How Customer Success Managers Can Exceed Client Expectations

February 26, 2021
An illustration of a customer success manager on a call
ILLUSTRATION BY VIKTORIA KURPAS FOR SHUTTERSTOCK

On the surface, customer success teams have a simple mandate, which is to ensure clients and customers are successfully using their company’s product. While the goal is easy to understand, the work CS teams do is incredibly complex. It starts with defining what “success” is and how to measure it, a process that requires teams to think beyond metrics. For example, Cori Medler, manager of customer success at BombBomb, called usage benchmarks a “vanity metric” and said her team is wary of relying solely on metrics to determine success. 

For Medler, it’s more important for her team to connect with customers and have real conversations about their goals and pain points. Once a CS org knows just how their customers define success, the next step is to exceed their expectations. Selene Sanchez, customer success manager at Documoto, said knowing her customers on a personal level has enabled her to go above and beyond for them. In Sanchez’s case, that means taking the lead on all the administrative tasks that come out of touchpoints, like creating meeting summaries, action items and setting timelines.

“It takes the administrative burden off my customer and lets them focus on their actual work while giving me an accurate picture of where they are in their lifecycle,” Sanchez said.

The key to customer retention is building strong relationships, and one way to build strong relationships is to exceed expectations time and again. Medler and Sanchez shared their insight into how this is accomplished in the world of B2B software sales, while the team at Evolve Vacation Rental offered their tips for exceeding customer expectations in the B2C space.

 

Cori Medler
Manager of Customer Success

To Cori Medler, manager of customer success at BombBomb, the key to going above and beyond for clients is to focus on human-centered communication. For Medler and her team, this means listening to customer pain points and finding solutions for them while also offering honest advice and pushing back on bad ideas when needed.

 

You can’t exceed your customers’ expectations unless you know what they are. How has your team developed specific benchmarks for customer success or satisfaction? 

In addition to standard CS metrics and benchmarks, like customer satisfaction score (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS) and usage, we use impact reviews — our version of quarterly business reviews (QBRs) — as a touchpoint to reconnect with our customers. Usage benchmarks can be a vanity metric, because even though the product is being used, that doesn’t mean goals are being met. Both our managed and at-scale CS teams address our customers’ initial goals, progress to-date and their future goals, along with how to achieve them. The extra flavor for us, though, is looping sales back into the conversation here to focus on the entire customer experience. 

This happens over virtual meetings for our managed CS team, while our at-scale team uses our video messaging software to provide these asynchronous, human-centered impact reviews. Additionally, we have tracking to understand watch rates and create benchmarks for our CS impact. By connecting with and listening to our customers over real conversation, we have a deeper understanding of their success than if we relied solely on numeric metrics.

By connecting with and listening to our customers over real conversation, we have a deeper understanding of their success than if we relied solely on numeric metrics.


What’s one thing you do regularly to go above and beyond for your clients, and what impact has that had on your client relationships?

We focus on human-centered communication. In everything we do, we treat our customer not as a number but as a living, breathing human being. Part of this personalized approach is listening to their needs and then finding out how we can meet them. This requires a strong internal culture and collaboration between teams, including customer success, sales and product. You can’t have strong customer satisfaction without a strong internal culture of collaboration. 

But being human-centered doesn’t mean we say “yes” to every request. We listen to our clients and hear their needs, but we also don’t hesitate to push back on bad ideas or when our software is being used in a way that isn’t human-centered. Treating our customers as humans, listening to them and leaning into our expertise enables us to become their trusted ally and build a real relationship with them.

 

What’s one piece of advice you have for people in customer-facing roles who are looking to really dazzle their clients?

What dazzles our customers is that we go the extra mile to build relationships with them across all of our customer success functions. Customer success is a long game and is all about building relationships and trust. One big way we do this is by sending personalized video messages to our customers using BombBomb’s software. We send video messages to check in, celebrate success and to offer support with pain points.

Because our customers can see our face and hear our tone of voice, we build rapport much faster. One customer recently gave us this feedback: “It takes a few seconds and very little effort to understand what the comm is about and who I’m working with. I immediately felt like I knew them so much better than any other customer success manager I’ve worked with in the past.”

