I’ve been very blessed with a wonderful and understanding family that allows me to follow my dreams and for having the chance to work with some amazing people over the years. I worked for a number of great leaders along the way including Nadia DeVilla. She made me realize that in order to grow as a leader, I needed to share with others what the keys to my success were in developing strong relationships with customers. Some of these items are tangible tactics and others involve having the right attitude. I also partially shared this at the Customer Success Summit in San Francisco. While I’ve outlined many different approaches to delight customers below, there is one thread that ties them all together: it’s being proactive.
How to Delight Your Customers
Ok, here we go:
- Inform / educate. Keep your clients informed about new features and best practices. Take it a step further by outlining how it impacts their business. Provide examples from other customers. I use the following as a guiding principle: Teach your customers something that will provide them with value that they probably didn’t know and wouldn’t have known without your help. Keeping customers in the loop is crucial to a healthily customer / CSM relationship.
- Tell customers what they are doing wrong and recommend a better approach. Review what they are doing and surprise them with insight on what they can do better. Don’t just point out problems that need to be corrected. Provide actual solutions that explains what they need to do improve, how to do it and why they should do it. It’s best to have systems in place that will allow you to see which clients are off track.
- Tell customers what they are doing right and show them why. At times, your customers will not have anything to compare against so they’re not sure if their hard work is paying off. Detail where they are succeeding and provide historical trends if it makes sense. Be sure to let their managers know about their positive performance and results. In addition, back up your compliments with data as executives may not believe you and if possible, provide benchmarks to compare against similar organizations.
- Don’t just help their organization, help your customer’s career. Ask them what their personal goals are – do they want a promotion, a different career or just not to get fired? If you know this, you can figure out how to help them for the long run.
- Help your customers network. Introduce customers to each other where you know it would be a mutually beneficial. If your customers lose their job, offer to be a reference and reach out to people that you think could help them.
- Recommend your customers on LinkedIn. This is simple. Just do it.
- Don’t just answer your customer’s question(s), provide a real and feasible solution. Use the 5 whys approach and try and get at the real issue rather than just trying to get off the phone.
- Be honest to build trust. This may include having some tough conversations with your clients but they should respect you for your honesty. I have been very straight with my customers and at times have told them that they are the problem. I won’t shy away from an argument if I think I can help my client. I may wear kevlar though.
- If you or your company screws up, let them know to fix the issue before they find out themselves. This shows attentiveness. Moreover, personally apologize for the mistakes that we’re made – don’t hide behind your company. You should all except the blame when your company screws up. Your customer doesn’t care that it wasn’t you and either should you.
- Look for special opportunities for your customers. This can include speaking at conferences, speaking to analysts, free passes to conferences, free books, small gifts etc… Always think about your customers and how you can help them and their careers. You should coordinate with your marketing team here.
- Show you care. Over communicate to your customers if needed and celebrate when they have successes but also reach out if they are goings through tough times. Get to know your customers, their families and their interests. This is not something that takes place over night and is something you will need to constantly work at.
- Be attentive. If customers tell you something – even the smallest detail – write it down and follow up. Follow through on what you said you would follow though on. This could be a product issue they raised or a great new feature they suggested. Be their champion and they will be yours.
- Connect and interact with your customers on their social networks. I’ve outlined this here on my post on Social Customer Success.
- Value your customer’s time. Think about how they can do more with their time. Bring in the right people when needed, keep on top of their requests and get the most out of the time you spend with them. You can also surprise them by doing something for them that you know would have taken up their own precious time.
- Help them, help you. Provide your customers with the materials they need. This can include the right reports/data to help them justify their investment in your product or a presentation template that they can use to present to their executive team.
- Hook them up. Invite them to parties at conferences you know they’ll be at. Give them books or other materials that they may want or not expect.
— Tom Wentworth (@twentworth12) November 22, 2013
Take them out for drinks or invite them to dinners with your CEO or other executives.
- Have the confidence that you can help your customers – no matter what title they have. Don’t be intimidated if your customer is the CEO – have faith in your knowledge. When I first started out, I used my previous experience to provide value to customers until I knew my product well enough. To gain confidence, I spent all of my extra time learning about our products and the space I was in. Take the time to get immersed in the world you are in. Think like your clients think.
- Tell your customers how they can save money. You may think that this runs counter-intuitive to your corporate objectives but you need to think long term. If you build the right trust with your clients, they will be customers in the long run. At Eloqua, I would look for ways for customers to save costs so they could maximize their budgets and spend where it made the most sense. This elevated my position in their eyes and it turned their perception of me from just being a vendor to a true partner.
- Work as a team to delight your customers. Heroes are great but a team effort should come first. Don’t make it an individual glory thing. This will hurt you in the long run. As an example, Influitive has an advocacy program where the customer success team works closely with marketing to recognize customers for their advocacy (referrals, reviews, references etc…). By working as a team, you maximize your resources and provide an overall better customer experience.
- Communicate to all of the internal stakeholders to keep everyone on the same page. This makes it appear to the customer that your company is all rowing in unison and it can make you look like champions.
- BONUS: Answer a question before it’s asked. Keep up to date on your clients using customer success tools like Gainsight or Totango that provide insights on how your customers are performing. Create Google alerts and scan your customer’s social networks so you can proactively reach out and provide assistance.
I would also recommend a few additional items:
- Provide an opportunity for your customer success team to share their insights with each other on a regular basis so they can mimic how others are delighting their customers. I have a regular agenda item on our weekly meeting so the team can share their customer insights.
- You may need to set time aside for your team to work on proactive initiatives. At Eloqua, we booked the odd monthly meeting where the team was tasked to think about how they could proactively help their customers. This helped build the right habits.
I hope you find this useful. Please share the tips that you use to delight your customers.