Difficult Customer Conversations w/ CSM Office Hours

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This is a podcast episode titled, Difficult Customer Conversations w/ CSM Office Hours. The summary for this episode is: <p>This week the topic for discussion is around difficult conversations with your customers. Listen now to make those talks a bit easier and productive.</p><p><br></p><p>A weekly segment:</p><p>CSM Office Hours</p><p>Every Tuesday. 11:30am ET.</p><p><a href="https://lu.ma/CSMOH" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://lu.ma/CSMOH</a></p><p>--</p><p>If you want to join the discussion with thousands of other customer success leaders, join</p><p>Gain Grow Retain: <a href="http://gaingrowretain.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">http://gaingrowretain.com/</a></p><p>This podcast is brought to you by Jay Nathan and Jeff Breunsbach...</p><p>Jay Nathan: <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaynathan/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaynathan/</a></p><p>Jeff Breunsbach: <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffreybreunsbach" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffreybreunsbach</a></p>
Changing the verbiage of difficult conversations
01:30 MIN
Emotional resilience when having difficult conversations
01:33 MIN
360° approach to dealing with problem customers
01:40 MIN
Having the ability to come up with creative solutions
03:23 MIN
Building respect and partnership with your customers
02:08 MIN

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Gain Grow Retain podcast.

Jeff: Gain Grow Retain. You have Jeff here. Before we dive into the show today, we have some exciting news that we've been holding onto. As of this month, Gain Grow Retain is officially part of the HubSpot Podcast Network. And this becomes a really important milestone for our community and brings more validation to customer success. Something I love about the HubSpot Podcast Network is all the inspiring shows dedicated to helping professionals learn, grow, and scale their businesses. If you love Gain Grow Retain and want to check out other shows like us, I'm a big fan of My First Million, I Digress, and The Salesman. Check out all these shows and more at hubspot. com/ podcastnetwork.

Anita Toth: Welcome. My name's Anita Toth. I am your host for today. Dan Ennis is my co- host. He's probably somewhere in the background. And we are going to be talking about difficult customer conversations today. We are going to do the breakout rooms first, about 30 minutes. Let me just advance my screen here. Once you get into the breakout room, I'm going to ask you to, just briefly, if you could just introduce yourself, your name, your role, your company, and the industry you're in. Then these are the two questions that are going to be discussed. You can either decide as a group, depending on how large your group is, to answer both, or you can just answer one. So share one difficult customer conversation you had. And what you learned from it, whether it's in a positive. " I learned how to do this," or" Ugh, I learned never to do that." Because we all learn by making mistakes. And if you feel that you want to share what your learning was from either perspective, that is fine. And then the second is, as a CSM, how do you handle a difficult customer conversation? What are some of the tips you have? So whenever I do any sort of hosting or any kind of event like this, I want people to walk away with very practical tips. And so, this is always my goal with that. And so for that, what we're going to do is have you select just one person from the group to share in the summary when we all come together of what your group discussed. And if you could keep that in mind, maybe two tips that you heard that were helpful in learning to handle difficult customer conversations, then that would be great. I want people to walk away and go, " You know what? I'm going to use what I heard today in my next difficult customer conversation." Make it as practical as possible. So, welcome. I'm going to put everybody in the breakout groups now. It will be 30 minutes. There'll be the one minute warning. I'm going to also, fingers crossed, try to share this deck in the group so that you can see the questions. If I'm unsuccessful, just share, like I said, one difficult customer conversation you had and what did you learn from it? Or as a CSM, how do you handle a difficult customer conversation? I will try my best. So here we go. I'm going to put you in the breakout rooms now. And have a great discussion. Assign automatically. I don't know. How many people do we have? We have 33, so let's try to keep it down to four or five participants per room. Okay, sound good? So that you guys can have a great discussion. We'll see you in 30 minutes. Oh, hey, Dan. How's it going? Oh, there you are.

Dan Ennis: Excellent. How are you doing? There we go, yeah. I was on mute for a second.

Anita Toth: Good.

Dan Ennis: I was just typing out something. Did you want me to join a room, or just chill with you? I'm good either. I didn't think so. I assumed not. So, I didn't click on the button.

Anita Toth: No good. But I hate that it puts us in the rooms when-

Dan Ennis: I know. So, I just didn't click. Not now. I just clicked the not now, and doesn't make us join. So, yeah.

Anita Toth: Yeah. Scott, do you need to be put in a room?

Scott: Hey, Anita. Oh, if you want or we can just hang out and BS.

Anita Toth: I think... No, let's put you in a room. How do I do I do that?

Scott: That sounds great.

