Customer success management involves building customer-focused relationships that are collaborative, goal-focused, and able to adapt as customer needs evolve. The customer success process must also be highly scalable, as SaaS company success depends on the ability to operationalize meeting customer goals, ensuring use, and optimizing processes to keep customers subscribed.
A Customer Success Manager is responsible for developing customer relationships that promote retention and loyalty. Their job is to work closely with customers to ensure they are satisfied with the services they receive and to improve upon areas of dissatisfaction.
SaaS companies know the importance of customer success. Customer success involves a range of activities that seek to provide ongoing value to customers. Certain skills can make or break a customer success manager’s (CSM’s) efforts for building and maintaining strong customer relationships that lead to higher retention rates. Here are seven of the most important customer success manager skills, and how to leverage them to optimize your business.
Customers are unique and have complex problems that can interfere with their success. CSMs need to be able to identify issues and find resolutions. Several problems can result in low adoption rates and less than optimal use of a product. Customer success requires proactive work that anticipates these issues and quickly addresses them through creative thinking, research, and customer collaboration.
#2 Relationship Management
Attentive customer service is a cornerstone of effective customer success management. Relationship management involves listening to the customer, understanding their needs and work processes, and building trust, among other tools and techniques. Success requires a balance, where a customer success manager has skills to understand the customer’s desired touch level, and know when to intervene. Customer success hinges on a strong relationship where the customer feels free to reach out to the CSM for assistance, and where the CSM maintains rapport with the customer. If the CSM and customer lose touch, churn becomes more likely. Be a constant presence for the customer, without being overbearing.
A big part of maintaining a solid customer relationship involves empathy — which is defined as understanding and acknowledging another’s feelings or situations. Empathy is connecting on a deeper level and borrows from relationship management and problem-solving skills. It is distinct from sympathy, which is feeling for someone, such as being sorry. In customer relations, a sympathetic CSM might say, “I’m sorry you are having trouble,” while one expressing empathy would say, “I understand how this can be upsetting to you; let’s work together to find a solution.” In customer success, empathy is action and goal-focused, which leads to customers getting the most value from the business relationship.
#4 Expectation Management
Strong CSMs know the importance of setting the right expectations for customers. It’s part of delivering on promises. Customers do not want to be told that something is going to be taken care of, they want results and a reliable timeframe. All customer interactions and communication should consider customer perception and expectations. Don’t over-promise and risk under-delivering. Do understand your customer’s needs, align those needs with your product’s capabilities, and identify and address any issues that impede meeting customer expectations.
CSMs must be determined. Customer success occurs when customers gain value from a product or service, and in many cases, this value is not a given; it requires hard work. A successful CSM is one who works through problems, and puts in the time and effort to help customers derive the promised value. Tenacity means not giving up when things get tough.
#6 Relational Intelligence
Simply put, relational intelligence is the ability to connect and be present in the midst of numerous tasks. Relational intelligence is important for busy workers but is essential for CSMs. Follow the five gears of productive work: focus mode, task mode, social mode, connect mode, and recharge, and learn to shift between these gears at the right time.
Underlying each of the skills listed here is communication. Clear communication makes sure that you and your customers are not just on the same page today, but that messaging is aligned and proactive for success tomorrow. Be clear, be consistent, and be present, and you and your customer will understand each other and will be able to more effectively work together towards goals.
With these top customer success manager skills, your business will have a strong foundation for customer success — one that keeps customers happy, full of value from your product or service, and on the same page