The Proactive Habits That Can Help Every Customer Success Manager Prevent Churn

May 21, 2020

It can be tempting to give clients exactly what they want. However, experienced customer success managers give clients what they need. 

Alexandre Anquetil, a CS manager at customer experience optimization platform AB Tasty, said his role is to work with clients on their long-term business goals. When clients reach for “low-hanging fruit” for immediate revenue, it’s the CSM’s responsibility to step in and work with them to see the bigger picture.

Customer success managers can proactively position themselves as an extension of their client’s team by forming a relationship with them, hosting one-on-one workshops on product education and researching companies to understand their pain points. Come contract renewal time, clients won’t want to lose a product — and they won’t want to lose a business partner either. 

 

Micalla Hootstein
Strategic Account Manager

Hootstein said she looks for low user engagement during customer onboarding as an indicator for churn risk at CB Insights. If there is low engagement, Hootstein looks to analytical tools to consider their usage situation and reviews client goals. From there, she reaches out to the client with custom-tailored data queries and offers one-on-one workshops in order for clients to optimize their experience.

 

What are some proactive steps you take to help reduce churn in your accounts?  

I take a very proactive and personalized approach when managing my book of business, with the goal of understanding customer needs and overcoming obstacles early. Staying well-organized, well-informed and having a thorough understanding of my portfolio helps me mitigate churn risk. This means knowing the ins and outs of my clients' contract terms, working with internal and external stakeholders to map accounts and providing value to my clients on a regular basis — not just when customers present churn risks or a renewal is approaching. 

Some of the ways I try to add value to my clients include providing them with relevant data and research on disruptive technology trends in their industries, presenting them with tailored recommendations on how to best leverage CB Insights to accomplish their goals, being available to discuss their needs and answer any questions or concerns they may have. 

At CB Insights, we have powerful internal analytics tools that help paint a comprehensive picture of our customers’ engagement habits. This helps both CSMs and SAMs be proactive, as we can make real-time data-driven decisions to help our customers. I rely heavily on these tools in my daily work, and I look for and analyze usage patterns to help uncover opportunities, as well as gaps, within my accounts that might be an indication of future churn.

 

What are some of the early warning signs you look for that indicate an account needs more support? 

Lack of usage or engagement with our product at any point in the relationship, but especially at the onset, is a key indicator that an account may need more support. It is critical to see early product adoption within our user base. If an individual or team is slow to adopt the product, it can be an indicator of low usage or churn risk down the road. So, when I see low usage trends early on, I rely on a few different methods to understand and improve it. I’ll often start by reviewing the various internal usage analytics tools I have available to paint a picture of the usage situation. I'll also revisit my detailed notes from past calls with the team to identify what their goals and initiatives are. 

Then, I’ll proactively send CB Insights research or custom-tailored data queries to my clients. The key is to be as specific and targeted as possible to show that I fully understand my clients' objectives and can provide helpful data and information to make them more effective and efficient in their roles. I also try to reconnect with disengaged users by setting up one-on-one working sessions, where I will offer personalized support on a particular client project or assignment. I also hold product roadmap review calls to give clients a glimpse into the various tools and capabilities CB Insights is building, which often gets clients very excited about what’s next. I find these different customer engagement strategies to be effective in preventing churn and maintaining high client satisfaction. 

 

I have found that being accessible, communicative and a trusted client partner has helped me reduce churn within my portfolio.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned when it comes to reducing churn?

Building relationships with clients based on mutual trust, utilizing CB Insights’ resources, internal cross-collaboration and unwavering persistence have helped me reduce churn and excel in my role. Early in my career, I learned the importance of building and maintaining strong relationships, and I have carried this philosophy and lesson with me into my day-to-day work. I believe that having a strong partnership with clients is one of the main keys to success, and this is something I personally strive to achieve with mine.

I have found that being accessible, communicative and a trusted client partner has helped me reduce churn within my portfolio. I speak or meet with as many individual users as possible to understand how I can help with their individual and specific needs. Doing this has helped form relationships based on trust. Collectively, my portfolio is diverse and no two clients are alike. Therefore, I aim to learn about each client and their respective goals and needs in order for me to provide the most personalized, consultative approach and advice as possible.   

Another important lesson I have learned, as cliché as it may sound, is to never give up. A key responsibility in an account management role is turning around difficult and unexpected situations which, ideally, eventually results in positive outcomes for your client, for your company and for yourself. Working hard, thinking creatively and critically and being relentless in reaching your goals are lessons that have allowed me to turn many challenging and complex relationships into successful, productive ones. 

