511: 11 Mistakes Customer Success Professionals Should Avoid | Master Sales Series

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Another master sales episode brought to you by your favorite sales leader, George Leith. Today he lays out the 11 (straying from the round numbers because it’s that important) mistakes customer success professionals should avoid. George has dedicated a massive part of his career to serving customers. In that time, he’s seen the good, bad, and ugly. Today he’s going to go over what he thinks are some of the most common mistakes. Think of a common practice like using jargon. We maybe don’t want to sound as though we lack knowledge, so we use this industry-specific knowledge. However, our customers likely don’t know these meanings. In an attempt to be perceived as in the know, our clients may not say that they don’t understand. So, when trying to create a better client experience, we’ve actually tarnished the relationship. Avoiding these will absolutely cement stronger relationships with your customers, build trust, help you establish authority in your niche, and make your life a lot easier. George goes into detail about how you can avoid these, and some mental models as to how to maintain the good habits established.

The 11 mistakes customer success professionals should avoid as discussed in the episode:

  1. Not Actively Listening
  2. Poor Discovery: Sample questions you should use
  3. Spinning the Truth
  4. Not Being Friendly
  5. Not Saying Sorry
  6. Absence of Ownership
  7. Lack of Knowledge
  8. Using Acronyms and Jargon
  9. Displaying a Lack of Empathy
  10. Failing to Follow Through on a Promise
  11. Taking Customers for Granted

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George: This is the Conquer Local podcast, the show about billion dollar sales leaders, marketers leading local economic growth, and entrepreneurs that have created their dream organizations. They want to share their secrets, giving you the distilled version of their extraordinary feats. Our hope is with the tangible takeaways from each episode, you’ll have a chance to rewire, rework, and reimagine your business. On this week’s episode, it’s just you and me for another highly-requested Master Sales Series episode. I’m your host, George Leith, and today we’re going to talk about the 11 common mistakes we’re seeing that customer success professionals make. It’s another Master Sales Series episode and I kind of put this together out of a triumphant newsletter that we released on LinkedIn a couple weeks back, “The 15 Most Common Mistakes Customer Service Professionals Make.” I’ve dedicated a massive part of my career to serving customers, and in that time, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of customer service. I hope that you’ll get a chance to learn from some of the mistakes I’ve made over time and some of the mistakes that I’ve witnessed. We want to retrain your brain to hone in a customer-obsessed mentality. Top companies like Amazon are already doing this and you can too. Coming up, we explore the top 11 mistakes made by customer service professionals. Get ready, conquerors. We’ll be back in just a moment with this week’s episode of the Conquer Local podcast.

Not Actively Listening

Well, here we go. We’re going to dig into the 11, but I think some of you who listen to this show a lot, now didn’t you say that you like round numbers like tens and fifteens? Well, this is producer Bret’s idea. He said we got 11 here. We can’t get rid of this last one. It’s real. So anyways, you judge, as we give you the 11 most common mistakes that we witness with customer success professionals. So, here’s number one. And I could put this in any part of the revenue motion, whether it’s an acquisition sales rep, customer success rep. Not listening! Active listening is the most critical factor in the success of any customer interaction. And when we are interacting with a customer, because we have so many other factors coming to bear, because we have this culture of interruption I like to call it. We’ve got our mobile device that’s pinging us with a notification. We’ve probably got, well, I’ve got multiple screens here. I’ve got a laptop, an iPad, and a mobile device, and I’m having a hard time dialing myself in. I find that when we look back to interactions with customer success professionals and customers, there is a lack of active listening. And what I mean by active listening is where you are in the moment. You are listening to the customer. You are taking notes so that you can reference back to it afterwards. And one of the most important parts that leads us into number two is where you’re asking questions to make sure that you heard them correctly.

Poor Discovery

And this comes into number two, which is poor discovery. When we listen to the customer’s challenge that they’re having or the thing that they want to understand better, put yourselves in the shoes of a customer service rep, they deal with a lot of different things. I believe that the customer should still be talking the majority of the time. And then there are these questions that are being asked by the customer service rep to dig deeper and really, truly understand the problem. So those follow-on questions, where we’re seeking to understand, these two things are tied in. We have the active listening and then doing better discovery to truly understand what the problem is.

