Customer success teams add incredible value to organizations and the customers they serve. They are one of the few teams that have insight into the entire customer journey — and when their work is successful, they can improve customer relationships, reduce churn, and increase revenue.
So how can your organization harness the power of customer success? In this post, we’re covering:
The definition of customer success
Establishing trust with customers
Implementing a customer success strategy
Other tips for customer success managers
Let’s start by defining customer success.
To help with that, we chatted with someone who has seen customer success initiatives both from a boots-on-the-ground perspective, as an individual contributor, and from a higher level, as a manager, director, and strategist. His name is Chad Horenfeldt, and he’s currently the Director of Customer Success at Kustomer.
According to Chad, it’s pretty simple. It’s about driving value for customers.
Whereas customer service is a reactive approach where you respond to customer concerns, customer success is a proactive approach where you work to predict customer challenges and concerns and produce solutions for them before they ever become an issue.
Your goal is to find ways to support your customers’ desired business outcomes. And Chad says that trust is a fundamental part of the equation.
Establishing trust with your customers should be a top priority. To do that, you need to work to completely understand their needs and their goals.
Your objective should be to fully integrate with their team so that you can understand more about what truly drives business value for them.
So where do you start?
Well, it’s best not to start with those hard-hitting, strategic questions. Think about any current relationship you have: did it start with deep profound questions? Probably not. It probably started with surface-level questions so that you could learn the basic facts about each other and then grew from there.
The same thing goes for building customer relationships. You’ve got to create a foundation of knowledge and understanding upon which to build a trusting relationship.
What kinds of questions should you ask? Things like:
What makes a very valued customer?
How does your business make money?
What does success look like for you?
After you ask these types of questions, Chad says you’ll start to see the relationship change.
Customer success is not just the domain of the customer success team. It has to be the mindset of your entire organization. And that starts with the product itself.
Does it live up to the hype? Is it meeting the expectations that your sales team set forth? Is it working as expected?
It also means cross-functional communication has to be on point. If not, it can really work against building trust.
For example, if a customer success manager isn’t made aware of the conversations that have gone on between the customer and the organization, and consequently, they ask the same questions that have already been asked, they are already behind the 8-ball.
It deteriorates the level of trust that has been built. Oftentimes, people gloss over these things — the little details of the process that don’t seem to carry much weight. But that’s where true relationship-building occurs.
How do you know when you’re on good terms with the customer? It’s when they view you as a partner first and a vendor second.
Some signs to look for:
You have more personal-life conversations during calls
You receive emails from clients saying how much they appreciate the CSM team
For younger generations, you follow each other on Instagram
Basically, you’ve come to a place where you’re able to converse in a really easy, positive way.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all method to customer success. According to Chad, you have to look at each situation as unique and tailor the strategy accordingly.
One major consideration is the makeup of your team. It depends on your company type and even your company’s stage of development.
Depending on your situation, you might want a CSM team with technical skills because your company sells a highly-technical product. Or you might want a team that has great soft skills — like empathy — because coaching your clients to success is your company’s focus.
Customer success encompasses so many different moving parts, so there are many different types of roles that require different areas of expertise. The challenge is making sure you find the right people for the right roles.
Customer success is still a relatively new function. Because of that, a lot of the role remains undefined.
To get up to speed on what the organization needs, Chad recommends reaching out to other departments to learn about the challenges they face and what’s been put on their plate. What you’re really trying to learn is how your team can help them. You’re trying to build those cross-functional relationships.
It all goes back to the concept of establishing trust. Not only should you seek to build trust with customers, but you should also seek to build it with other teams within your organization as well.
Chad has some other advice for customer success managers.
To be a great manager, you need to keep learning. Chad recommends reading books on customer success, talking to other people who work in the discipline, and joining industry communities.
You might feel like you should have all the answers and be able to figure it all out on your own. Chad is familiar with that impulse. In fact, it took him some time to learn that it’s the wrong approach. What you really need to do is constantly seek help from others either on your own team, cross-functionally, or outside your organization.
Why? Because it’s not about being right, it’s about getting it right.
Today’s guest on the Customer Success Leader podcast is Chad Horenfeldt, Customer Success Coach at Kustomer. Chad has experience in a variety of customer-success-centered roles and came on to share the wisdom he’s gained over his impressive career.
In this podcast episode, we discuss:
What customer success is
Why your product needs to live up to the hype
Why leadership is all about a dedication to lifelong learning
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For more info, check out customersuccessleader.com or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.