In many ways, customer success is all about managing relationships. Why? Software is never going to be perfect. But the strong interpersonal skills of Customer Success Managers can be the glue for maintaining a healthy relationship even if the product has some rough edges.

The ability to establish a quick rapport and manage relationships is the number one thing you should be looking for when hiring a Customer Success Manager. When your customers have a strong connection with the Customer Success team it allows for a mutually beneficial relationship where the vendor can unlock more information about what the clients need, while simultaneously making the client feel more appreciated and connected to the vendor.

When it comes to managing relationships in Customer Success, there are two major challenges: creating executive-level relationships and managing relationships at scale. In this post, I’ll offer some actionable tips on how to accomplish both.

Creating Executive-Level Relationships

In an ideal world, sales introduces customer success to C-Level stakeholders as soon as the deal is closed/won. But that is often not the case. For many of us, the initial point of entry is an admin or a manager who had budget and didn’t need to go to their boss or CFO for approval on the deal. And yet, a strong relationship with an executive can help in so many situations, such as helping remove blockers on an escalation or even confirming the renewal. This relationship also paves the way for upsells, cross-sells and the potential for advocacy.

If your business card lacks a VP in the title, you should never feel blocked in building an executive relationship. Here are a few tips on how to do just that:

  • Promote the admin.We all want to look good to our bosses. A Customer Success Manager can partner with an admin or line of business owner in broadcasting their success across the C-Suite. Providing an executive briefing asset that showcases how your solution is helping them save time or make money is an asset your admin will want to crow about.
  • Leverage the QBR.  Now that success of your solution is going viral, it’s time to expand the QBR invite list. Formal business reviews are another way you can highlight the success of your key business contact as well as get to know their bosses. Partner with your admin or line of business owner on the content and attendees for the meeting so that the right people are not only on the invite list, but the topics you cover will ensure they attend the meeting.
  • Coordinate peer-to-peer meetings. Just because your business card doesn’t say “CEO,” this shouldn’t limit you to building a path to get to know your customer’s CEO. Another way to do this is to facilitate peer-to-peer relationships between your customer’s e-staff. This can be as simple as getting on the phone with your admin and saying, “It would be a great idea if your CEO and my CEO met to discuss a strategic partnership.”

Maintaining Relationships at Scale

My colleague, Eric Bahn, has a great post on how to stay in touch with 1,000 people and you should take some of those tips to heart.  As our business and customer connections expand, it is not possible to build and maintain relationships without the help of technology and a data-backed solution. This is the only way you can get what’s known as “personalization at scale.”

Here are a few tips that will help you get this done:

  • Campaigns vs. one-off emails. Customer success can take a few cues from Marketing regarding how marketing automation can enable Customer Success Managers to deliver engaging content to end users in a personalized way. Focusing on intelligent lifecycle campaigns can help to create relationships with hundreds or thousands of end users while also boosting product adoption.  But they must be data driven and leverage intelligence around where the end user is in their journey in using your solution. An email template that comes from a CSM is still considered SPAM if it isn’t relevant to the end user. 
  • Leverage your network. It’s important to understand that your value as a Customer Success Manager extends beyond just you, the individual. Customer Success Managers can leverage the “network effect” to connect customers with each other in order to share ideas, connect and solve their own problem. This can be through your customer community as well as “birds of a feather” programs as well as customer events. Customer success doesn’t have to know all the answers but it does have to be able to connect to the people who have the answers.
  • Love your customers at scale. Customer success utopia is that point in the journey where your customers close the loop and now become your best sales people. Developing and implementing intelligent campaigns and connecting customers to each other can certainly help you scale the way in which you grow adoption. Managing advocacy is equally important as you want to take care of your very best customers at scale. Again, data driven solutions are a must as you keep track of the ways in which customers are referring new business … as well as reward them for their advocacy. 

As previously mentioned, Customer Success is all about managing relationships. Hopefully, these tips will empower your team to develop those executive-level relationships, as well as manage relationships at scale. This will ultimately build a stronger, healthier base of customers. 

About the Author

AD6dQZEo_400x400Catherine Blackmore is a thought leader and innovator in the area of Customer Success, with over 20 years of experience helping a diverse list of clients from small businesses to Fortune 100 clients. As Chief Customer Officer at Bluenose, Catherine is responsible for the experience and success of all customers. She also owns strategic initiatives around category-awareness for the Customer Success discipline in order to engage and educate the market.