What do you think makes a B2B company successful? Turning a profit? Going public? Rapid growth? If you put yourself in the shoes of a customer success manager (shoes I’ve filled more than once), the correct answer will be revealed… If your customers are succeeding (with your tools, support, and encouragement), then you’re succeeding too. What makes a company thrive is really that simple.
I recently took a look back at a Mashable article written by our Chief Strategy Officer, Rebekah Iliff, which explored the fact that some of the most successful PR strategies are the ones that require a “customer-as-the-hero approach.” I couldn’t agree more. A company’s success is relative to how good that company is at solving their customers’ problems. And smart brands such as Western Union, and even celebrities such as Adele, have become magnificent at bringing their customer stories to the forefront of their own narratives.
In light of the “customer-as-a-hero approach,” I’m sharing my go-to tactics for ensuring success from a customer/client management perspective. Because when you have the foundational skills for maintaining and growing relationships, you have what you both need to succeed.
#1 – Develop a personal rapport.
For most customer success managers, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. In addition to onboarding and training new customers, you are also responsible for cultivating power users and external champions for your brand. Plus, if you’ve successfully developed a personal relationship with a customer, you will be in a better position to solicit real, honest feedback which will ultimately help you improve your product or service.
Customer satisfaction scale and testimonials concept with happy human fingers on a blackboard
#2 – Manage Expectations.
Setting the tone for your relationship is important from the get-go. If you’re anything like me, you may have a tendency to over-deliver. At first glance, “over-serving” a customer sounds like a good thing, but it’s not always sustainable nor is it scalable. Clearly, you want to woo your customers and help set them up for success, but that doesn’t mean you should do everything the customer requests at the drop of a hat or respond to emails when you should be sleeping.
Instead, develop your own policy for meeting your clients halfway so that there’s a mutual understanding that your relationship is akin to a partnership. If you receive an email with a list of questions about your product, what is a realistic turnaround time? What’s your company’s policy on responding to customer outreach? Don’t forget you have your own internal meetings, overflowing inbox, etc. to juggle, and “an organized you” will make for more customer success in the long run.
#3 – Maintain a positive attitude. No excuses.
Being friendly, thoughtful, and considerate goes a long way (because we all know the last thing a customer wants to do is be around someone who trash-talks a competitor or is a Debbie Downer, in general). Remember that you’re the face of the company and it’s your duty to represent the brand in a positive light. Also, enthusiasm is contagious, and the best way for a customer to get excited about your product or service is through your energy.
#4 – Be direct.
Contrary to popular belief, you can be direct and positive at the same time. I’ve spent a lot, and I mean a lot, of time crafting lengthy emails including flowery language, i.e. explaining why things are the way they are, etc. We’re all busy, and there is no need to dance around an issue or add unnecessary language as filler. Customers will appreciate a short, clear, and to-the-point email because their time is precious just like yours. If you’re struggling with directness, consider the 70% Noise Reduction Rule.
#5 – Be human, and show your appreciation.
If your company’s product or service is working the way it should, your customer will succeed and thank you for it. It almost goes without saying that you should be showing your appreciation for your customer and their business too. Show them the type of professional you are by way of a small, thoughtful gesture such as sending them a link to an article you think is relevant to their business or a little treat on their birthday. (Sounds a little corny, but we all saw you smile the last time a mystery cupcake arrived.)
The moral of the story…
You don’t have to be the bend-over-backwards car salesmen of yesteryear to make your customers happy, but it does take work. Your business is only as successful as your customers, so be supportive, be real, and let them know that, yes—they are your company’s biggest champions.