As a Customer Success Manager (CSM), one of the key skills we are required to have and maintain is a clear and effective way of communicating – whether it be with internal or external customers. Dealing with difficult customers or difficult situations with a customer is a learned skill that takes time and often times by making mistakes.
My point of view is that in order to be able to deal with difficult customers we must also have experienced CSMs who are managing us and coaching us. There are two separate lanes for this: Junior Level CSMs and Experienced CSMs.
Junior level CSMs ultimately require more coaching up front. This means that an experienced CSM should provide some guidance before these tough conversations. Additionally, I’ve had managers who’ve been silent participants in my customer syncs and have done this to listen in on the conversation for content and for coaching purposes. Post phone call they’ll offer tips on how to drive the conversations better or how to steer the conversation from a negative point to a positive one. This is part of the natural progression of becoming a CSM.
With CSMs being able to handle tough customer situations often times it’s about recognizing elements of a conversation based on historical experiences. Empathy and Patience are key drivers of course, but, being able to shift a conversation is also a skill that we need to be able to do. Sometimes, allowing a customer to continue on a downward/negative spiral will derail your entire conversation. Just like with any meeting our goal is to keep everyone on task and aligned on our agenda. Not all meetings will be purely negative/tough so our ability to shift from a tough conversation to the next agenda is important – kind of like newscasters being able to shift from negative news to sports.
With the right coaching, any CSM will be able to expertly navigate these difficult conversations. It’s up to the CSM to ask for the coaching!