Tune into an upcoming episode of Strikedeck Radio to hear Matt Edwards dive into this topic further, and share stories from his experience growing & leading CS teams!
The Focal Human Touch Point
Companies can get so focused on providing a great user experience that they forget about the people delivering the experience. From Sales, to Technical Support, to Customer Success, everyone that talks to or interacts with a customer represents your company. In this article, I will present some concepts on how to ensure the focal human touch point for your customers, their Customer Success Manager, is providing them the best possible experience.
Selling What You Believe In – The Importance of Purpose
Communication is both verbal and nonverbal. Remember your favorite TED speaker? Did they believe in what they were saying? How could you tell? They were passionate! You could not only hear the importance of their words, but also see them. Passion is created through a company having a purpose and its employees believing in that purpose. “Purpose makes employees feel their work is worthwhile and so maintains morale and energy levels” (Nikos Mourkogiannis, Purpose) Your clients will feel that energy level when they talk with your Customer Success professionals. Just like the best salespeople are convincing because they believe in what they are selling, the best Customer Success people need to believe in the company they work for.
How do you know if your company creates purpose in your employees? Ask them. Ask each member of your Customer Success team to list what the company’s purpose is, how they contribute to it, and how it makes them feel they are able to deliver value to their customers. If their answers don’t come out immediately, and instinctively, you have some work to do. Many companies have all of their employees practice a sales pitch for their product. That is great if you want to have everyone describe your product, but in the world of SaaS, product isn’t everything.
Experience and value are the new product. For your CS professionals to represent the experience your company provides, as well as deliver the value of your product, they must understand how their role ties into the company vision. This will help you to start creating purpose. Increasing employee morale and retention will lead to the improvement of your customer’s experience and retention.
Treat Your Team Like Your Customers
Do your Customer Success managers get to give out swag, but not get any themselves? The same things you do to keep your clients happy should be used to keep your team happy (at a minimum). It helps to take a step back and think of your team as a customer. Who are your promotors? Who are your detractors? Who is neutral? Just as you would look at your customer to see how you can convert everyone into being not only a promoter, but a reference, you should do the same for your team. Have your team take an eNPS (Employee Net Promoter Score). Your eNPS will be tightly correlated to your NPS. A good way to think about it – how can you expect your customers to want to refer you if your employees don’t want to?
Another key initiative for every Customer Success team is to drive communication. In addition to weekly operational calls with our clients, we mandate follow up notes, publish dashboards, and have quarterly business reviews. Your Customer Success management team needs those things as well. Communication on how their “partnership” with the company is going will help them stay engaged and feel valued- just as it does for your clients.
Win Friends and Influence People – The Classic Customer Success Approach
In 1937, Dale Carnegie published the best selling book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. At that time, no one was thinking about Customer Success as a discipline. Today, you can’t go into a boardroom, or talk with a venture capital group without discussing Customer Success. While there are still many different ideas on what Customer Success is, I would argue that at its core, the purpose of CS is to cultivate influence and value in your customer base. In order to help a customer be successful in realizing the full value of your company, they must be influenced to choose the path that allows for this.
In return, we ask our customers to influence our company and guide us down the path of success. This approach of winning friends (Customer Success speak for building relationships), and influencing people (being the customer’s guide and consultant – both internally and externally) is as applicable today as it was in 1937. In fact, I would argue that it is even more important today with experience and relationships becoming the core stickiness factor that prevents churn.
These ideas tie in closely with an employee’s sense of purpose and passion for their company. As Dale Carnegie states, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people, than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” (Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People) Applied to the realm of Customer Success, CSMs need to genuinely show interest in their customers and company. If you are a customer, you want the person representing your vendor to care about how you do business, what makes you unique, and show that by “leaning into” the conversation.
In meetings, body language makes a huge difference; you want them to be physically leaning in and interested in what’s being discussed. You don’t want them leaning back with their arms crossed, half engaged. To aid in developing interest, an employee should be passionate about their company and what they do. A Customer Success professional should thrive off of listening and learning – both from their customers and their company.
Matt Edwards is the VP of Customer Success and Services at Alation, a collaborative data company.