Wow, what an opportunity we have in front of us right now as customer-facing professionals! Today the world is surreal, scary and uncertain.
Wow, what an opportunity we have in front of us right now as customer-facing professionals! Today the world is surreal, scary and uncertain. The future is muddy and it’s nearly impossible to plan ahead for anything at all: work, school, trips to see family, toilet paper. But the unforeseen benefit of this uncertainty is the renewed focus on what’s actually important: people and relationships.
If you’re in customer success or customer advocacy or any other role that starts with “customer”, you have just been given a huge gift.
More than ever before, your “customers” are now just “people.” You’re getting the chance to see them in real life at their kitchen table with their child asking for just-one-more-show on the iPad. You’re seeing them in their home office which has much more personal and fun decor than their work office. You’re seeing them when they’re frazzled and burning the candle at all four ends (trust me) and they’re looking to you for a lifeline.
This is a gift.
I’ve spent over a dozen years in customer-facing positions at tech companies and in each role I’ve focused on building relationships with my clients and preaching that same message to my teams. It’s always been a win when a client has cracked open the door on their personal life to share a story about their child, their parent, their hobby, their new house. Sometimes I’ve worked with someone for years before I’ve seen those glimpses. But what’s happening right now? Those doors are swinging wide open and all the beautiful, messy, surprising bits of personal information are tumbling right out in the open.
What a gift!
You may be wondering why I care so much about the human side of the equation when doing business with people. Why do I want to build personal relationships so badly? Isn’t that invasive? I’ll be honest: some of it is just my personality. I’m a connector and relationships feed my soul. But I also happen to believe that the very best customer-facing professionals know that authentic relationships speed up success and time-to-value. When you’ve earned someone’s trust, they are approximately 374% more likely to listen to your advice related to your product or service and implement it. Trust breaks down barriers on all sides and creates speedier results and can make both you and your customer look like rock stars when those results are impactful business outcomes. Who doesn’t want to speed up their path to being a rock star?
Trust is a gift.
I’m a big believer in the concept of customer delight. Be honest: would you rather do business with someone reserved and stoic and who treats you exactly the same as all of their other customers? Or would you rather have a vendor who knows that you’re not a fan of meetings before 9:30 AM and that you love Star Trek? Every one of us wants to be heard and then be happily surprised later when someone matter-of-factly references something you said or did previously. That is delight.
Right now, we are being given unprecedented chances to listen to our customers and note down all of the little things that make them unique so we can delight them later and accelerate trust. By listening with empathy and being observant, you can compile a treasure trove of information that you can use to delight your customers. Their cat’s name, their alma mater, their gardening plans, their upcoming vacation, their career goals, an award they won for a job well done.
This is a gift with a giant pink* bow on top. (*or the color of your choice)
So how can you take full advantage of this gift? The best way is an open text field in your CRM system at the Contact level. Every time you learn something personal about a client, note it down and encourage all other customer-facing people in your company to add to it. If that’s not an option, don’t let that stop you from developing your own note-taking method -- preferably something searchable so that you can easily access it.
Then put that information to use! Refresh your memory by glancing at it before a call and asking about their dog Barney or the Mexican cooking classes they’ve enrolled in. When it’s time to thank a client by sending them a gift you can now send them something personalized that shows you listened. This doesn’t just apply to physical gifts. It can also be simply recording a thank you video to them with a virtual background featuring their favorite sports team. Think about the smile that would put on their face.
I hope you’ll start taking advantage of the opportunities around you today. Unwrap the gift your customers are giving you right now when they’re letting you into their lives. Choose to actively listen and observe and make note of what you’re learning. When you put this knowledge to use, you get the opportunity to delight someone and build a relationship of trust. When you have trust, you’re poised to help your customer find success more quickly, returning their gift right back to them. I don’t know about you, but I hope this isn’t just our “new normal” but our “forever normal.”
Heather Foeh is the Sr Director of Customer Success at Workfront where she brings over a dozen years of experience in customer-facing roles, including Director of Customer Culture at Eloqua, and head of customer marketing and advocacy at Lattice Engines. Most recently she led the Customer Experience team at Pathfactory. She and her husband live in Henderson, Nevada and enjoy spending as much time as possible in the great outdoors.