Client satisfaction is more important than ever. No matter the industry, customers will make comments—online and off—that affect the future of your business. Entrepreneurs must prioritize Customer Success (CS) and teach teams to deliver exceptional service that builds meaningful relationships with clients.
“In the age of transparency, [client] trust in traditional advertising messages has waned while their trust in the opinions of friends, bloggers and online comments and postings of those they consider reliable sources of influence has increased,” writes Jeb Blount in his book, People Love You.
Blount goes on to explain that this change puts, “advocacy, referrals, and personal recommendations on a new pedestal of importance.” Potential customers believe the things they hear and read about your business. Taking steps to ensure clients say GOOD things is imperative.
Here is how to deliberately create a customer-centric organization that builds long-lasting client relationships, and in turn, a solid reputation.
1. Make it easy to work with you
To create a successful CS organization, be nimble and flexible on processes and services. There will always be elements that an organization must keep intact to function, such as using a CRM system, maintaining your service level agreements and setting critical operational processes. However, there are variables that you can augment to make working with your partners easier.
For example, we have Insertion Order and Campaign Order templates available for our clients to use but we also allow our clients to use their own templates or order processes to make workflow easier on them. Another way to do this is to offer multiple service approaches. We offer both Managed Service and Self Service to accommodate the needs and processes of all partners.
Adapting to a client’s workflow (when you can) helps to build rapport, trust and a strong partnership that can weather the unforeseen events that inevitably happen in a business relationship.
That said, don’t sacrifice your core values or overpromise—a common mistake entrepreneurs make, especially in the technology industry. It is not feasible to say “yes” to every one-off request. You can be easy to work with without changing your value proposition.
2. Be flexible internally, too
Don’t be afraid to try new things as you consider how to best support your customers. For example, we restructured our CS team to find what works best. First, we divided our team by type of client. As we grew, we moved to a regional structure in which team members support all clients within a particular region. This made it easier to build strong relationships because our team understands the nuances of each region.
3. Build to scale
As you adopt processes, think of how they translate as your team grows and be deliberate with your decisions. Eight years ago, it was hard to imagine today’s 120+ person operation. I’ve had to rethink big things, like my communication strategy, and smaller things, like our seating chart.
Other things, like weekly check-ins, are easy when you are small. But with 120 people across the country, even a virtual meeting is a scheduling nightmare. Now we use Slack for team announcements and department updates.
4. Be a servant leader
Robert Greenleaf coined the concept of “servant leadership” in the 1970s. He believed managers get the best work from their team by empowering and serving them. Your team can’t support your customers unless they are supported themselves.
A great example of showing servant leadership is our CEO, Frost Prioleau. Frost empowers us to make business decisions that are best for the client and our business, while ensuring we are able to engage our passions and pursue learning. I now emulate this type of servant leadership with my team.
Through this type of leadership, employees don’t take advantage because they also value the freedom it provides and understand how rare it is to find in a workplace. This makes us want to work harder to reach the company goals and to make our clients successful.
5. Remove the element of fear
If your employees are disgruntled, customers feel it. All your employees, especially the CS team, need to feel invested in and secure. To do so, make it OK to fail. Tell your team (and show your team) that if they make a mistake, you will be there to help correct it and put processes in place to prevent it from happening again.
An example of this is when a new team member accidentally inserted the wrong creative for a campaign and we had to refund a client. These mistakes happen, but we can future proof this type of situation, change the process, or even build something into our User Interface to insure this mistake doesn’t happen again. People are going to make mistakes and that’s ok, but it’s important to use the opportunity as a great lesson learned, allowing us to teach these lessons to future employees. As a business owner, accept that mistakes are going to occur, especially if you are encouraging people to make bold, swift decisions.
6. Create a bond strong enough to withstand problems
Customer Success means owning the “sale after the sale,” and sometimes, that means conflict resolution. This could mean a client is unhappy because a campaign didn’t perform as expected or an ad didn’t render properly. But thanks to strong emotional connections with customers, they trust you to reconcile the issue.
To build a high level of trust, understand your clients’ goals. Ask them about their objectives and challenges. Understand the environment they operate in and how their success is evaluated.
For example, a client may say, “We want as many clicks to our website as possible,” so we set the campaign up to drive clicks to their website. Then the client says, “No one has bought anything from our website,” revealing that their initial goals weren’t actually their end goals. It’s important to understand a client’s main goals from the get-go.
7. Hire with care
Client Success requires the right fit for the right role. You cannot find success unless you have the right people. Be painstaking about your hiring. When hiring with CS in mind, look for people with exceptional communication skills and the ability to learn quickly and navigate conflict. These attributes, along with culture fit, matter more than industry experience. It is important to ask insightful questions during the interview process to ensure that the candidate is a good fit for your organization and you are a good fit for them! Be sure that you will be mutually able to achieve each other’s most important needs.
Want to grow your company? Make it a CS-centric one. You will turn new clients into loyal customers, or better yet, advocates who will help turn prospects into business.