There are plenty of customer success managers.
There aren’t a lot of great ones.
A customer success manager is the person in charge of making sure that customers receive the promise we make on our home pages or by our salespeople.
The great managers know that their work requires at least five practices to make sure that they’re succeeding at their job.
Here are the five practices of a great customer success manager.
#1: They address customer concerns early.
Remember, the overarching goal of a customer success manager is to make sure customers are happy, avoiding customer churn. This is where great customer success managers differentiate themselves from others.
Instead of waiting for customers to be totally unsatisfied with a product and canceling their membership to ask them what went wrong—they catch the customer yards back.
Yards back is at the initial sign of frustration. For example, when is the last time that a chatbot on a website was of absolutely no help to the question you were asking? As a customer, you need the answer to your question to be able to solve the problem you’re having with THEIR software.
Yet, you can’t get a real person to answer your question.
A customer success manager lets the bot run and handle the daily inquiries.
A great customer success manager checks the bot weekly to see what patterns they see in the questions being asked from the customer to the bot. If 25% of questions relate to how to integrate a calendar setting into a productivity app like Monday.com, then the customer success manager knows that a blog post explaining how to do this needs to be written.
This post will then be sent by the bot to the customer when they ask how to integrate their calendar.
The Customer Success Association defines customer success as,
“…a long-term, scientifically engineered, and professionally directed strategy for maximizing customer and company sustainable proven value.”
What does it mean to have sustainable proven value?
It means that customers don’t slip through the cracks, inevitably finding their way (angrily) to the delete account button.
#2: They figure out what customers are always going to want.
The future can and can’t be predicted. For example, we can say that in ten years, people are going to want to be able to have products at the cheapest price and that they’ll want to receive them as quickly after buying as possible. We can’t say that people will still want to buy paper towels or laptops.
Who’s to say that in a decade, paper towels are still a household product or that laptops are the most convenient way to work?
Nobody, because we don’t know for sure. But, we do know that regardless of what people are using, they’re not going to want to pay an expensive price for it or wait a long time to receive it after buying.
This customer success outlook is how Amazon has grown into the mammoth it is now.
Jeff Bezos is open on talking about his perspective of how people buy things and how he’s used this strategy to make his business focus on two things: offering products at a cheap price with a quick delivery.
Great customer success managers have the same practice as Bezos. They know that for their product, there are elements of the experience that customers are always going to want—regardless of changing technology. These elements are the ones that the product needs to grow around and that the customers need to experience regularly.
For example, Slack knows that businesses are always going to need to communicate with their teams. Technology is going to change this communication, but the foundation will always stay the same. Employees need to talk to employees.
So, a customer success manager at Slack knows that their bottom line is to make sure that a business’s team is always able to communicate as effectively as possible.
#3: They have a marketer’s mind.
Great customer success managers are closet marketers. They know that the elements of a product that people really want (for example, Slack as a team communication channel) are the biggest selling points for customers.
This means that if a company is having trouble keeping customers onboard, there is a problem with the customer reaching the experience of the best selling point of the product.
For example, an accounting tool like Quickbooks is a great tool for businesses—but only after they’ve set up all of their company information and linked their accounts inside of the Quickbooks platform. Once they have, the business will have consistent, up-to-date details on the finances of their business.
Before they’ve done that, it seems like a lot of work that may not be worth it. The selling point of having business finances automated and constantly updated is great (and timeless, just like Amazon’s cheap product and fast delivery)…but customers still churn.
They give up too soon and cancel their monthly membership because they didn’t put their information in and they don’t think the platform is worth their time or money.
Great customer success managers know this is coming. They know that customers are going to be initially slightly confused by the interface of the platform and unsure of how to input their information.
So, they figure out how marketing can help customers see that taking the time to set up their account is going to be worth it.
As Jamie Domenici, Global SVP of Customer Adoption and Growth for Salesforce Success Cloud says in her Forbes article Why Marketers Make Great Customer Success Managers,
“Both [customer success managers and marketers] find creative solutions to complex challenges and lead transformation.”
#4: They’ve got to follow up with the hard to ask questions.
Happy customers are enjoyable to talk to. Angry customers are not. Customer success managers have to be able to have the tough conversation with unhappy customers to make sure that their product is can make the next set of customers 10x happier.
This means that they have to be willing to ask and listen to customer feedback from questions like:
- “Why didn’t you like my product?”
- “What didn’t you like about the buying process?”
- “What was the worst part of your experience with us?”
While these conversations don’t make us wake up, excited for another day in the office, they do give us the number one, two, and three things that need to be changed right away.
A great customer success manager is not just willing to ask these questions and sit through the responses. They’re also willing to take those answers to their managers (or even the founder of the company) and tell them what needs to be fixed.
Hubspot outlines this responsibility in an article focused on the details of customer success management,
“As someone who works directly with customers, a CSM should feel responsible for advocating their needs. They need to have an in-depth understanding of customers likes and dislikes about your products, which can be discovered through surveys, reviews, referrals, and more. CSMs should organize, analyze, and share this information with other departments to ensure your company’s decisions always consider the voice of the customer.”
#5: They know the future is in personalization.
Customer success managers ask unhappy customers the hard questions and thank them for their time. Great customer success managers go about it differently…they try to win that customer back.
These managers know that if a customer is willing to give you feedback about their experience with the SaaS product, they’re not totally lost.
They just need help that they weren’t receiving while they were a customer.
Great customer managers know this and use this time to not only win the customer’s business back but also to figure out how they’re going to make sure this problem doesn’t become consistent.
For example, let’s say an angry customer decides that Klaviyo isn’t doing a good job of helping them organize their email list and send out campaigns. They decide to delete their account. Hypothetically, let’s say that as they delete their account, Klaviyo asks them to answer three questions and rate their experience on a scale of 5 stars.
Klaviyo gets these results and instead of writing off this customer…they personalize a message to them. They acknowledge that the customer isn’t happy with the product and explain how to organize an email list on Klaviyo and create a campaign.
The customer sees a personalized email from Klaviyo showing them exactly how to solve all the problems they were having. They respond and decide to open their account back up.
Klaviyo reaches back out in a week to make sure the customer is succeeding in organizing their list and starting campaigns.
Great customer success managers know that this may sound like a lot of work, but it’s just email templates and flows, personalized with the customer’s name. If the customer is having trouble organizing their email list, they’ll get a set piece of copy that is written to solve that problem. If the customer also can’t figure out how to run a campaign, they’ll also get written copy on how to do so.
The Marketing Insider Group highlights personalization in their article, 5 Steps To Strengthen Your Customer Success Game,
“Make users feel valued by customizing outreach with workflow automation tools. Include the customer’s name, the product she purchased, and the date of purchase. Contact her a few days after purchase; if you offer a service, do it once a month or so for as long as she’s a customer.”
A great customer success manager is an essential part of a growing startup. They’re going to make your customers happier which means that they’ll turn into brand advocates, marketing your SaaS product for you—because they like using it that much.
That’s when you’ve hit SaaS gold and your business starts to pick up speed.
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