Welcome to our blog series CSM from the Trenches, a community for frontline Customer Success Managers (CSMs) that discusses trends, best practices, and advice for 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.
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Customer Success Managers are in danger of becoming more like waiters and waitresses in a restaurant, merely taking down customer orders rather than serving as tactical, strategic partners.
It is imperative that a CSM is able to recognize this behavior and remove themselves from that slippery slope by learning how to politely ask probing, follow-up questions to their customers. By doing so, the CSM will be able to have a much clearer understanding of the WHY behind the customer’s request. This strategy may feel a bit uncomfortable at first, but if executed correctly will elevate the CSM from being just a point of contact to a consultant or trusted advisor for their customers.
Understanding the “Why”
Another advantage that comes from understanding the WHY is the opportunity it provides the CSM to build instant rapport with the customer by understanding and recommending strategies for accomplishing what the customer actually needs, rather than what the customer thinks they need.
Being able to consistently share control and guide the customer in the right direction is the kind of win a CSM needs in order to be viewed as a strategic partner rather than just the customer’s point of contact. This type of CSM behavior could also play a big role in securing a renewal, year after year, because the CSM has now created a customer experience that is sure to set themselves apart from other vendors.
Now that the CSM has taken the time to fully understand the WHY behind the customer request, they can easily determine if the request is a “must-have”, or a “nice to have”. There should be a system in place where both types of requests are documented and passed along to a product manager. must-haves, the CSM will be much more prepared to advocate for their customers when approaching the product team. The product team will take the request much more seriously because the CSM took the time to fully understand the issue and approached them with a comprehensive summary.
Anyone who has served in a CSM role for at least 24 hours has most likely experienced the customer who spends more time focusing on what the product can’t accomplish or offer rather than what it does better than anyone else in its space. Obviously the CSM tenure was a joke, but the scenario is far too real and the customer should be reminded that they bought the service for what it can do and not what they think it should do. It is vital that the CSM has the wherewithal to identify and work with these types of customers early and often in order to avoid any frustrating habits that could potentially plague the relationship early on resulting in churn.
Once a CSM has the ability to employ the strategies above they will become much more prepared to spend their time collaborating and strategizing with their customers on how they will reach necessary milestones rather than spending that precious time with their customers being a glorified suggestion box.
The most strategic and best CSMs are always finding ways to avoid becoming irrelevant in the eyes of their customers. This means finding ways to tactfully engage as a strategic partner for all customers rather than just the “important” customers. A CSM should never be afraid to politely challenge their customers to think about the WHY rather than the HOW when roadblocks, concerns, or needs arise. Sometimes the customer needs to understand that some solutions require making changes to their internal processes and behaviors rather than putting a bandaid over a broken foundation.
Helping customers remember that the “WHY” is what influences their desired outcomes and NOT the HOW there will be greater adoption and use of the product which ultimately results in the building up of relationships that last.
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