Anita Toth: Let me try breakout rooms. There you are. You're going to go to room six.

Scott: Excellent. Thank you.

Anita Toth: Okay. See you soon. Now. Okay. So I'm going to make you co- host. Yes. Okay. So you're now co- host.

Josh: Hey, I think I was in room three, and I just dropped unfortunately.

Anita Toth: Oh, where are you? I can't even see you. Who who's chatting to me here?

Josh: This is Josh.

Anita Toth: Hey, Josh.

Josh: Hey.

Dan Ennis: You said you were room three, you said?

Josh: Yeah, please.

Dan Ennis: Perfect. You bet putting you back in.

Josh: All right. Thanks.

Anita Toth: Great.

Dan Ennis: You're welcome.

Anita Toth: I don't know if he froze or if he managed.

Dan Ennis: I don't know. Definitely shows him in there now. Oh, good. He's there. Perfect.

Anita Toth: Good. Good. Okay. All right. And I guess I can stop sharing the screen now.

Dan Ennis: Works for me.

Anita Toth: And the recording pauses anyway, I believe. No. inaudible in. So we'll just let them come in. The breakout rooms should be closing any second now. All right. I think we've got everybody back now. Well, welcome back everybody. Before we get into the discussion, I would love to have one of those... Thanks, Jeff. So far so good for me, too. What we're going to do is just take a quick group shot. Dan is going to do this for us. So if you would like to put a smile on your face, look toward your camera. Maybe give a bit of a wave. And we'll take it in what 3, 2, 1? You want to count us down, Dan?

Dan Ennis: Absolutely. Sounds good.

Anita Toth: Okay, let's do this.

Dan Ennis: All right. 3, 2, 1.

Anita Toth: Awesome. Okay, good. Now that's out of the way, we've got about 20 minutes or so to have a discussion. I am really curious to hear how the discussions went in the breakout rooms. I'm just going to open this up and have one of you jump in and summarize just quickly the discussions you had in your room. And if you could come with one or two tips that your group found to be particularly helpful in terms of having difficult customer conversations, that would be great. So who would like to go first? Just raise your hand and we'll go that way. It's probably the easiest way to do it.

Claire: I don't know if you can see everybody, but I'm happy to start.

Anita Toth: Okay. Claire, take it away.

Claire: Oh, people are raising their virtual hand. I forgot you can do that, too.

Anita Toth: I'm so sorry. Yeah. Good call. Good call. Yeah, raise the little hand that's under the reactions. That's where you can raise your hand. Thanks for calling that out, Claire.

Claire: Okay, well... So, yeah. I'll kick things off. And the biggest thing that I wanted to share, which we actually ended up kind of realizing towards the end of our discussion, but we decided that instead of calling these difficult conversations we're actually going to try to shift our perspective and call them meaningful conversations. Because we found through all of our shared experiences, usually those difficult conversations... those clients end up being your most loyal. Well, they can be your most loyal and meaningful clients. So that was a big takeaway that is just a little bit of a shift in perspective. And then two other bullet points basically was the importance of leading with honesty. I'm sure everyone probably said that. Leading with honesty, and doing as much research in the backend as you can, so that you can find the context or build the context to basically tell the story of what's going on. So that it's more meaningful to the client. And then finally, to really focus on your action, building an action item list for yourself and the client. So that you can focus on what you can and will do, instead of just really focusing on what cannot be done. Which I think a lot of times CSMs end up doing, because we love to solve problems. So when you can't get that direct resolution, it's like, you kind of tend to harp on it. So just focusing on what you can do instead.

Anita Toth: I have to say, I really love this change in perspective to meaningful because it really is. And if you can, in these conversations, there's usually three things that in having them I try to do. One is to understand the actions that they are or are not taking. The second is their thoughts around how they see the situation. Because it's often very different than my perspective. And the last is if you can tap into some of those feelings. So not only how theyre feeling about the conversation you're having, but how do they feel about the situation? Because sometimes these types of conversations, they might not even really be aware of how big it is or what it impacts. And so I really like that change in perspective. Let's have a meaningful conversation about this particular situation. It might be a bit challenging, but we're going to stick in there and together... Essentially, it brings you closer together. It further develops the relationship. Wow. That's awesome stuff. This is really exciting. Thank you, Claire. And to your group. And Susan, would you like to share what happened with your group?

