In my previous posts, I focused on what customer success managers (CSMs) should do when working with their customers. Let’s switch it around and focus on the stuff that you should avoid. I have a number of battle scars that I’ve “earned” over the years as well as heard my share of crazy stories. Here are a few items from the vault that I want to share. Keep these in mind as examples of what you shouldn’t do as you work with your customers:
- Don’t send anything emotional over email. I made the mistake early in my career of blasting my client’s partner over email for shoddy work that was delaying my client’s project. That email got back to me in a hurry and I was the one that felt the wrath of the president of my company. Was I right to get mad? Yes. Should I have handled it differently? Definitely! Sometimes, the best email was the one that was never sent.
- Don’t forget that appearances are everything. A former colleague of mine decided to rent a Hummer when visiting a client to finalize a renewal. It doesn’t matter that it was a free upgrade and that he got a great deal. Don’t rent the most expensive car when visiting a client – even if it costs less.Our CEO happened to attend the same meeting and was not happy. Do you think he cared that it was a free upgrade? It’s the perception of your action that matters. I don’t even know if the client was aware that he did that but they could have been. That was the last business trip he made with the company.
- Don’t lose focus on what is important to your business. We all get wrapped up in being customer super heroes but don’t lose sight on what drives your company: revenue. A few key data points that every CSM should know off the top of their head: who is up for renewal in the next 30 days and which clients are paying you the most.Being able to share a recent client success story with your peers is great but knowing the right data that drives your business is better. Executives want to know that you are on top of your customers and have a plan in place to ensure your customers are maximizing their investment with your product. Keep your eye on the ball and avoid surprises with your upper management. One colleague of mine couldn’t easily relay to an executive which of his clients in the Bay area should be invited to an executive dinner. That CSM didn’t last much longer after that.
- Don’t betray the trust that you’ve established with your customers. In Customer Success, your word is everything. One of the worst mistakes I ever made was pushing a new product that was too new and unproven on one of my biggest customers. This caused me a lot of heartache with my client as the product wasn’t ready and they had risked their own career to roll it out to their team. When the product didn’t live up to expectations, I was the one that took the blame and rightly so. I was the one who betrayed their trust. Never again!
- Don’t show up unprepared. Better to cancel a client meeting that you are unprepared for then try and wing it and waste everyone’s time. As I just mentioned, don’t betray the trust that you’ve established with your clients and always view your client’s time as something that is scared.
- Don’t focus on your individual successes – focus on your teams’ success. If all of your clients are happy but most of your client base is running for the door, you may be able to gloat for the day but your company will lose the war and you can lose your job when the company goes out of the business.Check your ego at the door, roll up your sleeves and ask your teammates what you can do to help them. A great driver of teamwork at a former company of mine was creating a team bonus component. That forced the CSM group to work together and not leave any customer behind.
- Don’t get distracted on what your real purpose is – to help the customer. If you go rambling on about your weekend while speaking with your customers, catch yourself and refocus. You do want to connect with your customers but instead of talking about yourself, ask your customer what their interests are – focus on them and not that cool bar that you went to with your friends.
- Don’t forget to show up. At a user conference that my company hosted, one of my team members went a bit overboard the night before and never showed up to deliver his presentation. While the best customer relationships you build will take place outside the office, you need to have self-constraint in this role. Accountability and reliability are some of the most important traits of customer success managers. If your company can’t trust you, you will find yourself unemployed quickly.
I hope you found these useful and would love to hear about your tips and stories on what not to do.