In this interview, Lulu Dermeche, Head of Customer Success at HowNow, talks about the significance of CSMs in the growth of an organization.
Background and Career
Dermeche started as a foreign language teacher. She recalls as a teacher, "You educate people on the importance of education and the significance of it." In the business setting, you ensure that customers fully understand why a specific business process or changes are required.
When she joined the Community membership at RocketSpace, she had the opportunity to meet business founders, senior CS executives, and CEOs at different companies. Eventually, this led her to HowNow (an integrated learning and knowledge platform).
"I learned early on that you need to work quickly since the working environment in a start-up setting is unique, fast and dynamic." To serve customers effectively, you must understand their pain points, needs, and challenges before they (customers) could even see or realize it.
Dermeche points out, as a CSMs, you must be strategic and goal-oriented. It means you know when and how to engage with customers.
In SaaS, if nobody is interacting (or using) your product, then there is an issue with the CS strategy. Why? Because it is not enough to understand customers' needs and challenges, Dermeche notes, there must be [an] alignment on how to achieve your customer's [business] goals and sought outcomes. Organizations must empower customers [or business users] to see the value in the invested platform, early on.
The key to establishing trust and healthy relationships
Dermeche recalls, there are times when she's getting complex and very technical questions from customers. She continues, "This could discourage me since I don't have a background in IT or Support."
Lacking some of the technical knowledge sometimes doesn't mean you have to sell yourself short. She reiterates, "It is an opportunity for you to show the value of the (business) relationships, rather than a struggle to fight for."
Yes, customers expect that the person they're going to interact with knows the product inside and out, and it is usually the case. However, they also need someone whom they can trust and be honest with them.
Educating customers of certain things you don't have all the knowledge for here and there, should NOT be an excuse for you to be discouraged. Remember, your customers should know how you can help them - that includes working with other teams or people within your organization.
Being honest and genuine means, you're willing to take additional time and effort to find the answers (if you can't provide it in real-time). It sounds counterintuitive, but it serves as a reminder that we should establish a relationship in goodwill and transparency.
Dermeche continues, "Doing so, guides customers to invest in the relationships even more. She points out; trust is a cornerstone of business; once it is broken, it is difficult to regain it.
I asked Dermeche how did she associate her teaching background to create meaningful relationships? It was helpful since you ensure that customers understand the changes that will take place and how our team will help them achieve their business goals.
Most importantly, it allows me to develop different plans, and tailor-fit solutions based on their needs or requirements.
This customer-centricity (mindset), Dermeche says, must transpire throughout the customer's engagement and interaction with the organization. As CSMs, we must ask the customers of their feedback on an ongoing basis. Failure to do so consistently, organizations might miss a few critical things going on with their customers.
CS, the image of the organizational mindset
Priorities will be different for every business. Hence, the following guidelines must be followed to ensure that you're collaborating efficiently with your customers.
The best practice was defining how these customers' feedback fit in with other existing customer-facing teams like sales and support. Today's customers are keen to keep a relationship where they can build a successful relationship - not just product partners.
Dermeche points out; there are different ways to know if you have a healthy relationship with customers, apart from making time to meet you during the scheduled calls or responding to your request.
It starts with the customer's voice and how the customer's business is growing using your platform or service.