Building Relationships = Customer Success: 1-on-1 with a Customer Success Manager
Customer service is important at LiveChat in a couple of ways. First, we sell a SaaS solution to help companies provide top-notch customer service. Second, and just as important as the first reason, we pride ourselves on providing best-in-class customer service to our customers. Like Frank Sinatra said, “You can’t have one without the other,” and we know that to be true at LiveChat. After all, it would be a bit counterproductive, even silly, to sell a customer service solution if we were unable to provide top-notch service to our customers.
With that in mind, I recently sat down with our Customer Success Manager, Kuba Swierczak to, in a sense, lift the veil on customer service and what it means to us here at LiveChat. My hope is that by providing some concrete examples of best practices, experiences, and tips, it can help you or your company.
So, here you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth.
How long have you worked at LiveChat?
KS: Seven and a half years - since July 2012.
So, quite a while.
KS: Time flies when you're having fun.
What's your title? Customer success manager?
KS: Yes, you can call it customer success or account manager. It depends on what type of emails or communication you're sending to the customer. At this time, the titles at LiveChat are very different and can change depending on what you're doing. Basically, only the C-level titles remain the same. We have account managers that are selling and customer success managers that are focused only on customers’ success. So, it depends on the specific project we are working on.
Tell me about what you do. What does customer success mean?
KS: Currently, we are focused on one big project and that is taking care of our top 50 customers based on MRR. So, we want to build a bigger relationship with them to help them with their business. This project is scheduled to go until the end of June of this year. Right now, our goal is to take care of half of them. We found that if we don't build a more significant relationship with our customers, we are not able to prevent churn. For our customers, when they have reached the point where they are turning off live chats, the decision is already made, and they have a new provider lined up. There are no red flags to warn us - they're using their license at their normal level and suddenly they're turning it off and turning on other providers.
We want to build a better relationship with them so they stay with LiveChat - to build stickiness with LiveChat and help them to develop their license by working with them on their goals and plans. We now have 12 customers under our care. For each customer, we are building a short and long term plan. We want to know what their plans for each quarter of next year are and what the big plan for the next year is. We want to help them accomplish those goals so when it is time to talk about money or about leaving, we can show them the benefit we provided.
Another aspect is the additional products we have at LiveChat. We want our customers to use them. If they can't use them, we want to know why that's not possible. We can use that information as feedback for our product team. If someone can't use HelpDesk or ChatBot, we want to know why so we can fix it, and then be able to go back to them and show them that we improved the product for them. It's now a solution they can use.
Recently, we've also had a lot of things change at LiveChat. We've released a few features that are available for all of our customers, but only one of our big customers requested it. It's helped us in the sense that if we want to be a company that targets enterprise customers, we need to know what those enterprise customers want. Since this is something that we want to explore, we're specializing in our approach with the top 50 customers. This knowledge will then be used to improve our roadmap and to develop it at a higher level.
What's your favorite thing about your job?
KS: It's not boring. Every day is different. Each customer is different. You need to be very flexible. You are not only working in your own backyard but also cooperating with different teams, product teams, marketing teams, sales teams. So, it requires a lot of cooperation, building blocks, and time from different members of different teams. It's hard, especially when you're working in a PI in splits. So, taking five minutes of someone's time is very hard, but it's very rewarding when the customer says, "Hey, you've done it for us. It worked great. You are great." So, the ultimate goal is to hear that you are doing a good job from the customer. It keeps us going.
You mentioned borrowing from other teams and using different resources. Tell me a little bit about what teamwork looks like here at LiveChat.
KS: Everyone tries their best to help each other. However, sometimes I think that we are a little bound by the sprint format that is based on the delivery of certain features. What we want to do and what we want to improve is working with those enterprise customers. We want to make sure that when we plan our work, we can also find some time to spend to work on specific features for these customers. We can't predict if a customer wants this feature now, in two weeks, or months from now. We have to find some spare time to do side projects like these.
Right now, I feel like a lot of teams have their own goals. You need to ask for a favor and sometimes you're being a pain in the ass doing that. It can be a problem because they want to help, but there is only so much time in the day.
That being said, I've found that whenever I talk with someone here, they don't tell me to go away because they have their own things to do. They at least try to give me some information or tell me where I can find it. An example of that is when we are working on security forms for the customers, and you need help from the admin team. They will always tell us where to find the information we need and, if we have specific questions, they will provide answers.
It's a great thing about working here: You don't have a project where you ask someone to do it for you because we have a team that will tell you how to do it and how to achieve what you're trying to accomplish. So, the next time you have a similar project, you'll know how to do it.
How would you describe the culture at LiveChat?
KS: I would say that it is a very specific culture, especially when compared to what I hear from my colleagues that work at different companies. On one hand, we have a startup history and we still have a startup mindset. On the other hand, we want to target enterprise customers and take the company to the next level. We need to be aware of that because we need to borrow things from a corporate mindset. This is important because certain rules have to be set. By following them and doing things the right way, we can help take the company to a higher level. Because of those things, our culture is a mix of a startup philosophy, corporate culture, and our own ideas because we also have our own mindset.
I think that Mariusz (LiveChat’s CEO) is someone that brings us together in the right way. He has a way of getting the best out of someone. When he is talking about our vision and our goals, you know that he believes in it. At the same time, you're also starting to believe in it because you know that it's achievable. It's ambitious, but it can be done. Without him, we wouldn’t be the company that we are right now.
You deal with our customers a lot.
KS: Yes. On a day-to-day basis. From day one, because I started in customer service on the night shift.
Tell me about one of your favorite experiences with a customer.
