I Don’t Care if My Customers Like Me, and You Shouldn’t Either

I Don’t Care if My Customers Like Me, and You Shouldn’t Either

"We had a great experience with you, Noah, but we've decided to go to your competitor that better fits our needs."

Look familiar?

As a CSM, you've had this conversation or seen that email before.

It's heartbreaking.

You thought you did everything right!

You had a great relationship, knew the business needs, and remembered their kids' names. That is what you thought was the secret to success, right?

Know the customer, know their business, and get to know them; through relationships.

But you forgot something, results.

You thought they liked you so much that you were immune to competitors.

How wrong you were.

Here's why I no longer care if my customers like me and why you shouldn't either.

Your customers are there to get value. Please stop trying to be their friend.

Your customers bought your product to get results, not a friend. Customer Success Managers, including myself, are helpers by nature. We get validation and fulfillment by helping others achieve their goals and outcomes.

We love our jobs because of that. It is nice to be liked and trusted.

However, the fact that you often meet with the customer does not always mean this is an opportunity to cultivate a stronger relationship with them.

I made this mistake, and I am sure you do as well.

I captured notes about my customer's kids' names, where they grew up, and other useless information.

Why? I believed that knowing my customers' personal lives would keep them around.

I was wrong.

Despite how hard it is, you should focus on something other than getting to know them better. Instead, focus your limited time with each customer on creating value for their business.

Value-driven conversations focus on the things that matter to the customer, like

  • Sharing insights to help their business earn more revenue.
  • Getting them on a beta list for a relevant product feature.
  • Providing workflow suggestions for better leveraging your product.

It isn't uncovering their cat's name, if they are into hockey, or if they used to live in France. These personal details result from a successful business relationship that happens naturally.

Resist the urge to be a peer or friend, and switch your mentality to being a business advisor for your product.

Your customers can and will leave at any opportunity.

Ask yourself, how often have you switched between competitors?

Sprint to AT&T, American Airlines To JetBlue, or UPS to FedEx.

Why did you change? Perceived VALUE.

Why do you think that your customers are any different from yourself? They aren't.

As you change cell phone providers on a whim to save money, so will they.

It's the same reason why people pay extra for an Apple iPhone. Or the reason why people are willing to pay for first-class travel.

So how do you prevent them from leaving you? Isn't it obvious?


Story time.

I had a strong relationship with a customer I had visited in person several times overseas.

We hit it off from the start.

  • We strategized on how to take their business to the next level.
  • We worked on imported initiatives for their business.
  • Our monthly calls were personal and business oriented.
  • They knew about my family, and I knew theirs.

I always looked forward to their calls and was happy to see their business growing month after month.

Because we had such a great relationship, I always went the extra mile for them - and they sent me personal gifts too.

It turns out they were looking at our competitors and considering leaving. I was shocked, given how close we were and how much I had helped them.

How naive I was.

If I could go back, what would I do differently?

  • Spend more time getting to know my competitors.
  • Realize that my customers don't owe me loyalty because of our relationship. They will leave if presented with a better opportunity for their business.
  • Understand the non-obvious signs of customer churn.

As a CSM, you need to find out what competitors offer that you don't. Are they cheaper, faster, and have more advanced technology? Do they have features you don't that can help them earn more revenue? Or is their product half the price but double the speed?

These are questions that you can ask your customers. Yes, you read that right. Ask your customers if they are evaluating your competitors and why. They will help you uncover product gaps that your competition will exploit if given a chance.

Take this feedback to the appropriate departments and document it.

Notice how being liked has no part in these discussions? Because it is not about likeability anymore, and it never was; it's about the value they can create using your product. Again, this is why relationships do not work; only value matters.

Customer happiness does not equal customer success.

In customer success, the new mindset is to ensure the customer is "happy." But what does that mean?

I reflected on why we try to make our customers happy. Surprise and delight efforts, NPS scores, pulse checks, and "Are the customers happy?" questions from management and investors all try to convey customer happiness.

But who cares if they are happy?

Furthermore, a happy customer does not equal a successful customer. A happy customer does not mean they are less likely to churn.

Companies can make you angry, and they often do. But you stay because of the value they provide and the hassle of looking elsewhere.

Not too long ago, an internet company in Canada went down for 24 hours, and 25% of the population had no internet. How many people do you think changed their provider, renegotiated a new contract, and left? Not that many customers; some, but not the majority. Because the resources it takes to change companies or buy a new modem are not worth the effort; thus, their existing service and reliability were enough despite being angry on Twitter.

Let's pretend you have ten accounts under your responsibility. Seven of them are happy, and three are angry.

You're in a good place, right? Wrong.

A way to categorize your customers is by their sentiments or how they feel, such as happy or angry. This is a shortcut for your brain because it's easy to measure success this way. But here's the thing.

Your most vocal and upset customer may be your most successful. Your happiest one could be performing poorly from a business standpoint. Customer success is not about happiness or personal relationships. It is the result of your product.

CSMs must shift their mindset from asking if the customer is happy to asking if they are successful.

If your product helps companies sell t-shirts, you should investigate their sales numbers and optimize that metric. If you are an SEO agency, you should track keyword rankings and improve those on Google. If you sell dispatching technology for delivery companies, sort out how they should use the software to reduce costs. Nowhere does happiness enter the equation.

The customer may never get to the state of happiness, which is outside your control. However, you can influence how successful they can be. That is what customer success is, or at least, that is what it should be.

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