Strategies for managing customer success

Customer success was once known as customer support, but the term customer support didn’t go far enough to get customers successfully using a product with the help of the supplier. Support was more of a reactive response to problems that arose after the sale of a product as opposed to a proactive stance that helps customers understand the product from the moment they start to use said product.

When customer success management is implemented, customers are much happier and far less likely to require product support once they’re using the product. But that’s not to say that support won’t be necessary at all; rather, customer service and support is ongoing and the better the support from the representatives, the better the customer satisfaction level.

Training the customer before the box is opened

It’s hard to resist the urge to break into the box of a new item and work with it. But it’s a good bet that something will go wrong if the product you’re selling has a complex nature. In other words, training the customer before they open the box helps reduce dissatisfaction, the need for ongoing support, and makes it more likely to get a return customer. To that end, the company needs to put literature into the box or make training a requirement before the product is sold. The easier it is for the customer to learn and use the product, the less support they need.

Empathize with the customer

It’s a given that customers can be difficult at times, but consider that the customer has an expectation of the product working correctly as described, or having the tools to make it work. All too often a company doesn’t take into consideration that the customer is a human being that wants to use a product correctly but can’t do so when they’re not shown how. And just like every human being, that customer has feelings that should be addressed. Sales people, trainers, and even customer support staff need to be trained in the art of working with the customer instead of against. That means reducing the use of scripts, giving staff some leeway in making decisions, and sharing the concerns of the customer instead of treating them like they don’t know a thing. Companies who don’t engage in empathy are demonstrating an arrogance that is more likely to turn off the customer for the long run.

Engage in strategic thinking

Allowing customer service representatives to engage in strategic thinking and not punishing them for going off-script is vital to customer success. Sometimes the problems are common ones that are quickly resolved or aren’t really a problem at all. Then there are times when the problem is major and needs a strategy to resolve. Most would say that this is a problem that should be kicked up to a Tier II representative, but if they’re busy, the customer won’t get satisfaction. If the customer service representative who has the initial point of contact with the customer can solve the problem, allow them to do so.

Customer service employees gain familiarity with the company’s products as a matter of course. They deal with the calls every day, listen to the complaints, and can get a feel for which ones are due to the customer not understanding how something works, and which ones are down to a defective product. In essence, the reps are your front line to increase customer satisfaction and if the reps can solve the problems due to familiarity, allow them to do so. This cuts down on the amount of calls for the same problem from the same customer along with increasing customer satisfaction with the product because they understand how it works.

Use clear communication skills for effective resolutions

This may sound like a lot of B-school speak, but it’s really shorthand to encourage plain speech between representative and customer to get the result the customer is after. Scripts are perhaps the most aggravating part of any interaction with customers, but they are a good tool to handle known and established problems with the product. Instead of simply rewriting scripts to sound cleaner and more concise, have a quality control session and have someone read them out loud to an audience for feedback. It might just be that the scripts don’t convey as much information as everyone thought and makes the reps less intelligent they really are. This doesn’t reflect well on the business when the script sounds bad. It’s best to go back to the beginning and rewrite the script with input from the customer service staff.

Customer success tools

Imagine this: A customer is handed the product with little documentation and information on how the product works or functions. The customer has no choice but to fool around with the product in an attempt to figure out how it works. And when they cause a malfunction because they don’t understand the product, they’re likely to be upset or angry when they make the call for support. All of this is avoidable if the company gets proactive and makes it a point to focus on the user experience.

Train staff for peak performance

Turnover is never a good thing in a company, but a company may be resistant to paying a reasonable wage for the job at hand. But if there’s not enough investment in the people that make the company run, turnover is likely to be on the high side. The best way to stop the turnover is to put effort into training staff, not punishing them for taking incentive to make the customer happy, and give them recognition for their skills. Putting the right people into the right position to do the best possible job reduces turnover, increases customer satisfaction, and gives the company a good name.

Offer self-support

Instead of hiding documentation for a product, put it out in plain sight. If a customer can search for a solution to their problem via easily accessed documents, they’re less likely to pick up the phone. The internet has made it easier than ever for people to get answers to their questions. Adding product documentation, FAQs, and even adding a product forum where people can exchange their experiences is beneficial to both company and customer. When the customer can’t find answers, they’ll turn to customer support for help.

What this achieves is less support needed from the company, a customer who’s happy because they can find what they need online without wasting time on a phone call, and the phone calls that do come in are of a more serious nature.

Get customer feedback

Soliciting customer feedback creates metrics for the company to evaluate product performance. But it’s frequently treated as a one-way street wherein the customer sends in their opinions and experience while never getting a response from the company. Instead of going the old-fashioned route of soliciting comments, engage the customer instead. Give the customer the option to get a phone call from a company representative to discuss their experience. Create an online forum for people to discuss a product without the pressure of a phone call or answering canned questions on a questionnaire.

Feedback works when the company engages with the customer about his or her level of satisfaction with the product. The customer is more likely to offer up information that can be used for improvement during the next design cycle.

Reduce churn

Customer churn is just as bad as employee turnover. The goal is to retain customers, not rely on a steady stream of new ones to take place of the ones that left. Relying on a constant stream of new customers results in diminishing returns. And diminishing returns translates into lower profits.

Reducing churn is a combination of instituting customer feedback and reaching out to existing customers who haven’t experienced problems. It needs a specialized team of customer service experts who are nimble enough to respond to anything unusual the customer may throw at them. This kind of customer care encourages customers to return for more product and also informs the design cycle for the given product as well as similar products that are in the pipeline. Everyone benefits when the company makes an effort to take care of the customer and improve the product going forward.

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