The Two Questions that Customer Success Managers Should Ask at Each and Every Client Meeting
Many Customer Success Managers (CSMs) struggle with lacking the confidence, or the experience, to have the most effective conversations with their clients. They tend to get nervous or uncomfortable with asking clients about business issues and discussing what it will take for the client to renew. For some reason, many CSMs just don’t come out and have a direct conversation and ask the client what’s really important. Here are two simple questions that CSMs should ask in each and every meeting to delight clients and be able to deliver the kind of value and service that will get clients to renew year after year.
START EACH MEETING WITH THIS QUESTION
The first question happens at the very start of each meeting. When kicking off the meeting, share your meeting goal and your proposed agenda. Then, before getting into any content, simply ask your client, “What will make this meeting a success for you?” Or, put another way, ask, “What will make you walk away at the end of this meeting and say this was a great use of your time?”
DELIVER CLIENT VALUE IN EVERY MEETING
By starting off the meeting this way, you show that you have prepared for the meeting in a way that is intended to respect the client’s time and add value to them. Stopping to ask the client what success look likes to them reinforces that you are focused on providing value to them in each and every interaction, which is your ultimate goal.
Also, by explicitly asking your client what success is for this interaction, you have the opportunity to adjust on the fly to make sure the meeting is valuable to them. No more missing the mark with clients!
USE FEEDBACK TO PIVOT AND DELIGHT YOUR CLIENT
If you’re surprised by what they say, you should ask clarifying questions to find out why this is the right success definition for this meeting, for them.
By understanding what’s important to your client and what success is for them, you can adjust your approach and your agenda in the way that brings more value to them during their interaction with you. What could be better than that?
CLOSE EACH MEETING WITH THIS CRITICAL QUESTION
Assuming that you have set the expectation with clients that you want them to get so much value that they renew and expand their relationship for 20 years or more (you are doing that, right?), then the second question will affirm your commitment to this lofty, yet achievable goal.
The second question you should ask at the end of every meeting is, “If you had to renew today, would you?“ You can clarify this with some variation such as: “Have you received enough value from our relationship thus far that you would want to keep working with us and renew today?”
While you might feel uncomfortable asking this at first, if you do it as a matter of regular practice, it will quickly feel normal to you AND to your client. Also, it is a very explicit reminder to your client that you – and they – need to focus on the business value they are getting, not just the features and functions of your software or service.
USE CLIENT FEEDBACK TO ACCELERATE SUCCESS
If the client answers “Yes, they would renew today”, that’s wonderful and keep it up. You can even ask them, “What was most valuable for you in this meeting? What you would you like to see more of in the future?” After the meeting, reflect on what is working and how you can build on what you have done to keep delighting the client in the future. What worked well with this client that you should do with other clients?
If the client answers “No” (which will happen in some meetings – especially at critical points in a project), you now have the opportunity to ask clarifying questions, to drill-down for more details and learn more about where the value leaks are for your customer. You can come back next time to share what you did with their negative feedback and work with your client to improve going forward. Feedback, while it may hurt in the short-term, is a gift that allows you to delight customers over the long-term.
TRACK THE VALUE YOU ADD & CUSTOMER HEALTH
The next thing you should do is to go through and track the answer ("Yes" or "No") given in every single meeting. You can even combine this information with other customer usage and health data, to come up with a more comprehensive customer health score that includes accurate data about your customers’ intent to renew.
Start to look at trends in client responses. If you get more than 3 “No’s” in a row, this is an early indication that you have a problem and need to take action to address it. If you have 5 or more “No’s” in a row, it’s time to escalate things internally so that your executives can take action to save the account before it is too late!