By Amin Akbarpour
As Customer Success agents, we’re responsible for communicating and working not only with our customers but our internal clients too. Who are our internal clients you might ask? All of your colleagues who directly or indirectly assist in providing a fantastic experience for your customers. Whether you’re in the SMB space or an enterprise player, no account manager or CSM does the job alone. Here are some tips in how to foster great relationships with the internal teams you work with.
You’re The Quarterback
Know your team’s internal limitations and preferences, and don’t just approve any and all requests a client might have of you. “Can you implement X feature for us?” The answer should never be, “Yes, absolutely!” without conferring with internal product or engineering teams and assessing the request. On the other side, it's important to advocate for your customer's needs as well. For example, the holidays are here for our retail customers. Their days are going to be jam-packed with tasks and responsibilities from now until February. Requests for data, business reviews, references, or meetings may not be reasonable during this time of year. Setting expectations with both customers and internal teams can help alleviate frustration on both sides.
Just like any other quarterback, don’t forget who got you there. Acknowledge and share your wins with your colleagues. Whether it’s your project management team who helped your customer survive a gruesome holiday season, or your product team who got creative in implementing a quick feature, these are wins that need to be recognized both internally and with clients.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a lot of successful AMs and CSMs demonstrate great leadership characteristics. One of the most important is empathy. Put yourself in other people’s shoes and try to understand why they’re thinking the way they do. This will allow you to better frame and communicate the situation, voice what needs to be done, and work collectively on a solution that is reasonable for everyone involved.
Ruling with an iron fist or expecting your colleagues to bend at every client request simply isn’t sustainable. If you don’t show that you understand why a request exists and what good it’ll do by accomplishing it, then you simply cannot speak to it. The relationship will only grow stronger when you demonstrate to everyone you work with your ability to understand how others feel about what you say and how you say it.
Plus, this is a great trait to have in every other aspect of your life. Your job helping your personal life? Yes, yes it can.
This one is mostly important when working with your colleagues internally. Sometimes the client is going to demand and ask you to do things that are painful. That may require long hours for multiple nights, an entire weekend of work, or completely scratching an existing process that everyone thought was the gold standard. As a result, sometimes your colleagues are just going to need someone to vent to. Be that sounding board and let them be heard. After all, in your daily job you probably already feel this way. Clients can make unusual and sophisticated demands that sometimes we must fulfill. Take this as an opportunity to bond as a team and share in this challenging journey together. What doesn’t kill you, will only make you stronger…
All in all, remember to play your part as the quarterback of the team, be empathetic in your communication, and listen (even if sometimes you’re just listening to a colleague venting). These are core skills that will help you balance the ever impossible task of making both your colleagues and clients happy and successful.
Are you a new CSM, or do you want to brush up on core CS skills in the new year? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers online training and workshops on core CS topics like engaging executives and managing churn. Check out our 2018 CSM Training Program for class options and more details.
Amin Akbarpour - Amin is a customer success coach and architect. With relationship-building at the core of his practice, he molds teams by instilling the necessary principles to transform them into trusted advisors. Understanding what's needed for organizational change, he translates theory and ideology into practice and habit. In addition to his work with The Success League, Amin currently serves as an account manager for Persado. Originally from Southern California, Amin is a University of San Francisco alum who is grateful to call the Bay Area his home.