CSM from the Trenches – 3 Best Practices that Drive Powerful Customer Experiences (How to Avoid the Dreaded Car Dealership Experience)

Sam Feil

Customer Success Manager

For those just joining our blog series CSM from the Trenches, welcome. This series, now a community for frontline Customer Success Managers (CSMs), discusses trends, best practices, and advice that can help the frontline.

Being on the CSM frontline allows us to directly influence the success of our clients. I love that; as our clients are successful, we’re successful. Each day we learn from the trenches what it takes to make clients happy and successful—we call that CSM from the Trenches.

Let’s move forward with this week’s blog post!

Customer Success Learnings from the Dreaded Car Dealership Experience

Car dealerships are notorious for not having the most pleasant customer experience. Whether it’s not having clear access to information (ie. knowing if you’re getting a good deal or not), not knowing enough about cars or car parts and features, or feeling pressured into accepting an offer, most of the work that goes into buying a car relies entirely on the individual purchasing the car.

Defining the Success Criteria—A Must

I recently spent several months in the car-buying market and I knew my success criteria. I was amazed at how little value car salesmen bring to the table. Prior to stepping foot on car dealership’s lot, I spent hours researching cars and prices in my area. I knew I wanted a used (preferably 2015 or newer and in very good to excellent condition), 6-speed manual transmission with less than 50,000 miles. Even after the research, I was only able to identify a few potential cars – most of which only meet one or two of my minimum requirements.

Aligning Your Focus to the Customer’s Success Criteria

I told each car salesman during our test drives what sort of vehicle I was looking for with the minimum requirements, but each time they seemed to care more about closing a deal. What made matters more frustrating, was their lack of product (Car) knowledge. They’d also throw out an offer (usually higher than the average market value for the car in consideration) and try to get me to purchase before leaving the lot. Fortunately I had the patience to wait until a better buy came along. I gave each car salesmen my success criteria and told them to give me a call or text if they came across a car they’d like to have me check out.

As I continued my search, some salesmen would occasional reach out; however, the dreaded car dealership persisted. Even when I eventually found a car that met my success criteria (2015 6-speed manual with less than 15,000 miles and in very good condition), the experience was not great. It reminds me of the importance of every interaction, even when success criteria is met.

Customer Success Principles Car Dealerships Could Learn From

In short, I found 3 customer success principles car dealerships could learn from:

1. Become a Trusted Advisor: The car salesmen came across as caring more about closing a deal than understanding my needs and recommending better options

2. Focus on the Success Criteria: The car salesmen didn’t take the time to define the outcome I wanted from buying a car

3. Be a Product Expert: The car salesmen didn’t come across as product experts, but rather as providers of basic information

Let’s discuss in more detail lessons CSMs should learn to avoid the dreaded car dealership experience.

3 Customer Success Best Practices that Drive Powerful Customer Experiences

1. Establish a Relationship as a Trusted Advisor

Authentic relationships are essential for subscription-based companies to be successful; therefore, building strong relationships of trust is a huge part in the role of a CSM. Just like real relationships, the best ones are those built on honest and open communication, a clear understanding or direction of purpose, and being unified in that purpose. Customer Success starts and ends with the relationship.

Read more on becoming a trusted advisor in my other CSM from the Trenches post My Purpose as a Customer Success Manager.

2. Help Clients Define and Achieve Key Success Criteria

Companies and clients often have different expectations for what effective adoption means. While companies might consider performance indicators (ie usage), clients primarily want to reach target outcomes.

Bridging the adoption gap is commonly achieved by defining and driving success criteria (ie “what outcomes are you trying to achieve”). As a client’s assigned CSM, everything we do from on-boarding to adoption to renewal should help drive our client’s outcomes. We need to help clients define their success criteria and drive adoption according to their target outcomes.

3. Be a Product Expert by Sharing Best (and Better) Practices

CSMs need to be more than implementation managers who check off to-dos. As we bring clients on-board, we need to be aware of and recommend best (and better) practices that can help clients achieve their target outcomes and success criteria.

Understanding the ins and outs of the product you with is a great place to start, but it shouldn’t end their. We need to consistently freshen up on industry best practices and trends to stay the sharp product experts our clients expect us to be. Attend webinars, read books, network. Utilize LinkedIn as a resource for understanding your client’s industries.

Key Takeaway

Customer Success was founded on the idea of driving recurring revenue. This requires that we seek to have an in-depth understanding of our client’s success criteria (outcomes) and help them meet those goals as a trusted advisor and product expert.

I would love to hear about your key takeaways. Feel free to join the CSM from the Trenches community! Details below for how to get started. Until next time!

Join the CSM from the Trenches Community

You can become involved in three ways:

1. Guest Blog Posts: Have a frontline CSM best practice you’d like to share? I want to hear from you! This is a great way to share your unique perspective and thought-leadership. Example – this post is a good example

2. CSM Shout-Outs: Do you know a CSM who goes above and beyond the call of duty? Have a team member you’d like to give a special shout-out? This is what CSM from the Trenches is all about – celebrating the frontline CSM. Example here.

3. CSM from the Trenches LinkedIn Group: Share articles, trends, and best practices you come across with other like-minded professionals. Join in conversation to help each other become better CSMs. Join here.

Here are other customer success resources:

Customer Success eBooks:

Customer Success as a Culture: Customer Success Leaders Edition

Ultimate Guide to SaaS Customer Success Metrics

Other CSM from the Trenches Posts:

Erica Newell, Marketware – 5 LinkedIn Best Practices to Build, Grow, and Improve Client Relationships

Mieke Maes, Intuo – 5 Keys to an Effective Customer Apology

Priscilla Zorrilla, 15Five – Asking the Right Questions to Challenge Customers

SoapBox Team Shout-Out

4 Segmentation Strategies for Frontline CSMs

Why Product Usage Isn’t Always King & 3 Lessons Worth Learning Early

2 Techniques to Avoid the ‘Overpromise and Underdeliver’ Temptation

My Purpose as a Customer Success Manager

Learn more about how ClientSuccess can help your company develop a strong customer success methodology and strategy with easy-to-use customer success software by requesting a 30-minute demo.

New posts each Tuesday and Thursday.

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