Some Customer Success Managers only give lip service towards building customer trust. Tell them you understand where they’re coming from? Check. Followed up when you said you would? Check. Asked some follow up questions? Check. Ah, if only it was that easy. The reality looks a little more like this: Tell them you understand where they’re coming from and cite case studies of other customers that overcame similar challenges? Check. Followed up when you said you would and added value with your insights and recommendations? Check. Asked some follow up questions that gave you a better understanding of the customer’s underlying goals? Check. There is no easy way to fast track establishing customer trust, but the 6 strategies below provide a good starting point.
Practice active listening
Let the customer know that you’re actually listening when they speak. ‘Active listening’ is term experts use to describe the way you listen when you are an engaged presence in a conversation. Be fully present in the moment with the other person- not checking Facebook or reading Twitter while they are talking. Another technique is to listen to what the customer is saying and paraphrasing the important points back to them. Remaining attentive during your conversations is the only way to catch subtle cues the customer could be trying to signal- that what looked like a minor issue in your contract negotiations could jeopardize the deal, they plan to cancel their contract if you don’t build the feature they are asking for, etc.
A customer has requested a last minute call for later today- something is up. Off the bat they start complaining about a known bug and how it is affecting their team. You find yourself getting a bit defensive (the bug really isn’t that major, why are they overreacting?) and then it dawns on you- they want someone to understand their frustration and empathize. “The ability and willingness to listen with empathy is often what sets the mediator apart from others involved in a conflict” (source). CSMs often find themselves acting as a mediator between internal interests and their customers’ wants and needs. Sometimes you can’t provide an immediate fix, and sometimes the customer isn’t necessarily asking you to try. They might just want to be reassured that you hear and understand their problems. They want to know that things are going to get better, whether that’s in the form of that bug fix or releasing a feature they really want built. Listening and empathizing with their concerns can do wonders to strengthen the relationship and build the credibility.
Customer trust is built on delivering on promises. Customer Success teams need to deliver on the promises and expectations of their product to deliver value to customers. Which means no “just checking-in” emails- you should be adding value during every interaction. Opportunities to tie the value of your product to hard numbers is the most compelling way to demonstrate value: an advertising analytics product increased conversion rates by 10% which resulted in an additional $120k ARR; a HR product increased employee retention by 5% decreased staffing and recruiting costs by $50k; and so on. Being able to make a case for how your product is producing value allows Customer Success teams to build customer trust.
Demonstrate your skills and capabilities by working towards shared goals with your customers. 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. Collaborating with customers creates real connections with your points of contact.
Speak their language
To be a truly valuable advisor to a customer you need to know about more than your siloed area of impact. 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.
Ask thoughtful questions
Coming full circle- hear everything a customer says and let them talk about the things that are important to them. Yes, you will want to make sure you get the answers to some basic need-to-know questions, but it’s also important to ask open-ended questions that they can respond to as they like. Over time, you will be able to ask increasingly thoughtful questions that demonstrate you have a good grasp of their business and the challenges they face. Not well versed in the most important trends in their industry or the internal politics of their multinational business? Asking great questions will leverage your customer’s knowledge and help make you an expert. You’ll be surprised by what you can learn just by asking the right questions.