I grew up watching the Karate Kid. One of my favorite movies. In this movie, the main character, Daniel, immediately becomes enemies with Johnny after a misunderstanding and scuffle on the beach. This rivalry continues until the end of the movie where they face-off in the final championship match. Over 30 years later, they are reunited in the new Netflix series, Cobra Kai.
The rivalry is far from over.
After a new series of misunderstandings, poor communication, and actions based on preconceived notions, Daniel and Johnny find themselves competing, once again, in the ring. This time as rival coaches.
Obviously, there’s a lot more to the story here (I recommend watching Cobra Kai) but my point in sharing this is that you have two boys, now men, who both want the same thing: To be great at what they do.
Both had the same goal and both could have easily worked together to make their dreams a reality. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get past petty fights and minor differences.
I see some similarities in the relationship between Daniel and Johnny and the relationship between Customer Success and the Product team.
We both are working towards the same common goal: to better serve our customers.
While Customer Success is on the frontlines communicating with customers daily, the product team is working behind the scenes to ensure our customers have a seamless experience using our product. Both teams help mitigate risk and ensure a quality customer experience.
So what does this mean for Customer Success Managers like you and me?
First off, it means that we need to be mindful that the product team has the same goal that we do. They are here to serve our customers. They are aware of most the product issues. And the ones they are not aware of, it’s our job to present those issues to them. But it’s through this communication process where words can be misconstrued, tone can be read wrong, and misunderstandings can occur.
As a CSM, you need to have a strategy when it comes to presenting product issues to your product team. Megan Bowen, Chief Customer Officer at Refine Labs, says it best.
“My rule of thumb for working with product teams – DO NOT ask them to build new specific features – rather identify the biggest pain points of the customer and bring them the biggest friction points or pain points with data to back up how many customers are impacted. Then, let product do their job to identify the right solution to the biggest customer pain points.”
You have a job to do and so do they. Finding ways, like Megan pointed out, to make their job easier will greatly impact the relationship you have with them. Showing the “Why” behind a product request through any kind of data will help the product understand the need for it.
Krista Roberts, Enterprise CSM at IntelliShift, also added her two cents based on her experience.
“Regular communication with Product is key! Inviting them to attend customer calls, EBR’s and other times where they can hear first hand how customers are using the product, want to use the product and how our product is and can solve their business challenges is so helpful.”
Just like how sales and marketing should work closely, CS and Product should be working closely and meeting regularly. Knowing how your customers are performing and adopting the software is vital information for both of you to know. Identifying usage gaps and pain points can help both teams excel in their individual jobs as well as grow together to help the overall growth of the company.
In one of the most recent episodes of the Women in Customer Success Podcast, Katrina Coakley shared her experience as a CSM and how she has built good relationships with her respected product teams. She explains that how important is for anyone involved in building out the UX/UI of the product to involve representatives in the company who work with the customers face to face. Customer-facing reps can help identify and avoid certain pitfalls they know their customers have the potential to experience.
Click here to listen to the full interview.
One last word of advice to my fellow front-line CSM’s; just remember that our fellow product specialists are here to do their job just like we are. Sometimes misunderstandings occur and there might be some frustration. I’ve been there. But consistent communication (in person, if possible) where ideas are shared and pain points are identified will make a huge difference for you and your customers.
Maybe send them some donuts sometime to show your appreciation. They’ll like you a lot more. Trust me, it works.