#CustomerSuccessLooksLike… Bad Habits Turning into Best Practices

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#CustomerSuccessLooksLike… Bad Habits Turning into Best Practices

Does your spouse or friend have a bad habit? Does he interrupt people when they’re speaking? Check her phone all the time? Have an annoying verbal crutch, and doesn’t even know it? If only they knew how annoying those habits were, and how much easier the relationship could be if they just didn’t have those habits.

Just like personal bad habits, we can also get into customer engagement bad habits, and not even know it. Our customers may be really annoyed by some of the little things we do, and we aren’t aware of how it’s affecting our relationship with them.  The converse is likely true, as well. Our customers may have bad habits that are affecting their optimal use of our product. Customer Success happens when bad habits are replaced by best practices, and mutually beneficial and enduring relationships are supported.

Calling someone out on a bad habit isn’t easy. It can be uncomfortable, and, if done poorly, it can be relationship-ending. When addressing bad habits, it’s important to provide justification, and a manageable, tactical approach to change.

  • Change for change’s sake is a waste of time. For someone to be willing to address a change in habit, the end goals must be shared and mutual. This makes the call to change less personal and more constructive.
  • Manageable and tactical approach to change. Broad strokes aren’t helpful. In fact, they can be overwhelming.  You don’t tell your spouse the kitchen needs renovating when the problem is that he isn’t scraping the dishes before loading them into the dishwasher. What we need is a nuts and bolts strategy. Not cheerleading, but coaching with plays that have proven outcomes.

Customer Success Management is a two-way street. We, the vendor, have our own bad habits, and so do our customers. In an ideal situation, we all become aware of our unconstructive (bad) habits, and make changes that improve the relationship and result in better overall adoption and use. It’s always best to start with ourselves. Here are a few things some of us do that are definitely not best practices, and likely contributing to a deteriorating relationship with our customer:

  1. Too much focus on selling.
  • JUSTIFICATION . It’s a quick way to ruin a relationship. Being THAT person who is always trying to upsell your customer can tarnish a relationship in a heartbeat.
  • MANAGEABLE AND TACTICAL APPROACH. Be aware of your own agenda. Switch your focus to problem-solving and let the sales opportunities become organic. This will preserve the relationship, and THAT will be what leads to sales, rather than focusing on the sale as an agenda item.
  1. Check-ins with no preparation.
  • Coming to routine check-ins without knowing your customer’s habits and metrics is not only a time waster, but also a potential relationship dagger. Preparation equates to caring. If you know your customer’s pain points before they have to tell you, you’ve demonstrated that you care about their success, and want to make the most of your time together.
  • MANAGEABLE AND TACTICAL APPROACH. Use a Customer Success Management Tool(like Bolstra’s) that allows you to build in time to plan and do your homework. Before your call, know your customer’s metrics, and come with solutions. That doesn’t mean you don’t listen, but have some good ideas to bring to the table. It will save everyone’s time, and that’s money.
  1. Hearing, but not learning.
  • This can also be a time (and, therefore, money) waster. If you’ve only heard complaints, but not learned the root causes, you’re not able to constructively problem-solve.

This isn’t a skill everyone has. Stay tuned for another blog about identifying and hiring the right skills set for a CSM.

  • MANAGEABLE AND TACTICAL APPROACH. Clear away any agenda you may have for the call, and ask questions. Not only will this make your customer feel like they have your full attention, but you will also learn more about the root causes of their frustrations. Then be prepared to think creatively and strategically to help your customer address their concerns*.

What about your customer’s bad habits? Are they not adhering to your best practices? How do we gently and tactfully help them change? Sometimes the approach may involve looking at how WE may have been partially responsible for THEIR behaviors. Other times, it simply involves empathy and tact, and offering a clear justification and a manageable and tactical approach.  We know that it’s not easy to adopt change and to standardize use across an organization. We should feel our customer’s pain. However, they are also our customer, and we must exercise great tact in helping them see how their own habits are disabling them from functioning optimally and reaching their goals. So, be gentle and helpful. Don’t just point fingers, but offer solutions (justifiable and tactical ones). Be a coach, not just a critic.

Here are some possible customer behaviors that are definitely not best practices, and can result in less than ideal relationships:

  1. Not having clearly defined roles and responsibilities for their team members
  • When we don’t know who is responsible for what, we end up playing catch up each time we meet. This is both a waste of time and a huge frustration. It’s especially difficult for a customer who’s just been assigned ownership of a solution and has no contextual information leading up to their assuming that role.
  • MANAGEABLE AND TACTICAL APPROACH. This is one of those bad habits that probably falls on us. We need to address the importance of getting this right during onboarding, justifying the need for clarity in roles and responsibilities, and clearly defining those roles.
  1. Not coming prepared with deliverables to meetings
  • This affects the bottom line. Without preparedness and sticking to timelines, the ROI for the purchase gets extended out, which ultimately might not reflect well on the person(s) responsible for purchasing the solution.
  • MANAGEABLE AND TACTICAL APPROACH. If we are sure we’ve properly articulated the importance of keeping to a timeline to realize ROI, then this must be handled delicately.  Consider a gentle reminder of the implications a delay in deliverables causes (project timeline, delayed ROI etc.).  Take care to deliver this message using “our” and “we”, rather than “your” verbiage. For example, “This will likely cause our schedule to move back a little, but let’s see what we can do to recover.”
  1. Failing to reach out for help when feeling frustrated
  • When we don’t know what’s bothering our customer, we can’t help. If we only connect at scheduled intervals and unaddressed issues have arisen, schedules can get delayed when that time is used to address a festering problem. Moreover, customers can transfer their frustration with the tool into frustration with us.
  • MANAGEABLE AND TACTICAL APPROACH. We must instill a level of confidence in our customer that we are always available. This is the essence of the CSM relationship. Periodic unscheduled check-ins during the beginning can go a long way in establishing this trust.

Because Customer Success is essentially a relationship, we must be willing to help one another out in building best practices, and getting the most from the product or service we provide our customers. Dealing with bad habits that affect this relationship can be painful, but taking it head-on with a plan is vital to the health of the relationship. Don’t be personal, but rather offer best practices. And, before pointing the finger at your customer’s bad habits, look first at yourself. While humbling, knowing the challenges of addressing and changing a habit can be just the right dose of empathy you need when coaching your customer into changing habits.

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About the Author:

Tim Conder
Tim Conder is the Vice President of Customer Success at Bolstra. Tim is passionate about the entire customer lifecycle acquisition, on boarding, live through renewal. He perfected an approach at Eserveo to help companies with this and, at Bolstra, he's helping to design a game changing product to help them take this to the next level.

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