10 Best Practices for Cementing Trust with Customers

As a customer success manager (CSM) at a recurring or repeating revenue company, the principle objective of your role is to create successful customers who are loyal and engaged.  Lincoln Murphy, a customer-centric thought leader, says:

“Customer Success is [how] your customers achieve their desired business outcomes through their interactions with your company.”

Creating customer success begins with developing meaningful relationships and cultivating trust with customers. There’s no better way to build trust with customers than by delivering on their desired business outcomes–the North Star of a CSM’s customer-facing activities. But what are those activities–the day-to-day, “get up and do it again” actions–that cement trust with a customer?

How to Cement Trust with Customers

Here are the 10 best practices CSMs should follow to build an environment of mutual respect and trust with a customer.

  1. Have a purpose to every customer communication.
    Avoid at all costs the “check-in” call or email. A customer communication without a purpose is a fishing expedition. Not only will a customer will smoke that out and prefer to focus on their prioritized activities rather than engage with you, your unwarranted communication will also diminish a customer’s level of trust in your interactions with them, and set a negative tone for future engagements you initiate.
  2. Take every inbound customer communication as a chance to deliver value.
    While being mindful of the reason a customer has contacted you, you should always be ready to go beyond while you have a customer engaged. Taking additional time to gather information, educate  set expectations for a customer will demonstrate your investment in their success and embolden their trust in you and your company.
  3. Listen 80%, talk 20%.
    This is a classic Sales axiom that applies to Customer Success as well. Strive to ask questions that help your customer and you confirm (or not) that stated goals are being met. After asking a question, be comfortable with the silence that follows; you’ll be amazed at what your customer will divulge next. By giving your customer the floor and opting to not fill the voids with your own thoughts or opinions–however factual or revelatory they may be–you will once again be demonstrating your commitment to understanding how you can deliver on their business outcomes.
  4. Use open-ended questions.
    Questions that start with who, what, when, where, why, or how will help you derive the greatest amount of information from your customer about the challenges or opportunities they’re facing. This helps you build rapport, which is necessary for building trust and confidence in the relationship. The exception: It’s appropriate to use a close-ended question when asking for a customer’s commitment.
  5. Always probe when speaking with a customer.
    After you ask a customer an initial question, take the opportunity to ask follow-up questions in order to get to the essence of a customer’s needs, concerns and pains.
  6. Pause and think about a customer’s question before answering.
    Similar to pausing after asking your customer a question, you also should take a moment to think about a question your customer asks. If you’re at all unsure about the question, either repeat it back or ask the customer to clarify the question. Stifle the urge to provide a quick answer, which indicates impulsiveness and a lack of thoughtfulness that corrupts trust. Instead, follow-up with, “That’s an interesting question. Why do you ask?”
  7. “Less is more,” regarding the content of your customer communications.
    Your customers are busy. They will pay more regard to your communications if you’re concise with your words. Provide the key message, then follow-up with a short list of supporting details. Be mindful not to describe the arcane details unless absolutely necessary; your customers want you–not them–to intimately know that information. By remaining a knowledge source customers can rely on for clear and direct guidance, you will naturally cultivate their trust in you and your motives for driving their success.
  8. After one back-and-forth email exchange, pick up the phone.
    Talking through a topic with a customer achieves clarity and resolution much faster than email volleying, which inevitably leads to protraction and frustration. The latter results are detrimental to your customer’s perception of you as someone who is there to support and guide them towards success.
  9. Ruthlessly prioritize your work.
    Curb the urge to thrust every inbound customer communication to the top of the queue. Indicate that you received the inbound request, and set expectations as to when you’ll get back to them. Utilize “immediate response” only when absolutely necessary. If you’re not sure about a customer’s urgency, ask them (preferably by calling them to find out). By treating every inbound customer communication as urgent, you’re setting the expectation that every request of theirs is a top priority. If you fail to meet that expectation–perhaps with a delayed or less formal response–your customer will perceive it as neglect of the relationship and their needs.
  10. Never lose alone.
    When you suspect a customer problem that has the potential to ultimately jeopardize a renewal or license expansion, get others in your company involved right away. Bringing others into the mix shows you take your customer’s business to heart and are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure their success by solving any issues impeding their engagement or prompting them to potentially churn.

Ultimately, one of the biggest reasons customers churn is a lack of ongoing customer success. Acquiring customers costs five to seven times more than retaining them, and existing customers make up the lion’s share of your revenue. By following these 10 best practices for cementing trust with customers and helping them achieve their desired business outcomes, you’ll be in a position to guide convert customers into loyal advocates who keep coming back for more.

Need help creating trust with your customers?