As a CSM, you spend countless hours in customer meetings, communicating with customer contacts, and engaging with internal and external resources. There is no doubt that one of the most critical required skills for any CSM is to be a good communicator. But connecting with your customers on a deeper level requires more than just knowing how to explain complex products in detail. It requires one particular skill that, surprisingly, is harder to achieve than you may think: active listening.
Customers need to listen to you as a CSM to learn more about the product, features, and partnership, but they also want you to listen intently to their issues, frustrations, and goals. Customer engagement is a two-way street. A truly valuable customer partnership can only be achieved if a CSM actively listens, hears, and understands what a customer is trying to share.
Tips for active listening
Here are ten tips for CSMs to develop active listening skills:
1. Ask open-ended questions. We all need a little help guiding our thoughts sometimes. Ask open-ended questions to help guide a customer towards what their end goal or thought is. You never know – a customer’s first thought may be just the tip of a larger, more complex iceberg.
2. Probe for clarification. If you don’t understand something a customer says or are confused by a point, ask them for more clarification. It’s okay to ask questions when a customer is listening (don’t interrupt!), but make sure they are open-ended, proactive, and don’t come off defensive.
3. Summarize well. After any customer discussion, it’s up to you as the CSM to send out a summary of notes. Make sure you take notes while a customer is listening, and then repeat what you understand that you heard.
4. Listen for unvoiced emotion. This tip is all about what isn’t said rather than what is said out loud. If a customer is explaining a product issue in pretty mild detail but is getting audibly worked up over user feedback, this may indicate where the bigger issue lies.
5. Let them ‘get it out of their system.’ When a customer shares an issue or problem with your team, it can be tempting to jump in and start your defensive strategy. Instead, let them say their piece and get it out of their system before you start in on (calmly!) discussing a solution.
6. Get rid of distractions. One of the biggest threats to active listening is the many distractions present in everyday life. Your phone, email, and corporate messaging platform are distractions. Give customers your full attention and listen to what they are saying.
7. Stand in their shoes (at least while listening). We often say that empathy is one of a CSMs greatest strengths, and this is because you should be able to understand where a customer is coming from when they are upset. Put yourself in their shoes to understand where the root issue is happening.
8. Empathize verbally or visually. Be vocal with your support and empathy. If you are in a video or in-person meeting, make sure your facial reactions align with the support you’re feeling. Do everything in your power to make your customers feel seen and heard.
9. Wait to solve the problem or solution. Interestingly, it’s okay if you don’t rush into action when a customer starts talking. Take a minute, think through possible solutions, and discuss things with the customer and your internal team before jumping to solve the problem.
10. Ask how you can help before proposing. Instead of assuming your team knows best, talk to your customer about how they want to proceed. Putting the ball – and your trust – in their court shows them that you value their opinion and are looking to them as the leader of this communication.
You can learn about other critical skills for a successful CSM with these additional resources from ClientsSuccess: