By Burke Alder
No customer relationship is 100% effort free. In fact, many customer relationships take a tremendous amount of work to nurture and grow. There may even be some bumps that show up during the course of every customer journey. The most successful customers have trust in the fact that their CSM is not only advocating on their behalf, but is also proactive in ensuring they are set up for success long before small bumps become emergencies.
Being Reactive Creates Risks
All too often, CSMs are reactive to customer situations. A customer calls about a product issue they are having or they inform the CSM they aren’t happy with how their services engagement is progressing. Or maybe a CSM waits for a new product or feature to be released before educating their customers about what it means and how to utilize it going forward.
CSMs can get caught up in firefighting, doing all they can in the moment to make sure their customers are happy. And to make matters worse, many of the systems CSM teams have in place are laggard indicators, showing customer health or metrics from last year, last quarter, or even last month – none of which show the current customer state.
3 Ways to Be Proactive with Your Customers
So how can CSMs drive a proactive approach with their customer accounts? How can they be one or two steps ahead, rather than multiple steps behind? Building a proactive relationship with customers is fundamentally essential to the overall health of your business.
Below we give you 3 ways that CSMs can be proactive with their customers and eliminate risk:
1. Consistently Reach Out & Engage Pulse
Sometimes outright selling can actually do more harm than good. If your customers trust you as a CSM and know that you are doing what’s best for them, their company, and their goals, then they will, in turn, look to you for guidance on what other solutions or services you would recommend. But often times, this doesn’t come from a sales pitch – it’s an investment in education more than selling.
The marketing organization can be an excellent resource to ensure that you are consistently providing resources above and beyond for customers, such as training seminars, certification classes, how-to blogs or workbooks, customer user groups or meetups, in-depth customer case studies via webinars or field marketing events, templates, hands-on learning guides, executive meetups, and more. When marketing is involved in the customer journey, the CSM always has a reason to reach out and provide helpful information or to check the customer pulse by asking meaningful questions.
Educational resources can help your customer become more familiar with your products, services, and processes. But perhaps the biggest benefit is the likelihood that your customers will see your SaaS company as a trusted partner. They will view your team as an extension of their own company and will share your resources with others and will seek input and advice.
2. Be Proactive with Product Engagement
How do you as a CMS manage churn if you don’t have full visibility into how the customer is actually using your product or service? What if they aren’t using it at all? What features or services are most important to them and why? Usage patterns and understanding how your customers are interacting with your product or service is exceptionally valuable when seeking a proactive approach.
But not only that, when your company releases a new product edition, a new feature set, a user-interface redesign, or a new service, it’s not a question of whether your customers will be impacted or not – it’s a question of how much. Rather than wait for your customers to learn about the updates or changes from a mass marketing email on release day, ensure you reach out to each customer individually to share with them the changes and ensure they are completely prepared well before the updates actually happen.
Often times, customers build workflows around how a product or service works at the time they purchased it, but what happens if the new product or service updates interfere with their processes? Now suddenly the new updates become a major deal for your customer, and in turn, a major deal for you as their CSM.
2. Know the Landscape, Roles, and Goals of Your Customer Accounts
Sometimes CSMs fall into a trap of viewing their role as “preventative” rather than proactive. Their mindset and activity is focused purely on retention rather than growth. CSMs may schedule the occasional “touch base”, reactively addressing issues, but what lacks is the personal relationship aspect. Without truly understanding the goals of each team member involved – from IT to users to day-to-day contacts to decisions makers – CSMs are out of touch with how the relationship is really progressing.
Not only that, it’s important for CSMs to be in touch with role changes and additional responsibilities that the individuals across their customer account may have added to their plates. Does the customer account have a big event coming up, a product release, or a giant press opportunity? Understanding the demands and pressures that customers have in front of them can help you as a CSM to manage accordingly and to ensure that customers are set up for success well in advance at every turn.
Many CSMs avoid being proactive because they feel they will lose their “trusted advisor” status with customers if they display any focus on sales and growth. However, when a CSM assumes a proactive approach with customers, they develop deep relationships and clearly understand their customers’ key business objectives, and leverage their trusted advisor status to align solutions and services to meet those objectives.
How Do You Ensure a Proactive Customer Approach?
How do you ensure that your customers are set up for success well before it’s too late? What solutions and tools do you use to ensure that your customers are growing and thriving before realizing too late? Being proactive with your customer success approach rather than reacting to problems as they arise can mean the difference between a lost customer and a growing customer.