Customer Success Managers, Here’s How to Become the Consultant Your Customers Need

Janey Zitomer
June 26, 2020

If your clients feel like you’re speaking at them rather than with them, the relationship will fall flat before it’s even taken off. 

According to a Salesforce’s 2019 consumer report, 80 percent of 6,700 consumers and business buyers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. In 2020, as transactions become increasingly digital, that statistic might just be more relevant than ever.   

Rolling out the proverbial red carpet for a wide range of clients across industries means making sure customer success managers are equipped with the resources and tools necessary to do their jobs to the best of their ability. 

But that’s not the only way the following professionals are able to connect with customers. They also supplement active listening techniques with high-touch service to make conversations feel consultative. It’s pleasant and easy to relay positive results or information to a client. But it’s the calls that require talking through tough negotiations and support tickets that truly build a CSM’s credibility.

Put into action, successful CSMs reach out to clients not only when there’s news to deliver, but also when proactively asking for feedback and identifying pain points. 

 

Aircall
Aircall
Efrat Partouche
Vice President of Customer Success and Sales

To best understand the needs of her customers, Efrat Partouche, Resident’s vice president of customer success and sales, goes right to the customer. Partouche said there’s no better way to get the intel her team needs to effectively do their jobs. At Resident, that job involves selling mattresses, rugs and other home furnishings direct to consumers. 

 

What steps do you take to better understand the needs, goals and expectations of your customers?

I’ve found that, as trivial as it sounds, the best source of information about the customer is the customer. We take feedback from customers as we interact with them in the sales and support process, of course. But we also conduct long-form, post-purchase surveys with questions like, “What products or services should we offer that we don’t already?” and, “What did you like the most about your experience with Nectar?” 
 

The best source of information about the customer is the customer.’’ 


What training is in place to help CSMs in your organization become experts on your products and industry? 

At Resident, our goal is to make sure that our customer success advocates have the confidence they need to do their jobs every day. Customer success advocates spend three weeks learning about our products, the materials we use, the manufacturing processes and how to help guide the customer to the right mattress. 

We are constantly updating our training with new information and provide continued learning throughout their tenure with Resident. We find that when we equip our team members with the knowledge and tools they need to do their jobs, they are able to provide our customers with an overall better experience by ensuring we are resolving their sleep needs. 

 

What soft skills have you found to be particularly important when it comes to consulting your clients?

One of our core values here is “customer love,” so naturally when someone joins our customer success team, we want them to embody soft skills that revolve around that: empathy, active listening, problem-solving and resolution, and excellent communication skills. 

We are constantly working toward ensuring our team is operating with our core values in mind. We collaborate as a team on how to achieve best practices utilizing our core values and leveraging the soft skills that each of our advocates embodies.

 

Flavia Springer
Customer Success Manager

According to Customer Success Manager Flavia Springer, the Aircall customer success team uses a collaborative approach to train new team members and manage client communications. If a team member isn’t sure about an answer to a particular product inquiry, finding out is a group effort. Additionally, Springer tells her team to adapt their communication style to each client in order to be both receptive and reactive.

 

What steps do you take to better understand the needs, goals and expectations of your customers? 

As a CSM, my aim is to advocate for my clients and provide them with a voice at Aircall.  Understanding the specific use cases for each client has allowed me to understand where Aircall fits into their business model and strategically advise them on how to make the most of our product. 

After onboarding, my primary focus is on building out a mutual success plan. These plans allow both parties to align on needs, goals and expectations throughout the lifecycle of the partnership. 

After creating a success plan, we make discovery calls, do pulse checks and conduct business reviews to ensure that goals are being met and any shortcomings are being addressed. The customer determines the cadence of all communication. 

Finally, it’s important to monitor adoption throughout the customer lifecycle to gauge how the customer is using the product. How often are accounts or users being added and deleted? How many integrations are they setting up? 

 

What training is in place to help CSMs in your organization become experts on your products and industry? 

Each of our CSMs is an expert on the aspects of the product they deal with regularly. So, by having new hires spend time with each of our team members, we are able to provide them with a breadth of product knowledge early on. Additionally, we ensure all new team members meet with team leaders across the company so those team members can have an in-depth understanding of the intricacies of the product beyond the lens of customer success. After the initial onboarding process, we regularly conduct ad hoc trainings whenever new product features are released. 

Aircall’s mission inspires both new and tenured team members to keep learning and discovering within our own product and our industry as a whole. In terms of client impact, we loop in colleagues if we need additional assistance when discussing certain aspects of the product. Doing so strengthens both team morale and our relationships with our customers. 
 

You can use this information to change your communication style and adapt depending on the situation at hand.’’  


What soft skills have you found to be particularly important when it comes to consulting your clients?

Active listening allows you to interpret voice tone or body language during client meetings, which is essential in understanding a customer’s needs, concerns and expectations. Active listening demonstrates that you are receptive not just to what they are saying, but also how they are saying it. You can use this information to change your communication style and adapt depending on the situation at hand. 

In an effort to establish meaningful relationships with my clients, I place a heavy emphasis on communication. For me, this goes beyond high outreach and frequent calls. It also involves effectively delivering updates about the product roadmap, having tough negotiations and relaying information about support tickets or bugs. 

Finally, resourcefulness is a key skill. It’s crucial when providing customer feedback internally, as it ensures that Aircall’s long-term vision aligns with customer needs and the market.  

As you familiarize yourself with clients and help tackle their individual needs, you’ll naturally hone these three skills over time. Each time you’re faced with a new challenge, you have the opportunity to refine your soft skills.

 

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