“Your job, if you’re a Customer Success Manager, isn’t to make friends with your clients. Your primary job is to CHALLENGE them, and get them to think, in order to make them more SUCCESSFUL.”-Don Peppers
Customers are always right! Is that truly so? Maybe not always. Sometimes they might not know what works best for them. As the quote goes, ”Customers do not know what they want until it is shown to them”. They purchase your product and start the relationship with some ideas at the back of their minds. At the same time, you as their Customer Success Manager, have a journey map laid out for them. Often in practice, this leads to a conflict of interest. Customers would want to adopt your product but by taking minimal effort from their end.
This is what puts you (a CSM) in a tough position. New customers come onboard expecting that things are going to happen on their own without any/minimal effort. However, to make them achieve their desired outcomes, you either:
- Try and find a sweet spot where your solution works and customers attain success, or
- Make them realize that there’s a better way of doing it.
Both these options are doable, of course. The right thing to do is to choose the one that works for the customers better. The one that makes them achieve early value. One which helps them achieve their outcomes better. In most cases, it might be the second option. Challenging customers is important to help them to achieve better outcomes! So challenge customers for better outcomes.
How do challenging customers help?
This is not to imply that you should go and ask every customer to rethink their processes. Whenever a new customer starts their journey with you, it’s crucial that both parties are on the same page with respect to the journey ahead. For that transparency is key.
Pushing the customer can be intimidating. Even if it is to make them realize that the product is built this way to serve them better. Telling them that it is not possible to get everything they want might feel like a suicidal move. However, it creates an air of trust. Undoubtedly, trust can’t be gained overnight. But the persistence surely pays off. A detailed explanation as to why the current processes won’t work can open up their mind.
- Customers will see the inefficiencies in their existing processes.
- They’ll start connecting with other customers to understand their experiences.
- Once they understand, it will be easy for them to ditch current processes and adopt the ones that you recommend.
- They’ll start seeing results, much better results.
For you (the Customer Success Manager)
Remember that the customer selected you in the first place because of your experience and your product’s expertise. They did come to you hoping for their business to flourish. They came to you because they did their research. You’d be letting them down if you don’t stand your ground when a customer chooses a path that will cause troubles down the road.
Push back and ask them to reconsider their options. This will definitely make your customer a little uncomfortable, but they’ll start to see the relevance of the point that you’re mainly trying to imply. If customers are convinced and they take a U-turn, that might be another professional achievement for you. Customers achieved better outcomes because they listened to you. Hence, this might be the beginning of a healthy customer relationship.
For your business growth
Undoubtedly, the success of your customer translates into the success of your business. A customer who saw success using your product is not going to go away. At least not that easily! They will be happy to continue with your business. Customer Retention exponentially increases your revenue, lest you forget. Loyal customers are the most valuable asset that a business can have. Hence, don’t underestimate the power that you as a CSM can have on your business.
4 Ways to Challenge Customers for Better Outcomes
It’s interesting and inspiring to note that pushing customers hard will pay off in the long term. But, how to actually do this? Is there any established process or sequence of steps that can guide a CSM through? Read through the following ways through which you can easily manage this difficult conversation.
Identify customer needs and understand their objectives
This is a no-brainer. When a new customer approaches you, they will give you a list of steps/processes that they, probably, were following prior to starting a relationship with you. Rather than getting complacent, you need to get behind the customer and know clearly what it is that the customer really wants.
Be prepared to ask some tough yet meaningful questions. This is vital to identifying customer needs. Ask questions like:
- What are the core issues that you’re trying to solve through your proposed workflow?
- Using your current approach, what are you trying to accomplish?
- Why do you follow the existing processes that you have in place?
- How will you segment the benefits and limitations of your existing processes?
- If there’s something you’d like to change in the current process, what would it be?
Understanding their desired outcomes/objectives is the other part. The above-mentioned questions will naturally help you realize the outcomes that they will achieve. Once you identify the “why” behind the proposal, you’re in a position to lay down feasible options- options that guarantee much better outcomes. You will be able to suggest approaches that align with the customer’s needs and your best practices.
Walk Customers through your Processes
The processes are rightly referred to as best practices. When a customer purchases your product, it’s done because they believe you. They know working with your product will help them achieve success. However, the thought process regarding the path to success might be different for both- you and your customer. You know what works best for your customers. Communicate these processes clearly to avoid any conflict down the line.
Ensure that the customers understand your point behind these practices. Irrespective of the stages in the customer’s journey – onboarding, adoption, retention, etc.- a consistent workflow must be mapped out to demonstrate how they’ll achieve better results. Revisiting these practices during onboarding can help you challenge customers to try new approaches. If you don’t, there is a high chance that customers will go back to their old path. Everything that you’d done so far could go for a toss!
Encourage them to connect with other customers
Build a community of your customers. This will help when a new customer wants to interact and engage with others who have similar interests. A new client would like to know if they’ve seen success with your product. If it is so, the customer will willingly oblige to change their own processes for better outcomes.
An interesting thought here is that customers usually speak freely when they interact with people who have already seen success with your solution. They’d want to understand the nuances of systems and processes. If they get such information from people who have been there and done that, be assured that they’ll get back to you with a positive response. Hence, it always makes sense to challenge customers for better outcomes and let them see what other users think about it.
Substantiate your claims through Social proofs
Merely telling your customers that changing this system will help you reach this milestone isn’t enough. They’ll probably think that you’re bluffing. To change that perspective you need to give them hard proof/evidence. Here customer success and marketing teams together can play an important role.
Customer success professionals can share some of the social proofs such as case studies, testimonials, etc. provided by the marketing. This is a better way to challenge customers for better outcomes. This way the customers won’t feel pushed hard to change systems. If you can provide evidence that a use case, similar to the new customer’s, has already been tackled, it gives immense confidence to them.
Sharing social proof is a wonderful way to communicate how a change in existing systems and processes will help customers achieve better outcomes. If other customers have done that, so can your new clients.
Driving a positive customer experience through change is not easy. It’s important to understand the outcomes that your customer wants to achieve so that you can make it better. You need to see if their existing processes align with your best practices. If not, make your case. Try pushing your customers next time they insist on keeping their existing systems and processes. If those fall beyond the scope of your best practices, make customers realize the change is for their good.
Customers open up when they meet people with similar interests. Encourage that. Let them interact with people who’ve purchased your product and seen success. Remember that it’s important to challenge customers for better outcomes than they can expect. Your expertise can help them achieve what they came for and much more.
P.S. – The main image has been taken from pexels.com