Let the record state that being in a customer success role is not easy. You’re working with clients every day who vary in personalities, are from different organizational backgrounds, and are constantly coming to you for advice and best practices.

It can be difficult to have great conversations and also make sure that the customer is utilizing your product to its full potential – and seeing its true value.

Whether you’re just starting out as a Customer Success Manager (CSM) or you're a CS leader, you want to make sure you’re creating and continuing to have long-lasting relationships with all of your customers, because that’s what will make the crucial difference between a customer partnership and one that's simply transactional.

In this article, I'll be sharing the six ways which have helped me form long-lasting relationships with my customers, ultimately leading to a true partnership and becoming an extension of their team:

  1. Transparency
  2. Communicate
  3. Build trust
  4. Listen actively
  5. Research
  6. Be human

1. Transparency

This has been the number one thing that has helped me form a great relationship with my customers. Whether it’s about an update to an escalation, or showcasing what your product can and can’t do, being transparent is what will help you build trust by demonstrating a commitment to honesty and integrity.

A golden rule I like to follow is that it’s our job as CS representatives to make our customers successful, but not necessarily happy.

Why customer accountability is key to your success strategy
Let’s say you have just completed a successful implementation, the customer gave you a nice NPS, users are taking up new features and functionalities and you are considering asking this new logo to be a testimonial for your product (and your sales team loves you for this too!).

One way you can be transparent with your customer is by setting realistic expectations from the start. By openly discussing how your product will likely benefit your customers, you can prevent misunderstandings and reduce the likelihood of disappointment, thereby mitigating potential frustrations.

Transparency fosters accountability. When CSMs are transparent about issues or delays, they show customers that they are accountable for their actions. This willingness to own up to mistakes and address them proactively signals to the customer that they’re working with a reliable and trustworthy partner.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Great customer relationships (or any relationships for that matter) are formed by communicating effectively. By having open communication with your customers, they’re likely to be more understanding and empathetic toward any problem that arises.

Effective communication enables customer success managers to better understand their customers' needs, expectations, and goals. This understanding is crucial for tailoring strategies and solutions to support the customer's success and growth.

Drive customer engagement through effective communications
My name is Lawrence Ang, and I work with the customer success team at The Financial Times. In this article, I’ll be focusing on customer communications and engagement. Obviously, I’m basing this very heavily on my own experiences, but there are certainly variations for different people.

Through communication, CSMs can identify and address potential issues well before they escalate to the point they’re a churn risk. By being responsive and addressing concerns promptly, CSMs can mitigate customer frustration and ensure a smooth experience.

Additionally, you want to make sure your communication is consistent and that you’re following up accordingly. Customers like it when they know they can rely on someone no matter the situation, which leads to long-lasting relationships.

3. Build trust

By communicating effectively and being transparent with your customers, you’ll ultimately build trust and increase the likelihood of retention and opportunities for account expansion. This is so important, because the more they trust you, the more they’re willing to advocate for your product and possibly expand upon what they’re currently utilizing.

Customers expect a certain level of professionalism and quality from you as their CS representative so it’s important to not let them down! If something does happen, the trust that you’ve already built will help soften the news and allow compassion.

4. Active listening

When we truly listen to our customers, we’re more likely to ask more engaging questions and understand their key business objectives.

Active listening involves more than just listening to our customers. We need to make sure we’re paying attention, not interrupting, and responding appropriately with feedback and body language.

When we do this, it allows us to give our full undivided attention to our customers and truly focus on what their goals and objectives are within their organization. It also allows us to ask better questions and shows our customers that we’re truly interested in what they’re saying.

Customer research templates
Understanding why your customers buy from your company is central to a solid customer success strategy. Not only will you better understand your customer, but you’ll hopefully be able to replicate the success with future customers. The best way to achieve this is with a lot of varied research.

5. Do your research

You should never go into a kickoff call or any call for that matter without doing any research about the company. Make sure to always have internal discussions with the sales team on what challenges they faced before deciding to purchase your product.

On the flip side, you should also be aware of what processes worked well for them, so you can reinforce that in your relationship. Be over-prepared! This’ll only help reinforce the efforts you’re putting in to form a good relationship with this customer and truly become a partner.

6. Be human

I cannot stress this point enough! It may sound overly obvious but we need to treat customers like human beings because, at the end of the day, that’s what’s most important.

We need to show respect and kindness and always practice empathy. Our customers are looking to excel in their job just like us, and we should help them be successful. By putting yourself in your customer’s shoes, you’ll have a better understanding of their role and the support you provide will be that much more meaningful.

Busting the myths of empathy and accessibility | Niina Majaniemi
Let’s face it: the wonderful world of B2B is filled with a lot of technical terms, and the customer success field isn’t immune. Even though words like “empathy” and “accessibility” appear simple, everything isn’t quite what it seems. It’s time for a second look.

To wrap up

By utilizing the tips above, I can guarantee you’ll start forming long-lasting relationships with all of your customers and truly become an extension of their team.

Whether you use all of these in tandem, or just start with one, you’ll start to see a difference in your conversations and maybe even your motivation and productivity as well. It’s all about reframing the way you think and start focusing on your customer conversations more as a friendly dialogue, rather than a transactional work discussion.

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