Mar 9, 2018

Read Time 6 min

Pro Tips from Customer Success Leaders


Yesterday, we hosted the first of a new series of events called RYG Success Hour. You might be wondering what RYG means?  RYG stands for red, yellow, green. RYG Success Hour is all about learning how to take your customers whose health score is in the red or yellow and turn them into your best customers.

During the event we had three breakout sessions led by D.C. area-based Customer Success leaders. We thought there were some great takeaways from the sessions and we wanted to share them with the larger Customer Success community.

Keep reading to get expert tips and advice on the following topics:

  • How to Deliver Bad News to a Customer
  • How to Identify and Revive a Disengaged Customer
  • How to Become a Customer Success Leader

How to Deliver Bad News to a Customer

Tips brought to you by: Bettina Fowler, VP of Client Operations, Higher Logic

  • Be honest. Don’t lie and pretend something is down the pipeline, as an example to delay the truth hoping the customer will forget. They never forget. Just be honest.
  • Come with some kind of solution ready. Options are ideal. Having options puts them back in charge.
  • Give your customer time to respond. You may have several solutions ready to present and think you know how your customer will react to the news, but make sure that after you deliver this news, take a breath and pause, let your customer have their time to speak. And make sure to really listen to what they say. This will direct you in how to respond with a solution and they may just surprise you with their response.
  • Favorite line in these conversations whether it’s the company’s fault or the customer- “this is a great teaching opportunity.” It doesn’t admit fault and definitely doesn’t blame your product.
  • Make sure you do your homework before the call where you are giving bad news. Customize this to the customer so they know you care and continue to trust you when you present solutions.
  • Try to meet the client in person if you keep having to give bad news. This will make you more human. The same goes with video chatting.

Tips brought to you by: Tracy Cronlund, VP of Global Customer Sales, Tracx

  • Try and get out ahead of the problem. As soon as you know there is an issue, proactively reach out to the customer and let them know the scope of the issue and that you are actively working on a solution. This is better than letting the customer find out on their own and be unpleasantly surprised.
  • Be direct and transparent. Although it’s harder, deliver really bad news on the phone. This way you can show empathy through tone and really get a gauge for the reaction from your customer. A lot can be lost in email.
  • Depending on how bad the news is, it might be appropriate to provide the customer a free upgrade or add-on. This gesture can go a long way towards mending the relationship between you and your client.
  • Psych yourself up for a bad news conversation, but keep it in perspective. Many people have done this before and at the end of it everyone is OK. This isn’t about family or health so just keep it all in perspective.
  • Get comfortable delivering bad news. The higher up you get within an organization, the more frequently you might find yourself in this situation.

How to Identify and Revive a Disengaged Customer

Tips brought to you by: Amanda Turner, Federal Team Lead, Quorum

  • Set up alerts via email, Slack, or other channels to let you know when customer usage is trending in a uncharacteristically negative or positive direction. For customers not using the product in a way that contributes to their end goal – it gives you an opportunity to intervene and assist them as a trusted consultant. For those customers that have moved in extremely positive direction – it gives you an opportunity to inquire further about their business changes, needs, and goals that led to these changes to better position your customer for success.
  • No one enjoys running into errors. Your most vocal customers are likely to be letting you know about the errors that they’re receiving and that isn’t the problem. The problem is the customer that is not telling you about the issues they’ve experienced so that you can form a plan of action to get those items addressed. By sending these items immediately to your team, it allows them to proactively reach to the customer so that they can assist with the issue at hand or to simply let the customer know that they’re aware, paying attention to their account, and are already on top of the issue.
  • Customer exit surveys are critical and may even be performed before the loss of the customer (i.e. when they advise you of their intent to leave or look at other solutions). Preferably performed by phone, this exit survey allows you to get a candid view into why they won’t be renewing, what your organization could have done differently, and gives you valuable insight as to whether you might be able to earn their business back in the future if those items are addressed. The answers to these questions should be shared internally in a post mortem to help identify other possible at-risk customers.

Tips brought to you by: Sophie Johnson, Sr. Director of Customer Success, Social Tables

  • Just because a customer is using your product doesn’t necessarily mean they are also mastering it. Look for high-value usage events that are indicators as to whether they’re going to be reaching their goals and intervene immediately to correct the course. If you find a common theme, it may be impactful to have your company step in to assist them through this regularly encountered issue with the product and/or service. As a result, you may even find an opportunity to offer services to new customers that will help them achieve their goals faster as a result.
  • NPS surveys are a great indicator as to how a customer may feel about a new product, service, or their general overall willingness to recommend your product to a colleague or friend. Asking follow up questions and submitting that feedback to relevant departments such as Customer Success, Product, or Sales can allow you to not only identify trends and issues – but to take action and right the ship for current customers or future customers to ensure they have a clear path to meet their goals. Don’t be shy to pull someone in from Product or from other teams to hear the feedback firsthand.
  • One action to be aware of is if you see your customer exporting all of their data out of the system. You should set up alerts to be notified if this action is occurring. This could be a strong signal that they are planning on breaking up with you. When you see this happen you should escalate to the person with the strongest relationship with the client and get them on the phone to see if there’s anything that can be done.

How to Become a Customer Success Leader

Tips brought to you by: Meredith Bohen, Director of Customer Success, Social Tables

  • Make sure you understand the business. You should shadow other departments, but also shadow your CUSTOMER, physically. Go to their office for a half a day, really walk in their shoes, so you can understand them. You should do this for both good customers and your bad customers.
  • Find out what your boss’ goals and metrics are and align your own goals and metrics to those. This will help make your boss successful (which is important) and it means if an opportunity comes to step into leadership, you know what is involved.
  • Be someone your leaders can trust. This doesn’t mean that you need to be perfect – but it means you need to be someone who is reliable, communicates will and often and can be expected to be on top of things.

Tips brought to you by: Michael Duda, VP of Customer Success, Solutions & Business Operations, GoCanvas

  • Figure out what your executive team cares about. To be in leadership you will need to be able to zoom out from the day to day and look at the big picture.
  • You should figure out how usage is linked to retention within your organization. At what point does retention significantly increase? How much will even just a 1% reduction in customer churn impact your ARR or MRR? If you are on top of these types of metrics it means you are aligned with the business’ goals.
  • You will also want to be careful not to get wrapped up in all the data but look thoughtfully at a fewer number of metrics that matter and what will really move the business forward.

We hope you found these expert tips to be as helpful as we did. Be on the look out for our next RYG |Success Hour in your area!

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