John Gurley is Intelocate’s new Senior Customer Success Manager. We recently caught up with John to talk to him about why Customer Success is critical to customer growth and the differences between an Account Manager and a Customer Success Manager.
Phil: Hi John, Forbes contributor Dharmesh Thakker recently said “Customer success is a growth function—not just a customer -retention function”
John: You know what? No one wants to have THOSE weekly meetings with clients where you’re just treading water or you’re all dreading the call. Sometimes customer retention can feel like that. And I mean, it happens obviously, depending on where you work. But I want to make every interaction as enjoyable and as personal as possible within the realm of what I do. I agree with the statement – the growth function of Customer Success is to help eradicate the customer’s issues and take those problems and develop our product to make it better every day. Look at what we have today, look at what people are asking for, and where the product could be six months from now, five years from now. That’s what’s going through my head. And I want to see it improve every day.
Phil: John, that’s a lot of passion right off the bat. To make some of these things happen, what are the first things you did when you started at Intelocate?
John: So any time you join a new company as a customer success manager, there are two things that at least I always do, and I assume other people are doing the same thing – first – get intimate knowledge of the product. I want to know everything and anything to do with the product. The more I know, the more I can think on my feet. I can help solve problems and help develop the product.
And then second, getting to know my customers is the other piece of the puzzle here. So understanding who my customers are, what pain points they deal with. I like to build strong relationships that are not just about servicing the customer. Create personal relationships as much as possible because that’s going to give you just a more human element to working with your clients.
the growth function of Customer Success is to help eradicate the customer’s issues and take those problems and develop our product to make it better every day
Phil: Are there any trade secrets or that you want to share around how you get to know customers? The reason I ask this: customers are immersed in their own business – they’re running around, doing their own thing, and distracted all the time. Sometimes it’s difficult when you’re a provider to be able to get their attention or be able to kind of get information beyond just the plain old vanilla client service relationship details.
John: I don’t think it’s a trade secret. Some of it is just good old-fashioned research. I think it goes a long way to understand what your client’s business is in general, you can’t just take a vanilla approach to every client. Intelocate has clients in totally different verticals that require different solutions, and talk in a different vocabulary. So understanding what their day-to-day looks like, and being sensitive to what’s happening on their side is critical. For example, A lot of people are wearing lots of various hats. As you know, certain companies have had to furlough employees. So even as providers, we have to step up and help – everyone has fewer resources than normal. If they’re super stressed out and they literally only have those 30 to 60 Minutes to work with me every week, I need to be as impactful in that time frame because they don’t have time to waste. Showing that you care about someone’s business, that you understand their business goes a long way to creating a good relationship with each other.
Weirdly enough – something simple but critical is if you’re going to commit to fixing a problem for someone, make sure you do it. Make sure you show that you’re committed to helping them any way that you can and proving that you can do that quickly and effectively. This cements their impression of you that when they come to you for a problem, they can rely on you. They’re not going to have additional headaches.
Phil: That’s great feedback. One of the questions that come up a lot is what is the difference between what you do – customer success – and being an account manager? Because sometimes they are confused for the same thing. Sometimes clients don’t realize what the difference is. What’s the primary difference between an account manager and customer success?
John: I think a lot of times in business terms are not interpreted properly – Something like “customer success” manager becomes almost like a buzzword in the industry. I’ve worked at different companies and for the most part, everywhere I’ve worked has been pretty similar when it comes to Customer Success.
The big difference is what you can do. That might sound somewhat general, but an account manager is not going to necessarily have the intimate knowledge of the product itself. They’re not going to be able to have access or direct access to product managers and developers to help solve problems. They’re also not there to help develop the product.
Customer success is a lot more of a grind, in my opinion. You have your hands on so many different things – development, client interaction, internal mechanics, marketing, and sales. It appeals to someone like myself who likes to be involved in as many facets of the business as possible, but it’s definitely not for everyone. From what I have noticed from all the customer success managers I’ve worked for is everything is taken very seriously and personally because they really want to ensure that their clients are successful.
Phil: Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, this idea that it’s almost like customer success, is involved in the entire customer lifecycle, whereas an account manager is more involved in the start and finish of an account. Thanks for doing this John. Any last words?
John: In general, I think the more that you show that you care about what’s going on and that you’ve noticed the problem and that it could potentially affect someone that goes a long way to building trust with anyone. And that’s again, why customer success managers are so vital to the business.