How CSMs Can Manage Difficult Customer Situations

Types of difficult customer situations

  • Incomplete onboarding
  • Low user engagement and feature usage
  • Feature request
  • Disengaged point of contact
  • Weak relationship
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Pricing conversation
  • Cancellation threat

Incomplete Onboarding

  • Disengaged point of contact
  • Poor success planning
  • Lack of internal alignment and prioritization
  • Low attendance during kickoff call and onboarding
  • Unfinished implementation
  • Create a Sales handoff process to better capture knowledge shared during the sales process
  • Work with the customer to establish and agree on a success plan within the first 30 days
  • Highlight customer’s original buying reason
  • Assign tasks and hold people accountable
  • Define everyone’s roles and responsibilities
  • Bring issue to the attention of Management/ Executive teams
  • Confirm appropriate resources have been allocated within both organizations

Low user engagement and feature usage

  • Incomplete onboarding
  • Absence of processes that encourage long-term engagement
  • Unclear value proposition
  • Insufficient knowledge of new features
  • Absence of processes that encourage long-term engagement
  • Work with point of contact to create and enforce new processes
  • Leverage buy-in and support from Management/ Executive teams
  • Unclear value proposition
  • Present new features from the perspective of what goals they will enable end-users to accomplish
  • Insufficient knowledge of new features
  • Announce new features through multiple channels-trainings, emails, in-app messages, etc.

Feature request

  • Incorrect expectations set during Sales process
  • Issues with product quality
  • Customer’s needs have changed or will in the future
  • Collaborate with Product to uncover underlying use case/ need and identify possible solutions or work-arounds
  • Clarify what value the customer can expect to receive from current features
  • Provide feedback to Product around high-priority bugs or features customers find it difficult to use
  • Work with Support to address any outstanding issues
  • Explain feature request process
  • Assess how feature request might impact renewal or possible cancellation

Disengaged point of contact

  • Incomplete onboarding
  • Low user engagement and feature usage
  • Main point of contact leaves
  • Unresponsive
  • Build relationships with multiple contacts
  • Do research internally (Sales, Support)
  • Ensure every interaction provides value
  • Review usage metrics to assess cancellation risk level
  • Reach out to active end-users across multiple channels
  • Get creative with outreach strategies

Weak relationship

  • Disengaged point of contact
  • Poor relationship with CSM
  • Weak relationship with Management/ Executive teams
  • Escalate internally
  • Reset relationship by restating roles and responsibilities and establishing a mutually agreed upon success plan
  • Build a check-in and escalation path should any further issues develop
  • Engage through succinct updates on progress of success plan
  • Connect success plan to higher-level company goals
  • Provide materials that support advocacy and budget approval

Unrealistic expectations

  • Incorrect expectations set during Sales process
  • Request an unsustainably high level of service
  • Misunderstand product value
  • Work with Sales to ensure they are conveying a reasonable value proposition to prospective clients
  • Identify misalignment on customer goals and expectations early in the onboarding process
  • Define roles and responsibilities
  • Agree on customer’s roles and responsibilities as part of a shared success plan
  • Be specific about what resources can be committed
  • Review customer’s original buying reason
  • Reset expectations and establish a success plan that will allow them to see value
  • Collaborate with Product to uncover underlying use case/ need and identify possible solutions or work-arounds

Pricing conversation

  • Change in customer’s business
  • Need to negotiate upsell or expansion terms
  • Issues with pricing
  • Revenue concerns — propose reduction in seats and associated costs
  • New ownership — provide material that supports advocacy and budget approval
  • Shift in strategic initiatives — suggest ways customer can continue to find value
  • Connect future usage with value currently derived from product
  • Know legacy pricing plans
  • Work with Accounting/ Finance to understand basic billing processes

Cancellation threat

  • Low user engagement and feature usage
  • Feature request
  • Pricing conversation
  • Lack of value
  • General dissatisfaction
  • Define value and illustrate with data
  • Review success plan deliverables, feature usage, engagement data from onboarding, QBRs, etc. to demonstrate value over time
  • Provide material that allows point of contact to make a strong case for renewal
  • Reassess product fit
  • Explore recovery options to ‘reset’ the relationship
  • Manage any ongoing issues
  • Avoid getting backed into a corner by an aggressive customer

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