Simply put, our customers get comfortable with us. They tell us about their lives, and our relationship is no longer just about work. Taking the extra step of adding video to your messages won’t just dazzle your customers: It will build trust, confidence and a relationship.

 

Mara Castro
SVP, Customer Experience

When it comes to dazzling customers, SVP of Customer Experience Mara Castro has some easy-to-apply advice: consider the bigger picture. To Evolve Vacation Rental, understanding the way people perceive a brand is crucial to both meeting and exceeding their expectations.

 

You can’t exceed your customers’ expectations unless you know what they are. How has your team developed specific benchmarks for customer success or satisfaction? 

Our customer experience benchmarks are built into the fabric of Evolve. We’ve aligned our vision and mission to our customers’ needs — to work with a trustworthy brand that makes vacation rental easy. With the anchors of trust and ease in mind, we’ve built a hospitality framework to guide both short-term and long-term goals within the business.

As part of this framework, we continue to actively listen, digest and provide insights across the organization as to how those expectations are shifting over time. These insights come from a range of sources — from reviews, NPS, operational data and more — but they all tell a story about what is on our customers’ minds. The ability to communicate this information across Evolve has been critical to keeping us aligned as a business as we continue to grow.

Part of exceeding expectations is taking a holistic approach to understanding what else is playing into your customers’ perception of your brand.


What’s one thing you do regularly to go above and beyond for your clients, and what impact has that had on your client relationships?

We lead with hospitality, which to us means truly caring for our customers. It might seem simple, but the larger a business grows, the easier it can be to get stuck in your ways and further removed from your customers’ needs.

A great example of our hospitality happened during the pandemic. Like most travel companies, we had a strict cancellation policy, but this changed the instant the pandemic hit because we understood that the ability to travel could change in an instant. Our guests’ health and safety took precedence above all else, which required more flexibility on our part. We now welcome guests to change their plans if needed, even at the last minute. This has helped foster trust with our customers as they have total peace of mind to travel when they feel most comfortable.

 

What’s one piece of advice you have for people in customer-facing roles who are looking to really dazzle their clients?

Part of exceeding expectations is taking a holistic approach to understanding what else is playing into your customers’ perception of your brand. This can encompass a range of factors, including past experiences with your company, current world events or the way you’re marketing yourself externally.

Do your homework to understand this perception. That, in combination with truly understanding your customers’ needs, wants and desires, will allow you to see what they expect from you and then — surpass it.

 

Selene Sanchez
Customer Success Manager

When properly implemented, customer success does much more than boost customer retention rates. At Documoto, CSMs like Selene Sanchez use insights gathered from customer touchpoints and implementation postmortems to refine internal processes.

 

You can’t exceed your customers’ expectations unless you know what they are. How has your team developed specific benchmarks for customer success or satisfaction? 

We hold regular postmortems on implementations and gather real-time feedback during customer interactions. This feedback is the starting point for many of the procedural and operational changes we make, like the retooling of our sales process to include customer success managers in demonstrations and goal-setting. This has given us the latitude to customize a prospect’s experience and better meet their expectations in the short and long-term.

While knowing your product inside and out is paramount, helping your customers stay organized is a close second.


What’s one thing you do regularly to go above and beyond for your clients, and what impact has that had on your client relationships?

I help my customers get organized. While knowing your product inside and out is paramount, helping your customers stay organized is a close second. Think about how much easier life would be if you had a personal assistant who told you what deadlines were coming up and what you needed to prepare for a big presentation. This is why I provide detailed meeting summaries, create action items and help set timelines. It takes the administrative burden off my customer and lets them focus on their actual work while giving me an accurate picture of where they are in their lifecycle.

 

What’s one piece of advice you have for people in customer-facing roles who are looking to really dazzle their clients?

Laugh whenever you can. Some of my most treasured relationships have an element of fun and openness. It gives everyone a much-needed break from the deadlines, expectations and meetings. These moments help build bonds and forge a true partnership rather than a relationship built around a series of transactions. Your customers will appreciate you even more for being a breath of fresh air and you’ll be able to keep at least some of your sanity.

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