Susan: Hi. Okay. So my group was myself, Stephanie, Josh, and Munir. And one thing that we talked a lot about was emotional resilience. So we talked about how sometimes we're also, as a CSM, a therapist. And so we need to acknowledge our customer's emotion, meet them at that point where they're at, and then be able to kind of put the emotions aside so that you can move forward in the conversation or in the actions. Because really, it can be very emotional. But like you said, in order to be able to move forward and have something that we can... not just dwelling on what's maybe not working, but action items for what we can do to improve or to change. So that was one thing we talked about. And we also talked a little bit about staying in contact with your customer. Even if you don't have anything to update them with. Maybe, it's a quick text or an email saying, " Hey, I don't have an update for you." But, I wanted to let you know that I haven't forgotten about you. I'm still working on resolution." Or whatever it is that you're doing. But just so that the customer knows that you are there for them. And you haven't just forgotten about them and moved on to someone else.

Anita Toth: I love that. Actually, Dan's going to be talking about this topic next week. So I won't say too much about it. But, how critical it is to keep the conversation going throughout. It's kind of like you can show up with flowers and chocolates on Valentine's day and fingers crossed it will make the relationship great if there's challenges. Or, you can just occasionally do things along the way that can have an impact just by letting you know that you've been thought of. So it doesn't have to be something big and fancy. But it's often those small gestures, like you mentioned, that can help pave that path to a deeper relationship. Thank you very much. This sounds like you guys had a great discussion in your group. Thank you for sharing, Susan. And we're going to move on to Kevin.

Kevin: Thank you. So my group was Brandon, Chris, Evelyn, and Andy. And we talked about dealing with problem customers. And it kind of led us into this rabbit hole where we kind of created a 360 degree approach. We talked about dealing with the irate customers using a method called the doctor cup method. Which was allowing the customer to vent. And then reflecting back what the customer said, including maybe some tone down versions of some of the insults they even said. But using that as a mirror to reflect back to the customer, this is what you said. And then you'll follow up with the question, is that what you meant? And then that gives the customer an opportunity to calm down, see that mirror, and maybe even apologize on some of the things that were said. And allow the customer to now focus more on the issue rather than the attacks on people. And then you're able to come up with your solution together at that point. And then we also talked about how to avoid creating difficult customers by identifying the early warning signs, building risk mitigation into your playbooks to minimize any pitfalls and overcoming any barriers in your playbooks. And then also applying measurable value to some of the verbal feedback that we get in our cadence calls that are not necessarily recorded into the NPS scores, into the CSAT scores.

Jeff: Great. We wanted to take a minute and if you haven't implemented a CRM system into your business, now is the time. A CRM platform is at the heart of scaling your side hustle into your success story. CRM platforms take any customer interaction and transform that interaction into valuable data and insights, allowing you to strengthen relationships with your customers and grow your business. With tools for marketing sales, customer service, content management, and operations, the HubSpot CRM platform is fully customizable for whatever your business needs. Use HubSpot to meet customer demand, align your teams, and work smarter without slowing down. With total control and over 650 integrations, HubSpot is totally customizable and purpose built for businesses big and small. Whether you're just getting started or looking for all the bells and whistles, HubSpot is the number one CRM platform for scaling business. Learn more about how you can customize your CRM platform with HubSpot at hubspot. com. Now, back to the show.

Anita Toth: Wow. I don't know if, while you were talking Kevin, if you've developed this skill to read the chat at the same time you're sharing. But, we've had several people mentioning Chris Voss's book, Never Split The Difference. Which is essentially talking about what you talked about in your group with... Gee, it just went out of my head. It just disappeared. I'm not going to plop back into chat. I do know that you touched-

Jeff: It's on mirroring. Right.

Anita Toth: What was it, Jeff?

Jeff: It's mirroring, which is listening.

Anita Toth: Mirroring. Thank you. Thank you. That's it. Mirroring. There are two parts, which it sounds like your group hit there, Kevin. And that is that there's the rational reason of the conversation. And then there's the emotional. And if you don't deal with the emotional first, then you're never going to get through to what can we do to either solve this problem or what are the next steps we can take? If those emotions don't have a place to come out and be dealt with first. So, love this. Thank you. Thank you very much. And the recommendations for the book, if you haven't read it yet. Okay. Thank you, Kevin. And your group, sounds like you guys did a great job. And Stephanie, would you like to take it away?

