfied with the work that you and your organization have done to remove their roadblock. You might even get the benefit of the doubt next time they give you a ring.
No one said being a Customer Success Manager would be easy and handling customer issues can certainly be a challenge. While a role in customer success isn’t always all unicorns and rainbows – it is absolutely a rewarding experience to take care of our customers. By practicing the above, you should find that you’re gaining more insights into your customer’s issues, gaining more trust, and delivering a truly stellar experience for your customers.
Customer Success Around the Web
- 8 Customer Success Myths that Need Busting: Customer success is a growing discipline. It’s a new component in many businesses, particularly SaaS organizations. Many working customer success managers (CSMs) are building and deploying customer success programs for the first time, having recently been pulled from other teams within the organization. Nils goes on in this great post to bust a few myths that absolutely need busting.
- Here Are The KPIs Linking Training to Customer Success: MRR. Churn. CPA. ARC. LTV. If you’re in the SaaS business, you’re familiar with these terms.* Do a quick search for “customer success KPIs” and you’ll find a dozen more. It can be a challenge trying to figure out which KPIs to use to measure the effectiveness of your training team and the programs you produce. Further complicating matters is if you’re being asked to tie your training metrics to customer success. According to customer education thought leaders like Wayne McCulloch, senior vice president of Salesforce University, “education has never played a more important part in customer success than in a cloud-based organization.” You can find those metrics on the ServiceRocket blog here.
- Improving the Productivity of Your Customer Success Team with Automation: One of the four fundamental components of a customer success strategy is process. Your work needs to be clearly structured, broken into repeatable steps, and designated to the people who can do them best. Each step should be trackable and well-documented. If John is out sick one day, it shouldn’t be impossible to have someone else do his job. If you assign work based on strengths (not availability) John will be best at that job, but the process means someone else can sit in his seat for a day without causing a fire. A good process works to optimize productivity. Are you repeating the same task? Find a way to automate it with a document, template, or software. Great post from Glide Consulting here on how to do just that.
Word to the Wise
This week we take a look at a short but powerful quote from Holly Chessman at Glance Networks on Forbes.com about the power of the stories from sales and customer success and how they can make an impact on future marketing:
“When the CEO makes it a priority for sales and customer success to provide great customer references, the stories will flow. Customer success stories are powerful tools, providing third-party validation that your offerings are stellar. If sales and customer success teams are incentivized to provide customers who will be great references, marketing can produce more stories and revenue will grow.”- Holly Chessman, Glance Networks Inc.
You can read the rest of the article titled “12 Ways CEOs Can Support Their Marketing Teams” over on Forbes.com.