From the Experts: Soft Skills for Customer Success Professionals

By October 22, 2019Blog, From the Experts

There’s no denying that customer success team effectiveness is measured with metrics, but what role do the harder-to-track skills play? To understand which soft skills are important for customer success professionals, we talked to three customer success managers.

For this installment of our From the Experts series, we got great insights from Samantha Kennedy, Sarah Boynton, and Matthew Cash

We asked all of the experts the same questions:

What soft skills learned in your previous jobs have you leveraged in customer success, and why are these skills necessary?

From the responses, a few recurring themes emerged. Let’s dive into which soft skills can set customer success managers apart.  

Teaching and describing in simplified terms 

Samantha Kennedy, customer success manager at Gong.io, shared that her first role in sales taught her about simplicity. “KISS – Keep it simple stupid. The idea that the simpler, the better, don’t over-explain or answer questions that weren’t even asked.”

Sarah Boynton, a customer success manager here at UserIQ, shared similar thoughts. Sarah adds that the best CSMs “communicate sometimes complex material and processes, navigate product changes and challenges, represent the voice of the customer, and champion enhancements in a calm, simple, efficient and helpful way, and help customers realize the best possible value, creating a mutually beneficial relationship that will lead to advocacy.”

Another UserIQ customer success manager, Matthew (we call him Cash), echoed the importance of teaching. “Our position is that of a master craftsman teaching their pupils the skills they need to build what they desire.”

Giving users space to speak to understand what they need

Before you can introduce new features or explain how to use a tool, customer success managers have to identify what a user needs. Sarah worked in real estate before moving into customer success, adding, “In real estate, I helped customers in a tight time frame, who sometimes had a very broad idea of what they wanted, make the biggest purchase of their life.”

At first, real estate and customer success may seem different, but Sarah found some skills overlap. “I had to get to know people and analyze needs quickly, only show them what they needed to see, help keep them on timelines, and project-manage all the moving parts, from showings to inspections to escrow.” Similarly, customer success managers “need to quickly analyze and identify what primary features about our product must be adopted first to create a successful customer experience, and always know what the next steps need to be.”

How should customer success managers go about learning what users need? By asking questions and leaving room for customers to respond. Samantha said, “whoever asks the questions tends to be the one driving the conversation, and it turns out to be much more effective than purely telling. Customer Success today tends to be less lecturing and a laundry list of features, and more of a conversation. If we hope to control the outcome of those conversations, we must ask questions to stay on track and gain participation.

Samantha also said that one secret to getting valuable information is to stay silent after asking a question. “It’s easy and common to feel uncomfortable with silence, and therefore jump in too early, which prevents us from getting valuable information from customers and prospects that help us be more effective in nearly every conversation.”

Making interactions enjoyable for every user

Your product may be solving a customer’s serious business challenges, but that doesn’t mean the relationship should be stale. Cash said, “humor is important because work can be stressful. If my 30-minute call can add some joy to your 40+ hour work week, I see that as valuable. I want my clients to look to me as their strategic partner that is just as invested in their work/goals while making it one of their more enjoyable meetings of the day/week/month.”

While it pays to have your entire company centered on customer success, CSMs have an even greater responsibility to be a user’s champion. Remaining curious about the product and listening to what users have to say help you decide what a customer’s next steps are. It’s also helpful to break complex info down into manageable pieces and do your best to brighten the customer’s day.  

What other soft skills do you think a customer success manager needs to be most effective? Sound off below!

P.S. Want to grow within your customer success role? Check out these 11 Books Every Customer Success Manager Must Read

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