By Amin Akbarpour
Customer Success is definitely what we’d consider to be industry-agnostic. It exists in all sorts of organizations, albeit called different things like client services or partnerships. Customer success also serves all sorts of organizations. For example, a customer success representative could be working with clients in the consumer packaged goods space and the media and entertainment space simultaneously across their book of business. At times, it can be challenging applying best practices to clients within different industries. Sometimes you have to adjust your process a bit so it makes more sense to a particular client. If that resonates with you, what type of adjustments should you be ready to make?
Speak Their Language
Easily the one thing you should immediately be on the look out for is their industry or organization-specific vernacular. Every industry has their own dictionary and acronyms – think LTV in Retail or ADR in hospitality – and the quicker you understand and learn their business, the more likely the client is to trust you and view you as an expert. How can you expedite this process?
Your Colleagues: Talk to your coworkers! See if anyone came from the specific industry you’re now serving or knows anyone who did.
Industry Reports: A lot of big consulting firms publish industry trend reports that can serve as a great way of learning about a specific space. PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte often publish free reports you can find online.
LinkedIn: Run a search and see if you know anyone who could be of help in providing valuable industry information. Don’t forget to see if you can find 2nd level connections or alumni working in the sector that you’re learning about – it's a great opportunity to learn more about a specific space and to network at the same time.
Your Client: First time serving a specific industry? Be transparent. Ask to have an industry knowledge-share session where you’ll learn about their business and terminology in order to better help them down the road.
This is not a “fake it till you make it” scenario. If you hear the client say something that you don’t understand, don’t be shy. Speak up and ask for clarification. It's much better to be on the same page than to create a façade of being all-knowing. After all, early in the relationship there will be plenty of things for you to learn, and most clients are understanding at that point.
A big retailer is going to care about different metrics and accomplishing different things than a tech company. Even within the same space, a well-established legacy player will have different drives than a rapidly growing newcomer. As you learn how their business works and what stage they’re in as an organization, you’ll be in position to know what types of questions to ask. Imagine you’re a paid media agency. Some questions of interest might be:
Do you have trouble tracking a customer’s engagement with your brand across channels over time?
What are past examples of exceptional initiatives you all have run? What have they looked like?
Are you mostly focused on retargeting and brand awareness efforts? What are you doing from an acquisition point of view?
I strongly recommend SPIN Selling as a must-read that’ll help you understand how to turn these situational questions into stronger, thought-provoking conversations.
Last piece of advice: make no assumptions. Always present what you’ve learned in past engagements with similar clients as a hypothesis and get clarity as to whether or not it applies to them. Just because most folks do things a certain way does not mean all of them will. Start applying these pieces of advice into your routine today, and see how quickly you can learn your client’s business!
Are you new to Customer Success or looking to improve your CS skills? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers a complete CSM Training Program which will provide you with practical tools to strengthen your professional toolkit. For more information on this program and our other classes and workshops, please visit TheSuccessLeague.io
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. Amin is one of the founding advisors to The Success League. In addition to his work with The League, Amin currently serves as an account manager for Persado. Originally from Southern California, Amin is a University of San Francisco alum who now calls New York City home.