Spinning the Truth

The next thing is, is spinning. And I actually think I’m a pretty good spin doctor. You give me something, I can spin it around a million times. I’ve been doing this for 35 some-odd years. But when I truly became a sales professional was when I stopped spinning, when I started being even more honest. Sometimes I’m honest to a fault actually, which I’ll take that all day long. And then the thing I like to call, owning your shit. So when you have a problem, rather than spinning it and trying to make it the customer’s problem, just own it. And I find that that’s a competitive advantage because the rest of the people, your competitors, they’re in there spinning, lying, trying to hold up something over here, a shiny object, to draw the attention away from the problem. But your customer is better educated than they’ve ever been. They know the problems that they have. They know the solutions that they’re looking at. They’ve talked to all your competitors. So they can see fake. They can see misleading. And even if they don’t see it during the interaction, all they do is Google you afterwards and find out that you were lying about that data point. So it’s not the time to spin. Don’t be a politician. Be a sales professional and embrace the truth and truly try and find the problem that the customer is having so that you can solve it.

Not Being Friendly

Now, let’s be Canadian. Let’s say we’re sorry and let’s be friendly. Canadians are known to be quite friendly. And I find sometimes when I’m listening to calls, where customer service representatives are dealing with customers, they almost have a bit of an attitude. And that’s not going to work out for you. I think having empathy and being friendly, which is number four, is really important in having that interaction. And then having that positive attitude, that we’re going to come up with a solution. I’ve got your back.

Not Saying Sorry

And then, say you’re sorry. Only 37% of upset customers were satisfied when offered something in return for the issue. But if the business said they were sorry, the data points that satisfaction increased to 74%. So just listen to this for a minute. 37% of pissed-off customers were satisfied when you said, hey, I’ll give you something for free. But 74% said, I’m satisfied because they said they were sorry. So I think that you have to tie the story with an acknowledgement that something’s wrong and you work your ass off to try and come up with a solution. All those things have to be tied together. But part of it is just admitting that there was a problem and that you’re empathetic to the customer that they’re having a challenge.

Absence of Ownership

And then, take ownership. One of my favorite books on ownership is by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. It’s called “Extreme Ownership.” I highly recommend reading it. A couple of Navy SEALs that have really moved into coaching in the business space, with all the lessons that they learned in being Navy SEALs. And by the way, I don’t know if you’ve heard of Navy SEALs, but their job is life or death. And reading that book changed the way that I tackled the issues at work, changed the way I deal with things at home. Take ownership. Read that masterpiece and learn about it. Even if a mistake wasn’t your fault, own the problem. That’s what the customer is looking for. They want someone on their side. They want someone to help them go to battle to solve the problem. And by doing it, shows that extreme ownership.

Lack of Knowledge

A lack of knowledge. So this is a tough one, and I have empathy for new people that start at organizations. The company that I work for, we have a very complex solution and a very complex value proposition. So it’s going to take you some time to build up the knowledge around the products, the services, the customers, the industries. But I think that what we need to understand is that we’re now in a place where we need to be constantly learning. So that lack of knowledge, we can fix that, but we have to have a mindset that we’re always learning. And let’s not be afraid of a script. And I’ve had some sales leaders like “I hate scripts. It takes away the personality of the person.” And I’m like, I’m not trying to take away your personality. But when someone asks you how the widget works, there probably is a defined answer that should be used. And if you try to make that shit up, it’s not going to work out for you, because now you’re lying to the customer again. So, having that knowledge and that thirst for learning more about your product and your service and the industry that you’re in and your customers and the challenge that they have, that needs to be there all the time. Constant learning is paramount to delivering a world-class customer experience. And embrace your inner boy scout, always be prepared.

Using Acronyms and Jargon

Next up, one of my biggest pet peeves, acronyms and jargon. And I said, last season, I said, Elon Musk and I are trying to kill acronyms and jargon. Like I know him. But I kind of feel like I do because I follow him on Twitter and I saw him on TV. But he’s right. And that’s why I jumped on this bandwagon. There’s acronyms all over the bloody place and what it leads to is poor communication. So when someone phones you, customer service representative, and you use a bunch of corporate jargon and acronyms, you’re actually going to cause further frustration for the customer. Your job is to cool them off. Your job is to listen to them. Your job is to seek to understand and to solve their problem. And throwing out a whole bunch of buzzwords, jargon, and acronyms is going to actually lead to more confusion than building trust.

