Customer Success. If you’re in B2B/SaaS, you’ve surely heard the term and how it differs from Customer Support as a business function. For the uninitiated – Customer Success is the long-term (vs. short-term/transactional) effort of managing customer relationships while continuing to provide value. By making your customers as successful as possible, your customers’ lifetime value (CLTV) to the company increases, resulting in stable growth.
Unfortunately, shifting from Customer Support to Customer Success isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. People are fickle, interests compete, and customers can test our empathy and patience — *cue* “I need to speak to your manager.” In addition, customer accounts may change hands several times, bouncing from AEs to AMs to CSMs.
So where exactly does customer success start?
To find out, we asked industry expert Steve Sollner, VP of Customer Success at Yesware.
His gut response – it starts with trust. “Earn, build, and maintain trust. As with any relationship, trust is #1,” says Sollner.
But that’s only the beginning. Read on to see what this industry expert had to say about the secrets to success for you, your company, and your customers.
What makes a Customer Success Manager (CSM) successful?
“Outside of the universally required industriousness and enthusiasm for what you are doing, you have to have a servant’s heart. The foundation of the job is helping others be successful, and this has to be something that motivates and energizes you,” says Sollner.
“You also have to be interested in the businesses you are serving and the way that your technology can help them. Connecting the dots between what the customer is aiming to accomplish and how your solution can help them accomplish those goals is, at its core, what Customer Success is.”
How do you build and strengthen your customer relationships?
“Earn, build, and maintain trust. As with any relationship, trust is #1. We use The Trusted Advisor’s equation”:
Trust = (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy)/Self-Orientation
Credibility = Adding value through your recommendations, support, and thought leadership.
Reliability = Being responsive and doing what you say you are going to do
Intimacy = Being genuinely interested in your customer as both a person and professional and by being willing to be your authentic self with the customer.
Self-Orientation = Sacrificing your time, effort – and occasionally the company’s bottom line – in the interest of the customer’s long-term success.
What are your go-to tactics for handling difficult customers?
“Be specific. The only way to bring things to alignment is to be very precise about what those expectations are so that you can have an honest and candid conversation about how to proceed.
“Be principled. Articulate and align on a principle that is fair and respectful of both parties.
“Listen intensely, and be honest in return. Often frustration can come from not having taken the other’s position. Make sure you try to do that with the customer and make sure you articulate your perspective in return so that the customer can see the other side of things.”
What is the biggest pain point you face as a CSM?
“The biggest pain point a CSM likely feels is the tug of the large quantity and variety of responsibilities. As the person responsible for the success of the customer, the CSM is a generalist who has to be able and willing to do a broad range of activities that don’t fall cleanly within the charter of another function.
“Naturally, this can lead to the temptation (even if subconscious) to gravitate towards what a CSM likes or feels comfortable doing, at the expense of other activities that may be better for the customer and for the business.”
The Customer Is Not Always Right
While the methods of customer interactions and perceptions have evolved over the decades, one thing hasn’t changed: the customer-centric mindset. Of course, the Customer is not always right and that’s where digging deep into your stores of empathy and patience pays off exponentially in the long-term success of that – ahem – misinformed customer. Being empathetic, staying principled, and genuinely wanting to help your customer achieve success, are the building blocks of lasting relationships.