The Magic of Cross-Functional Communication in Customer Success

February 17 2016 0comment

Why Empathy Can Help You – And Your Customers – Achieve All Your Goals

Cross-Functional Communication is one of the keys to effective Customer Success. This one factor transcends industry, business model, and your company’s use of technology.

At a fundamental level, Cross-Functional Communication is the same as Empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Within Customer Success, your ability to be empathetic is tied to your understanding of two interrelated sets of goals.

Your customer’s goals for your product or service (What is the pain that you are trying to solve?)

As a Customer Success Manager, you want all your customers to succeed. This may sound incredibly obvious, but the challenge is that each of our customers defines ‘Success’ in a different way. Making assumptions about how to interact with your customers is the best way to lose them – indeed, empathy ends where assumptions begin.

If we want to help our customers grow, if we want to make it impossible for them to churn, we need to ask them difficult questions and develop the heart to understand their responses. This gets right to the core of effective Cross-Functional Communication.

Here are some common scenarios encountered by Customer Success Managers that require expertise in Cross-Functional Communication:

1. Your customer’s company is growing quickly; they’re adding 10 new licenses every month. They love your product and they want to renegotiate their subscription fee.
Key Takeaway: You need to learn the language of finance, and know it well enough to discuss this opportunity with the head of your finance team… and their counterpart at your customer’s company.

2. Your customer calls your help desk twice a week – every week – with new suggestions for product features
Key Takeaway: Get to know your product managers and try to understand why your product contains certain features and not others. You also need to understand your customers’ customers, since they’re one of the sources of all these calls to your help desk.

3. Your customer originally purchased your product to use in Department X. It’s gone so well that now, with their first renewal around the corner, they want to implement it in Department Y (and if that goes well, Department Z six months later).

Key Takeaway: You need to go way beyond the needs of Department X. This requires one-on-one sessions with the appropriate team leaders in Y and Z. You will need to understand their perspective on your product, and to do that you need to speak their language.

These are only three scenarios requiring Cross-Functional Communication among the many we address in our CSM Bootcamp Workshop. The one point that I cannot emphasize strongly enough is that everyone on all of these teams – no matter how varied their roles and responsibilities – is a professional just like you and me. We all have similar needs and goals, and foremost among these is our desire that the business just plain works.

As a Customer Success Manager, you are the bridge builder. You have an incredible opportunity to make sure everything fits together in exactly the right way, every time. The magic of Cross-Functional Communication comes when you can translate the needs of one group (your customers) into the appropriate response of another (a specific team within your organization).

Summary

Once you appreciate the value of Cross-Functional Communication and incorporate it in your interactions with clients, you’ll notice a positive effect almost immediately. Over time this will lead to higher recurring revenue, lower levels of churn, and a higher number of qualified referrals. Yet reaching benchmarks in each of these areas should not be your ultimate goal: these are all simply consequences of your Customer’s Success.

When your Customers thrive, it’s no accident. They’re achieving their goals because you’ve learned the value of Cross-Functional Communication.

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Written By:

Andrew Rhodes

Andrew draws upon years of strategic business consulting experience and is extremely passionate about Customer Success. Andrew is redefining the goal of Customer Success – it is not a matter of stopping churn, but of creating the business conditions in which churn becomes impossible.