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Embedding customer-centricity in your CS team

  • Sep 14, 2023
  • 5 minutes

From Account Management to Customer Success

Back in the day, your average Account Manager was an acquaintance at best. 

Every few months, you’d expect a phone call ‘to check in’. 

Packed full of small talk and inflated account metrics, you knew every meeting would have a predictable agenda and their biggest priority was to increase the size of your contract, with a view to hitting their targets.

Thankfully, these days are over (along with the stuffy suits and greased-up hairstyles you’re imagining). 

But the recent rise of the term Customer Success (CS) is more than just a new name. Thanks to new client/account manager dynamics, evolving markets and the tech space taking B2B relationships to a whole new level, CS has created a focus on customer satisfaction and strategic, organic client growth for account management 

Outcomes infinitely better for the client.

Customer Success and customer-centricity

Strategic account management and expansion have always been key aspects of driving Net Recurring Revenue (NRR) in your current customer base, which determines your future success and growth. 

But the learnings from recent years are indisputable.

If you can focus on the customer, and take a customer-centric approach in CS, you will achieve greater business growth through customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.

When a CSM focuses on truly making a customer successful and bringing their business goals to life as a priority, customers feel the value. This steers the sentiment of the relationship between client and CSM and has positive implications far beyond the revenue received from that initial contract. 

Think about a new customer or client, if you can influence their business outcomes in a positive way, they will think of you not just as a supplier, but as a partner. Likewise, when a new contact joins your client company, if you can help them achieve their first 30-60-90 day targets, align with them and make them successful in their role, you become their partner, not their supplier.

Partner vs supplier

A supplier provides a product or service with a view to the customer self-serving and doing the majority of the leg work towards their goals. A partner truly has their customer’s back, is there to help and work toward the customer's goals as if they were their own.

When you become a partner to your client, you line yourself up for customer advocacy - and that’s the real goal.

By definition, customer advocacy is when your customers begin to proactively promote you and your business to others, based on the positive experience they have had. It encourages contract expansion, through internal introductions and evangelism, and referrals through external advocacy. Think word-of-mouth marketing, but on a global scale, thanks to international business networks, social media and online forums.

Customer-centricity is where it’s at in CS. So how can you embed this value in your CS team?

#1 Prioritize THEIR goals, not your own

You need to put aside your aspirations for the account, how they might use your product or what outcomes you think are possible.

Ask your client early on, and then review regularly, what their business goals are. Find out what the metrics are for these goals and know the team that is held accountable for achieving them.

Now, at a time when businesses are facing tough markets and industries are evolving into complex niches, customer goals will be more unique and individual than ever. 

You need to fully understand and buy into the goals they are looking to achieve and create a plan to achieve them as if your job depended on it.


#2 Make them look good

Your customer will look good if:
They achieve their goals (which we’ve covered)
They are clued up in their relevant area
They appear competent in their remit

The more you can support your client in these three areas, the more you create an internal champion and encourage customer advocacy. And as we know, customer advocacy means more internal introductions to internal expansion opportunities and positive external advocacy for your brand. Win win!

Be selfless to be selfish here and never stop looking for ways to help them look good. Let me give you an example. 

Working in conversation intelligence (CI), and with a focus on performance improvement through coaching, we often have to help a team or business adapt to a ‘new world’ where meetings and calls are recorded. This requires visibility and openness across the team and a growth mindset.

Working with one client, there was a lot of resistance around expanding the use of our product to another team, due to the cultural shift that would be needed. It was new and scary to lots of people - holding a mirror up to the team through call recordings, as well as embedding a coaching culture to drive performance improvements.

We listened, understood and aligned with not only the management of the team, but spent time with the reps too, listening, understanding, offering advice and aligning with their personal needs. 

Fast forward to today and this team are now trailblazers on the account in terms of what they are doing with Jiminny and CI. It has led to further introductions and account growth, not only on this account, but through acting as a point of reference to others.

The time taken pays dividends.


#3 Think about your brand image

By being customer-centric, you will create a strong brand image - for obvious reasons. 

Customers like being heard, cared for and advocated for, so if you’re doing these things, people talk about it. 

Customer advocacy plays a huge part in your brand image, because good PR forms a large part of why people buy.

You’ll never really know the total number of referrals that have come from existing or past customers but the potential here is limitless. So consider the (very real) possibility that each customer you interact with might refer three new customers. You wouldn't think twice about spending a bit more time listening to them and understanding their goals then, would you?

Note: If you're in the B2B SaaS space, this has never been more important. The latest reports suggest reviews and referrals will be the biggest source of new business as buyer search behavior moves further toward these resources.

Good brand image is no longer a cute, fluffy ‘nice to have’. Keep tabs on your PR by setting up Google Alerts for brand name mentions and regularly search your brand name in forums like LinkedIn and Reddit to hear what people really think. 

This leads us to…


#4 Dark social and the stories you don’t know about

You might have heard your Marketing team talk about the dark funnel or dark social. But this should be as much your concern as a CS function, as it is for Marketing.

Your name will be in lots of conversations you can find out about, like the forums and comment sections mentioned above. 

But whether you like it or not, you're also being talked about in Slack chats, Whatsapp Groups, Discord and emails. And no, you can’t get access here.

In these places, people are going to be honest. 

I’m talking brutally, 100%, ‘on my mother’s life’ type honest. So you need to arm yourself with the best chance of being recommended, instead of criticized, in these channels, by creating powerful stories. 

Consider how you can make your client meeting not just ‘good’ or ‘productive’ from the client’s point of view, but memorable, mind-opening or even - the best meeting they’ve had all year. 

Provide value over and above what is required, do something or say something that will make their day and ultimately leave an impression.


Your takeaways…

Your customers are talking about you.

Do what you can to make them talk positively, or risk losing not only them but the potential of other future referred customers too.

If you want more on what your customers and market think of your business, check out our fundamental guide to voice of customer.

Mike Thomas is Jiminny’s Head of CS. With a background in sales and growth, Mike brings his acute eye for detail to his customer’s activities. Building bulletproof strategies to hit their goals, Mike applies his background in hospitality to create a high-quality, bespoke experience for each and every customer. 

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