Stephanie: Hello, all. My group, who Jeff and Patricia are still in the call right now, we were chatting about the often big disconnect, the fraught disconnect, between sales and product. And the sales team making a commitment up front that the product team is literally clueless about altogether. And what this ends up in, is my opinion one of the worst things that you can do, which is over promise and under deliver. And then as the CSM, our responsibility is to play the mediator card. Is to then dive in even deeper with the client. Oh, what were you expecting? And why do you need it to do that? And then coming up with a creative solution. Or going to the product team and saying, " Hey, this was a commitment that was made." Or, " This is something that was told was like already an offering, and it's not. So like, what am I going to do?" And some of the things that we talked about were, one, leading with curiosity within your own team. Having empathy. I think it's really easy to go back to sales and be like, " Damn it. Why did you say that?" And just immediately go into finger pointing. And instead, really trying to understand from the salesperson's point of view, why did you sell it that way? What pressure were you feeling on your side in order to deliver this dollar amount, this book of business? And then even going higher up to like executive, is this our ideal customer? Is this who we should be selling to? We talked a lot about if you see somebody or you see a lot of clients who all have a similar ARR and they're asking for the same thing, that's our problem. That's a team problem, not just like a individual SDR or AE problem. And then we talked about enrolling other SMEs within your company to go to the conversation with the client. So you're not just showing up as this face of, hey, I'm know everything. Because in fact, I do not. So whether it's somebody from implementation, somebody from product, Jeff made a really good point that if product is saying no, then product needs to get on the call and product needs to say no. Or else I, as the CSM become the person who's always hammering the gavel, and that really creates a disconnect in the relationship. And then if at any point, the product team says, " Okay, great. We've had enough requests for this..." That was like a huge conversation was just even getting an alignment with your product team. I feel like they're a black hole right now in my company. And I'm not quite sure how to understand their filtering process. What is on their roadmap exactly. So, getting an alignment there. But then if a commitment is made like, " Hey, product is going to follow through with this. This is the date." Really acknowledging with your client the slate is getting wiped clean. We're not going to continue to bring up, " Oh, well you changed my CSM." Or this, that, and the other. We are committing to this for you. This is the date that we're going to do it. And we're not going to go back, and we're not going to keep revisiting things that are in the past and cannot be solved. So this is the date, and we're going to move forward.

Anita Toth: Wow. Sounds like a great discussion. And some opportunities to strengthen relationships within the company to then make those difficult customer conversations a little easier. Because we don't always know the motives. The worst is when we assume we know the motives between... why this was sold. But really, I loved the idea. Going, and asking, and finding out. And realizing, perhaps they didn't even consider what the outcome would be because they were focused on this particular thing. So that knowledge really is power to then be able to take that to the next level internally, and then with the customers as well. Sounds like you guys had a great discussion. Thank you very much, Stephanie. We just have a few minutes left, so I am going to turn it over to Nathan. And let's hear what happened in your group, Nathan.

Nathan: Well, I don't know why I have to follow Stephanie. She just nailed it in so many ways with a lot of things that our group was talking about. I think one thing that we just defined as well is that difficult conversations don't just happen with customers or clients. But they actually happen with internal teams as well. So I think that's something that we, my group, which was Anna, Katia, Scott, and Rachel, we shared a lot of like just personal stories that we've had that had those misalignments happen. Where it was a miss sell a miss speak, not getting everyone on the same team or the same page for what we were doing for product. Like again and again, those difficult conversations, they'll happen with customers, for sure. But, they're also going to happen internally. And I think the two practical things that we kind of took out that was building respect and partnership is really key to solving those issues out. They're not always going to get solved out. Sometimes you're not always going to save the client either. But they're really important to build those things and continue to do that. Because it's going to mitigate those things happening down the road. And then the second piece was just be really transparent with the customer and take ownership of it. Because once they're a customer, their customer journey is in your hands as a CSM. So really take that ownership and be that kind of voice of the customer back to your internal teams, if that's where the struggle is. But also, be the voice to the customer from those internal teams if they don't have the availability to have that kind of direct conversation from product. I work in an industry that our product team doesn't... we're not one off building things for customers. So it's like our product team will never talk to a client unless they want some insight or some feedback. But our job then is to kind of understand and synthesize whatever product team is telling us why we're doing this, why we're not doing that. Those things, we have to be the ones that can understand that information on the backend and then present that correctly to the customer. So that transparency to the customer is really, really important as well. So those are the two big takeaways that I think I summarized all right from our team discussion.