Displaying a Lack of Empathy

I’ve talked about empathy a few times, but displaying a lack of empathy will put this thing on the road to disaster right out of the gate. Customer phones in and you listen to them and maybe even after they explain their problem, you sigh. Inside you think, what the hell is their problem? Why don’t they know how to solve this very simple thing? That does not show empathy. The other thing that it doesn’t show is respect. A level of respect for the customer and the fact that they’re just touching your solution for the first time. They may have other things going on in their life. They may have an experience with another product that is kind of giving them some bias. Having empathy is one of the most human aspects of customer relationships. It gives you the ability to seek to find a resolution. It puts you in the shoes of the customer. I cover the importance of how to develop empathy in episode number 210 of the Conquer Local podcast called “Mastering Emotional Intelligence.” I highly suggest that you give that thing a listen. It will help you with building that skillset of developing empathy.

Failing to Follow Through on a Promise

And then the next one, and this one, it makes me frigging cringe when I listen to calls where this is the problem. Where we fail to follow through on a promise. Somebody in the organization or the organization itself or maybe it’s even a brand promise that was delivered on the website, fails. I often refer to this concept as the trust matrix. I believe in any interaction there is a trust matrix. There’s fear on one side, there’s trust on the other, and you need to make deposits on the trust side so that you can mitigate the fear. And we have built-in fear, depending upon competitors that we’ve looked at, or other products or services, or people in our organization saying, why did you buy that thing? I told you it was a bad idea. So when we fail to follow through on a promise, what we do is we amplify the fear inside the trust matrix. So then, as a customer service representative, we need to make trust deposits. We need to make enough of them so that we can outweigh the fear. And when we make a promise to the customer, we have to make that commitment and follow up on it. And what that does is it starts to build trust. The way that you can back yourself out of a bad customer experience is to build trust every 30 seconds at a time. Just keep building trust. I’m going to solve your problem. I’m going to be right back. I’m not going to leave you on hold for five minutes. I’m going to be back in 60 seconds. Set a timer on your phone. Start to try and find the solution. Sixty seconds comes up, get back on the phone. Hey, I told you I’d get back in 60 seconds. I’m just waiting for… You probably have had this happen by some really well-built customer service team. I actually had it happen a couple months ago. I was upset. I had a problem. I’m on the phone trying to get a solution. And that person did such a great, I don’t even think they actually solved the problem on the call, but they did such a great job of making those trust deposits to remove my fear, or maybe even my pissed-off meter, they started to remove that by building that trust and now I don’t think about that organization negatively. I actually think about it probably neutral right now, because I don’t know if I truly got the problem solved. The old saying of “under promise and over deliver.” People only care about the results they get and not about your promises. So keep the promises minimal, make damn sure that you deliver on them, and let your results speak.

Taking Customers for Granted

And now number 11, the one that producer Bret would not let me cut so I could get to an even number. Taking customers for granted. And I’m glad he didn’t because this is damn important. I think we take customers for granted. I think it’s a built-in bias. Ah, we were looking for a customer and we found this one. We’ll get another one. And finding a new customer is super frigging expensive. So keeping the customers that you have and figuring out ways to solve more of their problems, that’s called customer expansion, that’s called customer growth. But we have a tendency to take customers for granted, I think, in organizations. And if we can beat this out of that culture, if we can get people thinking about, will this thing I’m doing improve the experience of my customer? And we start treating them like the precious resource that they are. I like to say in any business, I’ve got this philosophy. Your most precious resource is your team, because you don’t have a hope of running the thing without a great team. But your second most precious resource is your customer. And we need to treat them that way.


So let’s go back and recap the 11 mistakes that we most commonly find with customer service representatives. Number one, not active listening, and doing poor discovery. Spin doctors. Spinning it to try and make it look like the truth and not embracing what the truth is. And owning the challenges that you’re having. Then that being friendly. Not saying you’re sorry. Having that absence of ownership. When we got to number seven, we talked about that lack of knowledge, and that’s one thing that will kill the relationship. But I think it’s important to embrace more a culture of constant learning. We don’t know everything. We never will. And we need to constantly be seeking to learn more. Stop using acronyms and jargon, especially when talking to customers. But I don’t even think you should use them internally because it sets up a bad habit. Displaying a lack of empathy. And failing to follow through on a promise. And then number 11, I call it producer Bret’s law. We find that a lot of customer success reps are taking customers for granted. It’s super expensive to find new customers. Treat them like that very precious resource that they are. That’s our 11 top mistakes that customer success professionals make. Please subscribe and leave us a review. If you loved this episode, give us four or five stars, that would be great. And thanks for joining us this week in the Conquer Local podcast. My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.