Jul 14, 2016

Read Time 6 min

How to stop CS firefighting, turning customers into advocates, data-driven hacks to reduce churn


You head into work with a strict schedule: call your three newest customers to see how onboarding is going, meet with the product and development teams and finish helping the client who phoned in yesterday with questions about your app’s newest feature. You’re chugging along when all of a sudden you get a call – one of your clients has lost all their data.

Now, your job is reduced to firefighting. You have to run around and talk to a bunch of departments who all have their own stuff to deal with. Not only does this one customer’s problem eat into your day, it eats into the rest of your week. And that schedule you worked so hard to draw up? It’s gone with the wind.

In a recent survey of more than 700 CSMs, it was discovered that time management was the most commonly reported frustration for Customer Success Managers. Some have almost resigned themselves to this fact and see a reactive schedule as part of the job description. In order to please customers, they think it’s impossible to manage their time well. They have become accustomed to the stress of living without a schedule.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Your job as a CSM is to help your clients with long-term success. You’re not going to be able to do that if firefighting obscures the big picture with smoke and prevents you from being proactive. This fantastic read offers insightful ways to fix your time management problems and get off a reactionary schedule; we highly recommend checking out the full article. To get you started, here is one idea that really caught our attention:

  • Throw empathy out the window when you delegate  CSMs have great personalities; they love helping people and they’re hard working. But one common quality can actually hurt CSMs in the crucial decision-making process: empathy. Even though it sounds like the most important trait for a CSM to have, too much empathy can really hurt you because it often makes people wind up doing their peers’ work. There’s a better quality to have when delegating: resourcefulness. Resourcefulness involves getting creative and choosing the best possible solution from all the ones possible. It’s way more powerful than empathy because it protects your time and still gets the job done.
    • Ask yourself: can the customer take the baton? CSMs often feel like a one-man marching band. You’re trying to help the customer as much as you can, so you wind up doing everything yourself. But just because you know the most about the problems your customers face doesn’t mean you’re the right one for the job. In some cases, it’s worth it to pass the baton to the customer. Your job as a CSM is to help them with long-term success. If they have a problem now, they might have it again. It’s that old “teach a man to fish” parable. You’re actually going to help your customer more if you give them the resources to understand the problem instead of fixing it yourself. That way, when they have this problem in the future, you’ll have saved them the chore of having to call you.

Turning Customers into Advocates

You’ve just been told that your company has signed its most important client to date. There may be many things running through your head: When do they want to start? Did sales promise them something that’s not possible? And while you definitely need to dive into the weeds for a successful partnership, you should also have one customer success focus on your mind: How can I make this new customer an advocate of ours?

Customer advocates are the lifeblood of organizations: they will bring you new business, provide you with honest feedback and speak on behalf of you to anyone that will listen. Keep this one main goal of creating advocates in your thoughts and heart, and you will have the drive that you need to tackle the biggest challenges that come at you.

So how do you transform your customers into advocates? Here are 5 powerful tips to get you started down the customer advocacy path:

  • Be Responsive – We’re all busy and we all have competing priorities but you need to be responsive to your customers. If you can’t respond right away, send them a quick note and let them know when you will get back to them. Better yet, look for new ways for them to get their questions answered such as help docs or submitting a question to a community.
  • Be Accountable – If your product experienced an issue or if you dropped the ball on a follow up item, take accountability for it. On the flip side, you should have processes and systems in place to keep yourself and your clients on track.
  • Show Value Early and to all Levels – It’s not enough to just communicate to your customers and ensure that they are using your product. You need to ensure they are getting value. You also need to inform your main point of contact and the customer executive. Don’t assume that your customer communicates internally. Additionally, if the customer isn’t getting value, you need to inform both the main customer contact and the customer executive to explain what steps need to be taken to improve.
  • Always Be Educating – Don’t assume that your customers are reading all the emails your organization sends them. Think about what your customer’s main objectives and challenges are, and focus on educating your customers on topics that will not only help them use your product more effectively, but will also help their career.
  • Recognize Their Accomplishments – If you see that your customers are doing a great job using your product, make sure that you let them know and also let their managers know. It’s not just a matter of recognition but also assurance that they are on the right track. It’s your job to be their cheerleader. You should also try and help them win an industry award or your company’s awards if you have them.

Ultimately it comes down to being proactive, which is part of each of these tips and is a fundamental element of customer success teams. Check out the full read for more details on each tip and advice on how to know when your customer is an advocate.

Data-Driven Hacks to Reduce Churn

Fighting churn begins with understanding and measuring your churn. Once you know where you’re going wrong, you can take the appropriate steps to reduce churn by giving your customers what they want: success with your product. Find out what your customers want and help them to successfully use your product – that will solve 90% of your problems.

Nichole Elizabeth Demere Quote

For the other 10%, there are some simple hacks you can try and can make a notable difference. Here are three to consider:

  • Don’t let credit cards expire – This is the easiest money you’ll ever make and the trick is to find a billing system that provides a credit card updater service which automatically informs users when their cards are about to expire.
  • Embrace high quality content marketing that has a customer success focus – With strong content that provides real value and fun, friendly and responsive social media staff, you can become a positive force in your clients’ lives on a daily basis. Answer questions. Offer tips. Make jokes. Tell stories. Make every interaction an enjoyable, valuable experience that helps customers achieve their goals.
  • Increase your usefulness – Sometimes customers leave because they outgrow what you can do for them. The only solution to that is to keep growing. Consider developing partnerships with complimentary services to expand your reach and make it more convenient for people to stay than to leave. Maybe invite companies to build add-ons and integrations for your product.

Word to the Wise

This week’s wisdom comes from Jeff Vincent, head of product at Wistia, in a podcast where he dives into how Wistia structures their entire team around providing incredible customer experiences. From how they hire to how, to how they think about customer success within their product management team, to how they plan around their customers when they release new features, Wistia has customer success woven into every aspect of their process and throughout every department. And according to Jeff, this holistic approach to customer success is the only way to deliver consistent results for your customers (we agree!). Take a listen:

Jeff Vincent, Wistia - Podcast on Wisita's Holistic Approach to Customer Success

Interested in another story about customer success done right? Check out this look inside Remind’s customer obsession and how they learned to pass the ultimate customer success test: knowing what it’s like to be your customer’s customer.


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