Anita Toth: Yeah. It sounds like with Stephanie's group, there was the focus on that difficult customer conversations can also start within. That there's internal difficult conversations to have as well. And I think one of the challenges is that product has one way of seeing the issue. The CSM tries to interpret that to then talk to the customer who might use different terminology, sees it differently. And there's a real challenge there with the different language and the perspectives. And it's... The CSMs in the middle. It's like you're an interpreter, essentially, going between. And it's a real challenge sometimes to get that back and forth. I don't know in your personal lives, but I know I've called up to try to explain it's this thing that when I do this. But, I don't know what to call it. So you do this dancing around until you can clarify. And I really think that that's probably the key piece, even with Stephanie's group, that there needs to be some sort of clarity, transparency in why things have happened. Why did sales sell to that person? What is our ideal customer profile. And having that clarity. But, that means having difficult conversations to get to that clarity. And it really is a skill. It's a dance. We had a suggestion. I think Brandon put up a suggestion of fierce conversations by Susan. And that's all I caught. I can't couldn't see the last name. If you pop into to the chat, you'll see. That's another recommended book that might help in building this skill, particularly if you're fairly new. Susan Scott, thank you. In terms of having difficult conversations. And I have read that book. It's been quite a while, but there's actually specific ways to have them. There are frameworks that you can use. So if you are fairly new and maybe wondering how to do this, I know that book is a really great resource. We have just a couple of minutes left. Jeff, did you want to add something quickly?

Jeff: Oh, thanks. I'm trying to think. I had a couple run through my mind. First of all, I mentioned the thing on empathy. Which first of all, you shouldn't be taking any abuse from customers or things like that. So if that happens, that's a different conversation. I usually try and have, if it's happening to me, my manager, to the person who's doing it, to their manager and being like, regardless of what's going on with the product, that doesn't happen. And so that should be factored out of the equation. But that being said, if somebody is upset, as I said to my group, they could have made the decision to purchase your software. You might be at a startup. And they said, " Hey, let's not go with IBM. Let's use this startup." And then suddenly it's not working. And they're like, " Oh my God, I could get fired." So, that happen... I'm used to seeing that in the implementation stuff a lot as well, too. So trying to find out why they're so upset. And sometimes you can peel those things back and the reason why things aren't working might be due to their company. And I think it was like last week or something... I can't remember so many chats. But, if you have a voice of the customer and a voting thing, and then suddenly your customer realizes that, wow, nobody else is asking for this thing that I'm really asking for. And they can suddenly start realizing, hey, maybe we're stuff wrong.

Anita Toth: Right. Right.

Jeff: And so I'm also trying to get to the point of, in the whole fierce conversations and everything, just don't be the order taker, and the check boxer, and the people pleaser. You do have to push back every once in a while. And it doesn't have to be like, " You're a jerk. I don't believe you." It's more like, " Well, can you actually tell me why you really need this?" Or why... to get to the bottom of this, we need to understand the actual why behind some of these things.

Anita Toth: Yeah.

Jeff: Instead of being like, " Okay, I'll go check into that. Okay. Our product sucks. I got you, okay. I'll find out why it sucks." And just trying to throw some humor in there. But those are things we can help out the situation as well with, too.

Anita Toth: Very much so. Thank you. Thank you for adding that. Well, we just have two minutes left, so I am... I want to thank you for this. This sounded exciting. I really like what came out of the discussion today. And I want to thank you all for being so open and sharing what you have learned. Next week... Oh before I say that, this will be part of the Gain Grow Retain podcast. They'll come out in a couple of weeks in case you want to pass it on to someone else who couldn't be here. And next week, Dan is going to host the CSM office hours. So I am going to stop here and say thank you for allowing me to host this particular session with you and participating. And I'm going to turn it over to Dan, and he can tell you about next week. And we'll close the meeting then.

Dan Ennis: Fantastic. Thanks again for joining this week, everybody. Really excited for next week's conversation as well, where we will be talking about how to build customer relationships. And how do you go deeper in those customer relationships, both in terms of multi- threading and building complex relationships with customers. As well as how to take those relationships past the surface level and build true advocates with your customers who are going to advance the same cause internally. So really looking forward to next week's conversation. Everybody's contributions are always so valuable here. And I can't wait to see what we all learn together next week.

Scott: All right, take care.

Anita Toth: Have a great day, everyone. Take care.

Scott: Bye, bye.

Anita Toth: Bye.

Jeff: Hey guys, thanks so much for taking the time to listen to the Gain Grow Retain podcast. If you liked what you heard, please take a moment and share the podcast with your friends and colleagues and subscribe. We really appreciate it. Talk to you soon.


This week the topic for discussion is around difficult conversations with your customers. Listen now to make those talks a bit easier and productive.

A weekly segment:

CSM Office Hours

Every Tuesday. 11:30am ET.



If you want to join the discussion with thousands of other customer success leaders, join

Gain Grow Retain: http://gaingrowretain.com/

This podcast is brought to you by Jay Nathan and Jeff Breunsbach...

Jay Nathan: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaynathan/

Jeff Breunsbach: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffreybreunsbach