Customer Success is transforming the way B2C and B2B companies do business. We wanted to dive deeper into what’s working and how top teams are incorporating technology into their craft.
We sat down with LearnCore’s Director of Client Strategy, Maria Leisgang, to uncover some hot trends.
LearnCore: First, I’d love to hear a little bit more about your background in customer success. Tell me a little bit about your experience and why you chose to work in CS.
Maria Leisgang: I like to tell people that totally I fell into the Customer Success (CS) role, and that I also totally fell completely in love with it. I graduated from school right in the middle of the recession. Jobs were scarce so I was open to just about anything. My parents’ neighbor at the time had a granddaughter who worked for a company that was hiring in Customer Success. I applied, interviewed, and landed the job. I quickly learned how critical CS is to every B2B and B2C company out there. Sales closes the deals but CS transforms the transaction into a life-long relationship with each customer. We’re the department responsible for not only managing accounts but growing them as well. We build strong relationships that help clients get the most out of our products. All of this, plus much more is why I am so energized every single day. I get energized when I can solve problems.
LC: As a Director in Client strategy, what are the most important factors to consider when building a world class customer success team?
ML: There are a few common characteristics of world class CS teams. The best teams are extremely well organized, clear communicators, deep relationship builders, and have the ability to multi-task. You want people who are team-players, people who are passionate, hard-working and are willing to advocate on the behalf of their client. All that being said, the most important thing for me is that the person can positively enhance the team’s flavor. We spend so many hours per week with each other, and I want to make sure each person on the team is a good culture fit. This isn’t something that can be evaluated based on a certain skill set. It is something you sense and feel during the interview process. It’s someone that you would want to have dinner with and see outside of the office. A person can have all the skills in the world but if they are not the right culture fit, we would be doing ourselves and them a disfavor.
LC: Are there any trends that are changing how customer success reps interact with clients?
ML: Whether I am working with a 25 person startup or 25,000 person Fortune 100 company, the top trend I’ve seen this year is that the client experience is paramount.
First, is focus on the client experience. There is so much choice in today’s world that nearly everything is, or is becoming commoditized. One of the few things left that can’t be photocopied is a genuine relationship. I believe that people will forgive you if everything crashes down, but they will always remember how you made them feel. That’s why I train my team to “make every client interaction the best part of their day.”
Second, encourage human communication. Where some companies hide their phone numbers behind fancy FAQ’s, we encourage the communication. These conversations often turn frustrated users into life-long advocates and referrals. And all it took was a minute to listen.
Third, be genuine. The personality of CS becomes your brand’s reputation. Be sure your CS team oozes your brand’s core values.
Fourth, video, video, and more video. Our team likes to take client communication a step further by incorporating video into our routine. We get a lot of “how to” requests that used to take lengthy emails with step-by-step instructions and screenshots or a quick call to explain. Since the Screencastify acquisition, my team is able to send a 30 second video, rather a 4 paragraph email with pictures. Overall, it’s saved each CS member at least an hour a day. We’ve even created a reservoir of “already answered” videos that are now plug and play. Customers are happier because they get answers faster, and they are more accurate. My team is happier because they aren’t spinning their wheels on redundant tasks.
LC: You mentioned video, how does your team use video internally?
ML: Oh my gosh, video has changed my life. From the way we train internally to the way we interact with our clients. Video is a very normal medium now because it’s easier, clearer, and faster, and frankly, better received.
Speaking of training, we practice what we preach here at LearnCore. We are constantly explaining to clients and prospects how impactful video role-playing is, and you can bet our teams takes advantage of it too. Our Pitch IQ module lets you record yourself and submit the video to both peers and managers for coaching and feedback. Call me old school, but how is my team supposed to improve if they can’t see what they are doing wrong? Video makes that happen.
Finally, we also use it for announcements and updates. Not to say we shy away from in-person communication, but it can be difficult for us all to be in the same room at the same time. Luckily, we can rely on recorded videos to send out to make sure everyone is up to speed and on the same page.
LC: How do you see technology influencing the development of the customer success role in the future?
ML: Technology will continue to expand this role. More organizations are starting to measure the impact of customer success teams can have on revenue, and technology like video and soft skills training will only boosts those results even further. As with anything that can greatly impact the bottom line, I see technology causing a bigger investment in customer success teams. I see more businesses building out teams, and using technology to make everything more efficient and highly measurable. Where powerful technology enables critical business functions, you know big budgets are soon to follow.
LC: What are some of the toughest client strategy lessons you’ve had to learn throughout your career?
What works for one client is not going to work for another. We are in the business of developing and expanding relationships. The toughest lesson I learned is that one great relationship with a business in not enough. There are often 3 or more key influencers that lead up to the actual decision maker. Always know who signs the checks, and always know how they are evaluating the decision.