Relationships are at the core of all customer interactions, but it’s impossible to have a productive one if the communication is one-sided.
In our personal lives, we have the luxury of writing people off who don't reciprocate our efforts to form a bond. In business, this is rarely the case.
As a result, Customer Success Managers (CSM) often struggle to come up with ways to bring unresponsive customers back into the fold. This article will outline strategies CSMs can employ to re-engage customers and establish relationships built on respect.
Don't underestimate the impact a value-driven mindset can have on customer relationships. When you're making an important strategic decision, who are you more likely to call — a CSM who has shown they're able to contribute meaningful insights, or one who is pleasant to discuss your holiday plans with?
CSMs miss opportunities to provide value when they fall into the trap of contacting customers just to "check in."
Remove this term and any variation of it from your vocabulary.
Messages of this nature are ineffective and can harm your relationship with customers by signaling that you don’t have anything meaningful to share. With every “check-in” you’re squandering a chance to establish a relationship built on trust and respect.
"Commit to providing value at every interaction in the form of strategic insight, targeted recommendations, or a thoughtful point of view."
When you reach out, don't be vague about why you want to get in touch.
Articulate what you'd like to discuss and why this will bring value to your customer. If you don't see great response rates with a direct approach, consider teasing their curiosity, but be sure to back up any tantalizing claims. Otherwise, you risk having your messages dismissed as "click-bait" in the future.
When customers see you as a source of knowledge, they’re much more likely to keep an open line of communication.
Show Your Personality
I've found that showing a bit of personality can go a long way towards building a meaningful connection. Be creative, be genuine, in short — be you. Brands such as MailChimp and Slack have proven that projecting creativity and personality makes a powerful engagement strategy.
What does this look like in practice?
First, consider your audience and tailor your outreach appropriately. Are your customers more formal and buttoned up, or are they casual and laid-back? A playful video set to "Call Me Maybe" could generate a 100% response rate (it's tough to ignore, isn't it?), or it could alienate customers who expect companies they work with to use a more professional tone.
If you're going to include emojis, photos, and GIFs in your messages, do so thoughtfully.
Leverage Different Communication Channels
An engagement tactic you can apply alongside the recommendations above is to contact customers through different communication channels. An exceptional email that you spent an hour writing is unlikely to connect with a customer who prefers to chat on the phone or someone whose inbox has 1,000 other messages demanding to be read.
The default method of communication for most businesses, email is a logical place to start, but be quick to branch out if you aren't getting a response. If you find solid email engagement among your customer base, consider building out automated email triggers to maintain engagement throughout the customer journey.
Some customers prefer to communicate by phone (the type who call you immediately after receiving your email), but some CSMs still shy away from calls because they can be time consuming and make CSMs feel like they're on the spot to provide immediate answers. If that's the case, try scheduling a standing weekly call with a set agenda or, if your customers aren’t responding, send them an unsolicited invite to hop on a quick call.
In-app messages allow you to communicate with customers when they’re in your product. This type of outreach offers the benefit of your messages always being in context and targeted based on the user’s actions, the page they’re on, etc. As a result, in-app messages can have a higher engagement rate than email. On the other hand, if customers aren’t logging into your product regularly, then they won’t see your in-app messages.
By definition, social media invites people to engage with each other, which you should use to your advantage. Yes, you can send a LinkedIn message, but also try "liking" a customer's tweet or commenting on something they've shared. Make an effort to unobtrusively remain top of mind by bonding over common interests.
Surveys such as NPS and CSAT provide customers with a chance to provide honest feedback. Following up with a customer to discuss their survey response (good or bad) is a great way to strike up a conversation. Beware of low NPS response rates — the team at Typeform found that the only thing worse than a low NPS score was no response at all.
Events & Onsite
Look for opportunities to meet your customers in person. Conferences, meetups, and networking events give you a chance to put a face to a name and build a relationship. If the customer is local or you’re visiting their city, suggest an onsite visit or offer to buy them coffee.
Establish New Customer Champions
If you've tried all these engagement strategies and you're still not getting a response, start laying the foundations for building new customer champions.
Reach out to different internal teams to see if they can introduce you to another contact within the customer's organization. Sales can put you in touch with the person who signed the contract, Support might have relationships with power users, and Finance knows who pays the bills. If you use Customer Success software like Natero you can quickly get a pulse on all customer interactions in one central place.
Next, look for opportunities to uncover customer champions in unlikely places. Dig into your CRM and review any documents that might include additional contacts, such as a Sales to Customer Success knowledge transfer. If all else fails, do a LinkedIn search for relevant titles within the customer's organization.
"It's dangerous to have a single customer champion, which can translate into a single point of failure."
Establishing a relationship with a highly engaged user is preferable to continuing to pester an influential decision maker who hasn't answered an email in months. With the first, you have a chance to provide value and gain respect, with the second you're constantly at a disadvantage.
Make sure to diversify your list of contacts, and stay up to date on any staffing changes that could impact your customer relationships.
It's inevitable that CSMs will struggle to engage certain customers. Optimize the elements of a relationship you can influence — providing value, showing your personality, engaging people through different channels — while recognizing that if all else fails, you should aim to build relationships with new contacts.