Rachel Provan understands that happy and engaged customers are the heart of any successful business. That’s a lesson that’s stuck with her since her first job, when she was running her own catering business at 12 years old in New York City.
Years later, both her entrepreneurial spirit and her passion for creating great customer experiences have remained intact.
Rachel is the founder of Provan Success, a customer success leadership coaching firm, where she helps new CS leaders develop their strategy, team leadership skills, and mindset skills so they can build revenue-generating CS departments while maintaining a healthy work/life balance. Rachel launched Provan Success earlier this year, after previously working as the director of customer success at both Fidelus Technologies and Doodle.
In short: Rachel knows what she’s talking about when it comes to CS. Fortunately, she recently joined UpdateAI’s Josh Schachter on the “Unchurned” podcast to talk about several facets of customer success, including when it is and isn’t worth having a meeting with a customer and the importance of tracking your “wins.” Rachel also shares her thoughts on the most important metric in CS and how to avoid burnout. A lot of ground was covered. If you haven’t heard the episode yet, here are some key takeaways: “Leadership is a lifelong journey,” he recently told Update AI’s Josh Schachter on the “Unchurned” podcast. “And it will be constantly changing because the people you interact with will be changing.”
Build Trust By Valuing The Customer’s Time
Net revenue retention. It’s the most important metric in CS, Rachel told Josh, and it’s easy to understand why.
NRR – which measures the recurring sales generated from your existing customers over a certain period of time – combines two critical aspects of CS: revenue and the customer, obviously. We know satisfied customers are more willing to spend money than unhappy ones, so building a strong relationship with each customer is paramount.
And how do we do that? By fostering trust with the customer.
“CS is complex,” Rachel told Josh. “It takes time to build properly, like a house. And you can’t expect to be building the roof while you’re working on the foundation.”
Trust is the foundation on which long-term customer relationships are built. Trust doesn’t come overnight, though. It’s a connection that stems from a belief that the other person cares about you. To build trust in CS, Rachel said there are two points to keep in mind:
- Be Honest With the Customer
- Value the Customer’s Time
These two points often go hand-in-hand, too. Consider how you approach meetings with customers.
Meetings are important early in the CSM-customer relationship because they help develop a rapport, while also providing time to go over potential roadblocks or discuss features that might be overlooked. Having scheduled meetings every two weeks, especially early in the relationship, is usually a good way to go.
But down the line, there will inevitably be those times where you might need to bump a meeting. Maybe something has come up on your end, or maybe there isn’t anything pressing on your side to discuss with the customer.
It may not seem like it, but how you cancel a meeting is an excellent opportunity to continue growing the relationship and fortify their trust in you. You do this by, ideally, not letting them know 5 minutes before the meeting starts that you need to cancel. Give them a fair warning. Then, be up front – let them know if something came up on your end or that you think that week’s meeting items can be best reviewed in a quick email. This shows the customer you value their time and are not having a meeting just for the sake of having a meeting.
“Nothing is going to build that relationship so much as trust,” Rachel said. “If they can trust you, they don’t need to talk to you every week. They know you’re going to help them get the job done.”
1 Tip to Avoid Burnout
Make no mistake, there’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to the CS industry. But one negative byproduct of that excitement and energy over the last 5 years is that many CS leaders are burning out fast.
Rachel pointed to new data that shows CS leaders are, on average, leaving their jobs after only a year and a half. That’s a clear sign of burnout. It’s also one of the main problems Rachel helps her clients combat at Provan Success.
To fight back, Rachel’s first tip leaves no room for ambiguity: Protect Your Calendar.
“If you leave it open, other people are going to take up all of that time, because CS is useful to every other department,” Rachel explained. “And that’s great. But if you let other people determine where your time is spent, it’s going to be spent on their initiatives and not your own.”
To make sure you are leaving enough time for you to accomplish your own objectives, Rachel recommends blocking off two separate hours on your calendar each day – and that does not include your lunch break. (Rachel also said you should feel empowered to turn down meetings when they don’t make sense for you to attend. You can read her 4 reasons for having a meeting over on our website by clicking here.)
This time should be used wisely. Use it to tackle strategic initiatives – a few key goals you have each quarter. Move the ball forward a little bit each day, whether it’s outlining your plan of attack or writing an email. Given enough time and effort, you’ll be able to accomplish the long-term objectives you’ve set out for yourself.
Here it’s good to keep in mind what Jacob Riis, the famous “muckraking” journalist, once said:
“When nothing seems to help, I go back and look at the stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it — but all that had gone before.”
Document Your Wins
Another way to counteract the day-to-day grind: keep track of your accomplishments.
There are several reasons for this, Rachel said. First off, results – both good and bad – are important to record. Doing so allows you to evaluate the steps you took to reach that result – allowing you to replicate those steps in the future with other clients when things have went well.
Second, it’s good to be able to quickly point to your wins, whether it’s to give a customer an idea of what you can do for them or you simply need to give yourself a pat on the back when you’re going through a tough period.
This doesn’t have to be a major operation or time suck, either. Josh mentioned he started keeping tabs on his wins in a Google Doc he had bookmarked, allowing him to easily jump in and update it when something good happened. Rachel added that it’s good to update your LinkedIn periodically with a few of your big wins, even if you aren’t actively looking for a new job.
Remember to keep it concise – you don’t need to highlight more than three wins on your profile. But having a few achievements you can quickly point to never hurts, especially in a down economy!