Customer Success 101: relationship management

Customer Success relationship management

This is the second post in a 3 part series that dives into the components that lead to a successful partnership with your customers. The first post discussed how and why you need a Customer Success point of contact. Now that you have a dedicated point of contact, let’s dive into Customer Success relationship management.

Skillful Customer Success relationship management is not only crucial to your professional life, it allows you to bring more of yourself into your work and has the potential to increase job satisfaction. Having a strong relationship with a point of contact presents an opportunity for them to become more than just work contact, they might even become a friend. Below are a few strategies I’ve used to foster strong connections with my customers.

Know their industry

Stay up to date on developments in your customer’s industry. Make a point to browse industry blogs, set up Google notifications based on relevant keywords, and attend industry conferences or events whenever possible. You don’t have to be an expert, but keeping abreast of big trends will help you speak the same language as the customer, identify what keeps them up at night, and aide in your efforts to provide value in your conversations.

Know their company

Your contacts within a customer’s company are key resources to help you anticipate any potential issues that might arise. You should seek to identify any pain points within their organization around your partnership. Does the head of Finance think your product is too expensive? Is the head of Sales gearing up for a sales contest that doesn’t include your product? Are there talks of layoffs or a new CEO? The more information you have about the landscape and politics of your customer’s company, the better prepared you can be for any tectonic shifts.

Provide value with every interaction

People do not respond to “just checking-in” emails. Have a standing call with a customer but nothing to discuss besides the most recent Giants game? You should aim to provide value in every customer interaction or else risk loosing such calls and seeing your contact become unresponsive. How can you provide value? Discuss topics that your customer is interested in. Did you just receive an alert that a big competitor of theirs just acquired a company? Is there a bug that your team resolved that was a headache for them? Can you recommend strategies to deliver more value from your product? Is your Product team developing or releasing new product features that you can translate into value for their team? Once you have a strong understanding of some long-term goals/ KPIs that are important to your customer, you should be able to develop some action items for each party that allows your partnership to continuously move forward.

Work towards agreed upon goals

To keep a meeting agenda from descending into just “hey, how’s it going?” (which is pretty much the same as a “just checking-in” email), always have a list of goals you’re working towards with every customer. These goals can be broken down into next steps- smaller tasks that allow you to make progress towards that larger goal. This keeps you and your point of contact on track and creates accountability around who is supposed to be working on what, towards what aim. Prevent your relationship from getting stagnant by continuously working towards new goals.

Avoid a single point of failure

It’s important to have multiple contacts within a customer’s organization to ensure you are not capturing a single point of view- and that you don’t have a single point of failure. If your relationship with a customer is limited to your Customer Success point of contact, look for opportunities to meet new contacts within the customer’s organization. You might ask your point of contact for introductions to key power users, managers of other teams that could see value from using your product, or someone on finance who can sort out a payment issue. Building a wide and diverse set of contacts guarantees you won’t be left high and dry if your single point of contact hits the road.

Schedule an annual relationship review

A relationship review is a great opportunity to formally get a sense of where your company stands with your customers. The people conducting the relationship review are often one or two steps removed from the day to day management of the product. See a good overview of a relationship review structure here.

The goals of this exercise should be:

  • reveal risks to your partnership
  • determine what the perception is of your company within your customer’s organization
  • uncover opportunities to expand your partnership
  • compare these findings to your customer health score to consider making improvements
  • further shape your Sales team’s ideal customer profile

Determine how comfortable a customer is with sharing

Not every customer will be comfortable sharing details about their personal life. That’s okay, don’t take it personally. Pushing a customer to develop a personal connection can feel fake or slimy, and oversharing about your big weekend in Vegas can be off-putting to some customers.

Remember that the value of your work is a key element in Customer Success relationship management. At the end of the day, you should not expect your personal connection to be a crutch for poor work. By the same token, great work can create an opportunity to take your professional relationship to a more personal level.

 

Read the other posts in this Customer Success 101 series on establishing a Customer Success point of contact and managing expectations.