 

Alexandre Anquetil
Customer Success Manager

For Anquetil, relations with customers are only as good as the expertise he and his team can provide. Instead of giving customers exactly what they want he encourages sharing open feedback about project experience and collaborating on goals to better that experience for the customer and their business.

 

What steps are you taking right now to help reduce churn in your accounts?

The AB Tasty platform permits users to quickly modify the content on their websites, which makes it very convenient for quick messaging. The first few weeks of the crisis were about helping our clients communicate about COVID-19 emergency measures and service evolutions: changes in stores’ opening hours, delivery options, return policies, etc. We also proactively contact businesses that are impacted the most.

There is a long series of actions that we do differently at the moment. It could be summed up by saying that we try to do what we usually do, but better. We allocate all of our resources to be as responsive as possible, help our users make the best decisions and shorten our deadlines.

 

Almost every success or failure I experienced as a CSM confirmed that client satisfaction is not about saying ‘yes’ to everything.”

How have you adapted your customer success strategy in recent weeks, and what impact has that had on your conversations with clients?

The consequences of COVID-19 on our clients’ activities are pretty simple to assess; they woke up one day with a whole lot of new problems, and the decisions they have to make right now will have an impact on the short and long term. We did not really change our strategy, but we powered it up by improving our internal and external communication. Some companies are struggling, some have unexpected peaks of activity and others benefit from what seems to be deeper changes in consumers’ behaviors. We need to gain agility and show that we are able to tailor our offers.

It was essential to take quick actions when the COVID-19 period began. But the difference may lie in the ability to stay one step ahead and show our clients we understand that their business priorities suddenly changed and that it may happen again. This approach seems to be well received so far. In addition to proving the added value of our service to prevent early contract terminations, we already secured several renewals that could have been endangered.

 

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned when it comes to reducing churn?

Almost every success or failure I experienced as a CSM confirmed that client satisfaction is not about saying yes” to everything. At the end of the day, the relationship with our clients is based on the expertise we deliver. The value of this service only comes if we share open feedback about projects. If we deviate from this principle, we put time and resources at risk to be allocated to non-valuable tasks.

In difficult times, the best practices do not necessarily change. Many customers reach out to us and ask for the “quick wins” and “low-hanging fruit” to generate revenue and maximize ROI. It seems that most of the things businesses are hoping to do right now are the things they should be doing already. This learning is important to me because it validates the value of AB Tasty for our users and shows that we are going in the right direction, no matter the circumstances. 

 

Ryan DeAngelo
Manager of Client Success

DeAngelo said it’s important to form long-term relationships with clients during the onboarding process, not just during contract renewal negotiations. Even if clients have positive results, they might not be open to renewal if they felt neglected. DeAngelo said he focuses on listening to the challenges of his clients and building actionable plans to help them utilize Yotpo’s platform.

 

What are some proactive steps you take to help reduce churn in your accounts? How have these habits been effective?

In light of what is happening across the globe, it’s important for client success (regardless of the industry) to be super understanding with their clients. A lot of our brands are going through challenging times. We have to lean on the relationships we’ve built and then focus on continuing that long-term partnership with our brands, as opposed to short-term wins. If that means foregoing an opportunity for account expansion, so be it. It’s much more critical for churn to make sure we can help our brands get through this difficult period of time with Yotpo as a partner, rather than putting them in an even tougher spot. Showing empathy with our clients goes a long way toward our churn numbers. 

 

What are some of the early warning signs you look for that indicate an account needs more support? 

I, along with the whole client success team at Yotpo, have put a focus on listening such as hearing the challenges our clients are facing and putting together an actionable plan to utilize our platform in the ways that make the most sense based on those challenges. This has led to very open conversations with our brands and phenomenal learnings on our side.

 

Showing empathy with our clients goes a long way toward our churn numbers. 

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned when it comes to reducing churn? 

The most important lesson I’ve learned about churn is it's all about expectation setting and relationship building from day one. If you don't set the stage properly from the first touchpoint or call with a new client and begin forming goals toward a long-term relationship with them, you can find yourself in a very tough spot come a renewal of their contract.

Even if a client saw incredible results in year one, if they don’t have trust with their CSM the renewal conversation becomes a battle, rather than a smooth transition into year two. A lot of CSMs will focus extra hard on their accounts closer to the end of their contract and provide less care to their newer accounts, but it’s imperative to show dedication and attention to your newest clients, as it will pay dividends toward your churn numbers later down the road.

 

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