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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.
CSM from the Trenches has a segment of the series that focuses on 7 mentor questions for the frontline CSM. The goal is that by sharing our experiences, we’ll be able to learn and apply more practical advice / practices to our customer success careers.
One of those questions asks, “If you had to give one piece of advice to another CSM, what would you say and why?”
We’ve compiled a list of 19 Pieces of Advice Customer Success Mentors Would Give Frontline Customer Success Managers. Let’s get started!
Work towards establishing relationships as a trusted advisor. Authentic relationships, centered around delivering value, are essential for subscription-based companies to be successful; therefore, building strong relationships of trust is a critical part in the role of a CSM. The strongest relationships 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 helping others realize value.
Be yourself when trying to develop relationships. It can be exhausting to try and have a “work personality” and a “home personality.” Clients are going to appreciate your openness and honesty which will help develop the trust needed to drive success.
Any time your customer shares something new with you (whether it be a new workflow, goal, or use case), imagine you’re immediately going to have to explain it to a key internal stakeholder. Find someone on your team who’s inquisitive and always digs deep, and picture them. If no one immediately pops to mind, picture explaining this in a meeting with your CEO.
Imagine that you’ll be asked questions — how is your customer implementing this new process? Why did they decide to go the route they did? What are they going to be looking at when it comes to measurements?
If you wouldn’t feel confident explaining your customers concepts to this key stakeholder, you don’t understand it well enough.
When you ask questions because you care about the answer, and genuinely want to develop a deep understanding, it’s obvious — and your excitement is infectious.
If you learn nothing else, learn to listen. We come from a society where we jump to the solution without truly hearing the question or problem. Only when you have a good understanding can you possibly consider trying to solve.
Don’t focus on making your customers happy. Focus on making them successful. And understand the difference.
Two-fold: If it’s good for your customer’s business it’s good for your business, and you cannot exceed expectations if you do not set expectations.
Adding value to your customers is always going to pay off. Even seemingly small improvements or add-ons can make a huge difference for customers.
Don’t be afraid to fail. Often we get into a rut where we’re afraid to experiment and try new things. Whether it’s because we’re afraid of failing, or because we’re afraid of the unknown that comes with experimentation and innovation.
Everyone knows that frustrating and all-but exhausting feeling of putting our blood and sweat into a project just to see it fail. However, if it weren’t for failure, we couldn’t ever be successful.
James Dyson knew that feeling all too well. Over the course of 15 years, he created 5,126 bagless vacuum prototypes that all came up short. Imagine failing over 5,000 times for 15 years? I like to pretend I’d have that same drive and ambition. By the way, Dyson? They’re now worth $5.6 billion.
As a CSM, you will need to influence outcomes, often without having power to directly make the change. Sales, marketing, product, business intelligence, accounting, and the other groups you work with all have vastly different goals.
If you can understand their goals and deadlines, it will help you better communicate, build relationships and influence positive changes for your clients. Building quality internal relationships will impact your ability to influence positive changes internally perhaps more than anything else. Do not eat lunch alone. Vow to meet a new member of your team and foster a genuine relationship daily. These will pay off personally and professionally.
Understand your customer and communicate in their language. Allow yourself to be curious during an interview, don’t feel like you have to stick to your questions as written. Look for opportunities to say “Interesting! Tell me more about what you just said. Why is that so?”
Interviews are your best opportunity to really understand your client without making assumptions. Even if you can only do 1 per month, it is invaluable experience and my favorite way of bonding with a client.
Make sure to celebrate successes both with your team and your clients. They are the ones that are gonna boost you everyday.
Have clear communication and customize the message when needed. In a CS role, we constantly interact with different stakeholders from different entities: the client, internal teams, partners, vendors, employees, colleagues, etc. It’s imperative to understand your audience and tailor the message appropriately. You may share an idea/issue with a colleague and they totally get it, but when shared with an engineer (example, of course), it falls on deaf ears.
Stay organized. And stay focused. Even if you’re a new CSM, and still learning the business – staying organized will help you get those early wins. Those early wins will build your confidence & build momentum, that will propel you further and faster than others who can’t manage to do this.
Empathy – walk in your customers shoes, understand their business challenges, objectives and how best to achieve those effectively and efficiently.
Stay humble, patient, be curious and learn how to ask open ended questions. These candid conversations are about the product and how you can work together toward mutual success. It isn’t about you or the person on the other end. It is about delivering value and building relationships.
Focus on defining success criteria with the client because as soon as you have a clear goal or direction, it’s easier to build and follow the path to reach the success. If it’s not clear from the beginning, there’s higher risk of losing value along the way.
Invest time in becoming a masterfully persuasive communicator and learn to ask really great questions. Persuasion is the ability to influence. Your ideas won’t get any traction if you can’t persuade and influence other people, especially your customers.
Trust but verify. Talk to your customers and build relationships with them but always verify what they are telling you with data. At the end of the day, the rubber meets the road with the use of your product or service. If they are not using your product to solve for their given problem or use case then they should be deemed at-risk.
You’ve got this! And whenever you feel like you don’t, just reach out to someone in our awesome customer success community. The make up of which is extraordinarily filled with bright, kind, and articulated professionals you can rely on.
Want to share your mentor advice? Submit your answers here.
Join the conversation on our LinkedIn CSM from the Trenches group page.
Here are other customer success resources:
Customer Success eBooks:
Other CSM from the Trenches Posts:
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.