KS: There's a lot of them, but I really like to talk about Ryanair as a customer because they came to us in a chat before they were even a customer. They were exploring options. I had a chance to speak with them, with the lead of the customer relations team. Then, we had another call with someone from the VP level, and then they created a trial. So, they started to use us after my contact with them. And it didn't stop there. We had to do a lot of work with them; a lot of configurations, additional tweaks. Seeing LiveChat on their website is cool. Whenever a Ryanair plane flies over the office or over my home it feels good.
What is it about LiveChat that brings the most value to our customers?
KS: We like to think outside of the box, and we don't sell a fixed product. Well, we sell a fixed product, but at the same time, we want to think about the solutions to other problems. When a customer wants to accomplish something, we can tell them we don't have that feature now, but here's another way to do it. If they can't do it that way, we will work something out for them.
We don't say no to our customers. It's a great thing about us. We want to be flexible and we want to be a customer-focused company. We hear that from our customers who have experience with our competitors. They say that we're really customer focused. If they want something from our competitors or they need help, it's very hard to reach a real person to talk with about the problem. Our competitors have a lot of FAQs and a lot of ticketing systems that can be used to contact them, but there's not a real person on the other end that can help you with the problem right away.
It's really hard work. You need to find your inner zen, especially when you start your shift and you get a customer that really gets in your head and can make your day horrible. So, it's good to put a wall between your feelings and the interactions you have. It's important to remember that this is someone that needs help and they are coming to us because they need to solve a problem. You need to think about this person as someone that is looking for help and try to help them. So, be patient.
Talk a little bit more about that. What is good customer service?
KS: Good customer service should be informed and knowledgeable. Most importantly, you need to know your product inside out. It's hard, but it's actually even more important that, even if you don't know something, you know where to find the answer. Even with a product like LiveChat. It's a pretty simple product to use, but at the same time, it can be complicated with all of the functions that it has. It's not as complicated as some that require you to hire someone to implement it, but still, it can be problematic for the customer.
So, for me, when I work as a service hero, I've always wanted to understand how everything works: to understand how the software works and where I can go to find information if I don't know something. No one here knows absolutely every single thing about our product. There will always be a question that someone can't answer. If you know where to look for the information, then you are safe.
So, on one hand, you need to be educated and know where to find the information, and on the other hand, you need to understand that there's a real person on the other end. Empathy is an important trait to have here. If you understand that there is another person you're dealing with that is looking for help, and you know how to provide this help, then you are safe.
Of course, going the extra mile is also something that needs to happen. We have a saying when we're working as a service hero that we're not just going the extra mile, we're doing a marathon for the customers. That type of attitude has produced some great results for us. The customers really appreciate it, and that leads to new customers being recommended or coming to us based on word of mouth. Customer service as the first line of communication at LiveChat needs to be the face of the company.
Like you mentioned, customer service is often the outward face of the company and the first line of defense when someone is upset. Have you had an experience with a customer who was really upset about something, but you were able to solve it in such a way that left them happy?
KS: Sure. Our admin team does a really great job of keeping LiveChat active and keeping it always available for our customers. But, years ago, we had times when we had problems with our servers, and those problems would sometimes happen on a daily basis due to an overload of the servers or some other technical mumbo jumbo. The point is that LiveChat wasn't working. Naturally, we had some customers that were really upset about it. What we found out from this situation was that the biggest problem was not that the problem occurred, but that they didn't know what had happened and what we were doing to fix it.
Their perspective was, "Okay, it's not working. I understand that that happens sometimes. But, I need to report to my VP, to my CEO, to my supervisor and tell them what's going on."
He's asking me what the problem is and I didn’t know. So, we found that by informing the customer, by creating part of a good customer experience related to providing detailed information about the issues, that customer can really flip from being really angry to quickly being satisfied.
For example, I found that during issues with chats (because sometimes we are helping with service when there's a big issue), I received a lot of good ratings from customers that visited us and started the conversation with, "What the hell is going on?" When I sent them information telling them why it's not working, what we're doing to fix it, and when it will be fixed, the reaction was almost always positive. By showing them that we know what's happening and we are on it, it builds trust.
What have you learned about yourself doing customer service?
KS: I found my inner peace. Not that I'm hiding my anger, but I understand the other side, too. By that I mean, I'm really, really calm when I'm talking with someone and I'm not nervous when I need to speak with VPs or higher management. Basically, I found that this person on the other side is a normal person. It's not someone that is judging me from a high tower. In fact, it's just someone that wants to visit us and talk about their business.
So, stress related to conversations with sales reps or at conferences disappeared. I've learned that I can be very peaceful, even if the customer is angry on the other side. I learned to think differently - not thinking about problems, but thinking about solutions.
I've noticed that sometimes I have colleagues that when they are facing a problem, they are focusing on just that problem. But they're not thinking about what caused the problem or how to solve it. Instead of spending time on being sad or angry about a problem, you can spend the same time solving it and putting your life on the right track.
Talk about a mistake you made and what you learned from it.
KS: I had situations, from years ago, when I spoke to one of our customers. They came to us, and they had specific questions related to the traffic on their website. They wanted to monitor certain levels of traffic on the page because they don't manually invite customers to chat. They were curious about how many customers we can track on chat. I gave them the wrong answer and they were not pleased.
So, I talked with someone and we were able to find a solution that worked for them. Because of that, they became our customer, and they still are our customer. So, even though a mistake happened, it can be fixed if you admit it and don't hide it. Some people have a tendency to try and hide a mistake by putting it under a rock and just forgetting about it. Instead of doing that, I spoke internally about it, and we found a solution that will help the customer and solve the problem.
There's nothing wrong with making mistakes. What's important is what you learn from them. If you make the same mistake again and again, then there is a problem. But if it happens once or twice and you learn from it, then awesome. You are doing the right thing.