You know those friends you meet every Thursday for lunch, and when you walk in, you start talking even before you’ve been sat? You save up things you’ve been wanting to hash out for that scheduled and anticipated lunch date, and you use the entire time sharing, venting, processing, and problem solving. You leave the lunch and head back to work feeling heard, and (ideally) with a clear approach to your issue of the day. These friends are hard to come by, and these dates are ones you don’t want to miss.
That’s what Customer Success looks like. It’s about making our customers feel like they have a virtual seat at that lunch table with a friend who knows them, wants to help them out, and who values their opinion. They truly believe that you know their business, and therefore they share freely, expect that you will actively listen to them, and want you to coach them through their snags. They also want to be able to push back and tell you why your idea isn’t working, and propose other ideas that could work better. They don’t want to share the table and not be heard. But, they come to the table, knowing they want your take.
The virtual table we seek isn’t at the board table, but rather the lunch table. The agendas aren’t set by the chair, but organically grown out of a relationship that is authentic and valued.
In the world of Customer Success, it’s all about building a trusting relationship to the point of a virtual seat at that lunch table. Customers feel welcomed and encouraged to communicate freely. They look forward to your call (the lunch). The line between customer and vendor is blurred: the ideal relationship is reciprocal. It feels like a partnership, and partners have expectations of one another:
- Knowing One Another
- Mutual goals
Knowing One Another: How well do you know your customer? Having lunch with a stranger isn’t all that enjoyable. Doing business with strangers can be equally challenging. On a very basic level, we should be creating a relationship that is both authentic and productive. We should know enough about our clients so that they look forward to our call, and trust that they won’t have to start from ground zero in their conversation. We come to the lunch table remembering our last conversations and ready to listen to the next chapter. We come to our Client Success calls knowing what’s been tried, what’s worked,what’s failed, and what might arise next.
Candor: Does your customer share freely about their internal pains and concerns? Whether working with an account manager or a C level executive, you want to have built a relationship of trust, such that they are willing to tell you what their headaches are, what keeps them up at night, and what they are ruminating on as an approach. The more willing they are to share, the better you can be in helping solve problems for them. Do you know their fears? That’s when you know you’re seated at the same virtual table. When a customer is willing to disclose their fears, and trusts that you can help them overcome those fears, you’re doing Customer Success right. A top notch CSM is essentially a trusted confidante for their customer, knowing and preserving the value of confidentiality.
Respect: Does your customer seek your opinion, value your input with respect, and not feel as though you are only interested in upselling them? It’s important that our clients don’t feel the constant pressure that we are trying to get them to buy more. For that to happen, we must earn their respect. And, to do that, CSMs must be judicious in how they handle customer concerns and inquiries. They must be tactical and responsive, and NOT salesy. When the time comes for them to need more from us, it should feel like an organic transition in the relationship. Respect is earned, and it sprouts directly out of the seeds of trust. When a customer trusts that we are invested in THEIR success, (not our own) respect will flow.
Reliability: Does your customer feel confident that you have their back? Do they trust that you’re there when you need them? This feeling of trust and security is irreplaceable. No one wants to be stood up for lunch. No one wants to reach out in need, and not be answered. CSMs must be at the helm. The team must be knowledgeable and ready. If not, the customer is justified in feeling as though they can’t rely upon them. And partners don’t let partners down. They show up for lunch and they come prepared to listen and help solve problems.
Mutual Goals: Perhaps most importantly, do your customers believe that you share their goals? (Do you know their goals?) If you don’t know the goals of your customer, then it’s questionable whether or not you can even serve them. How can you have that monthly lunch date, and not know if your friend is on a diet, or that they’re hoping to get promoted? People who share tables know things about one another that go beyond the table. And in the world of Customer Success, these shared tables equate to shared visions. If you know your customer has a sales goal and expansion plans, you are better able to be a peer coach in getting them to reach their goals, and hold them accountable, as well.
Sitting at the virtual table of Customer Success is a good feeling – for the CSM and the customer. Essentially, this lunch table is one that both sides look forward to sitting at, and both trust that they will be expected to show up and participate. Your customer should feel invited, welcome and regarded as a valued partner. At this level of partnership conversations are candid, trust is apparent, and agendas aren’t obscured.