Tonicha Kuzan, TOPdesk UK

By Tonicha Kuzan, Customer Success Manager, TOPdesk UK 

The role of customer success management depends upon authenticity rather than commercial function. It’s having the ability to create a genuine, meaningful dialogue and offering support and guidance to customers.  

More often than not, due to the demands of their position, customer success managers end up firefighting rather than making proactive contact with clients.  

Firefighting is when one’s actions become reactive to any problems or issues customers may face. This means that a CSM will wait for a customer to commence communication, rather than reaching out themselves; whereas proactivity translates to a CSM initiating contact with a customer, asking the right questions and building on the relationship.  

This practice is important as it allows CSMs to take control of a situation, foresee any future problems and put foundations and potential solutions in place.  

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A reactive approach to customer success will become detrimental to client relationships. All too often, customers will remain quiet about a problem or issue they are facing until it is too late. They will become dissatisfied with the service and it will be even more difficult to change their opinion and find a resolution.  

This is likely to lead to an increase in churn. When customers feel undervalued and unheard, often they will cut their losses and search for a supplier that behaves more like a partner.  

How can you become more proactive as a CSM? First and foremost, make the first move, do not wait for a client to reach out to you.  

Something to be mindful of is that customer contact must be tailored to fit the needs of the individual. Different clients will have different needs and expectations; some prefer to be contacted via email rather than telephone, some may require a quarterly touchpoint, whereas others may only wish for contact once per year. 

This is not a guessing game and firefighting will likely lead to inadequate communication. The only way to obtain this information is by reaching out and getting to know the customers.  

Of course, problems will always arise that cannot be predicted or planned for, but the idea is that through proactive contact, these instances occur less and less. 

Utilising Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is crucial in becoming more proactive as a CSM. It is impossible to remember which customers you need to contact and when, and firefighting leaves space for blunders and missing key touchpoints. A CRM will allow you to see all previous contact with customers and notify you when a customer needs to be contacted, permitting you to work in a more efficient manner.  

Monitoring customer activity and engagement is another key factor in minimising firefighting. Are customers watching webinars, attending events, reading blogs and case studies? If so, these are great conversation triggers to find out if customers are satisfied, they have found what they were looking for, and if you can help them in any way.  

On the other hand, if customers are disengaged with your services and resources, this is an excellent prompt to initiate a discussion with them to find out why that is.  

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But what benefits will organisations experience as a direct result of proactive customer success management?  

First and foremost, there is the potential for churn reduction. By identifying and resolving problems in a quicker and more efficient manner less frustration will be felt by the customer. In a similar way, proactivity will lead to the retention of loyal customers. They will see that you are willing to go above and beyond to meet their needs, producing stronger relationships and partnerships.  

By proactively making contact with your client base, it is much easier to get to know your customers and understand their needs, which in turn enables CSMs to identify growth opportunities. This will mutually benefit both the customer and the business in terms of added value.  

Having regular conversations and a better understanding of clients will also contribute to an increase in customer satisfaction, as their voices are heard, problems are prevented, resolution time is reduced, and more value is delivered.  

Proactivity is essential in building a customer centric approach to CSM. As a customer success manager, everything you do is to benefit your clients and create further value. Without this method, it is easy to find yourself in the continual habit of firefighting, which will have a pernicious effect on both customers and the business.  

Proactive engagement is the first step towards building fruitful partnerships with clients and becoming an organisation committed to customer centricity.