We’ve all been there, the situations in which ‘the customer is always right’. Dealing with difficult customers can certainly be challenging, and you aren’t always going to see eye-to-eye with your customers. This can put a strain on your professional relationships.

However, if you have a process in place that can de-escalate the situation, then you can improve your customer-CSM relationship, and create further opportunities for between your company and the customer. Here are some best practices for customer success that will help you avoid conflict with your customers and better prepare for their long-term success.

Be transparent about your goals

It cannot be stressed enough that communication is a key factor in building a successful customer relationship. The more open the conversation is, the less likely you are to run into conflict down the road. In order to get the conversation flowing and setting objectives, ask your customer open-ended questions.

Drawing a baseline of the limits to your capabilities will make it easier for them when to set expectations. This will help you better align your goals with your customer’s. Whether you send the questions before your initial meet or ask them at the first meeting, your ultimate goal is to drill down on what your customer’s current pain-points and aspirations are.

Your motive for asking these questions at this stage is not to solve the problem—that will come after the discovery process—but to be aware of them. The only bad question is the one that never gets asked. Get out of your comfort zone to see the effectiveness of your communications improve dramatically.

Some questions you can ask yourself to gain better perspective are::

  • ‘What are they looking to gain from this relationship?’
  • ‘Where do they struggle most?’
  • ‘What are their goals for the quarter or the year?

By keeping these questions in mind, you can help your customers achieve their goals, and their eventual success will reinforce your organization’s values and best practices.

Don’t be afraid to apologize to your customers

No one is perfect and no one expects you to be. Any CSM who is 80% proactive and 20% reactive is hitting the mark. When things don’t go according to plan, belting out an “I’m sorry but…” isn’t a statement your customer wants to hear. “But” is the sign of an excuse coming. Instead, you should say, “Sorry, and…- ” so you acknowledge your mistake and follow that up by telling them how you plan on mitigating the situation and being proactive in the future.

We’re all human and things sometimes slip through the cracks, but the most important thing to keep in mind is how to move forward together. Your customers will want to hear an action plan to recover from the damage and in doing so, you are letting them know you care about their success.

In the event that the relationship is strained from ongoing conflict, it is up to both parties to decide whether or not the relationship is worth continuing. Not every customer will be a good fit for your organization, so it’s key to recognize this before too many resources are wasted by both of you.

Allow your customers to vent

You can be the most proactive CSM but somehow, somewhere, an angry customer is bound to pop up. When this happens, allow them to vent their feelings until the steam eventually blows off.

All that is expected of you in this situation is to remain calm. Even something as little as letting them know that you understand their frustration can help them settle down. In such situations, you need to be analytical and actively offer solutions that will help the customer.

Your customers want to know that they are valued and that their problems matter. By putting on a face or not using the correct tone, you might come off as apathetic and miss out on a chance to show them that you genuinely care about their success.

Convey empathy with a soft tone by using words such as “typically,” or “occasionally” or “possibly” with customers who might not respond the best to harsh sounding words like “always” or “never”.

Moreover, avoid talking over your customer. This is a given for any successful relationship. Usually, people vent because they want to be heard, not so someone can deliver immediate answers that cut into their monologue. Learn to listen. This will show your customers that you value their feedback, and help you turn your challenges into opportunities.

Find common ground with your customers

During a conflict, when both parties find a place of agreement, a common ground, they are more likely to have a relationship with long-term collaboration and cooperation. However, this does not mean you should forget about yourself and solve the problem by agreeing to everything the customer wants. This, in the long run, is an unsustainable way to resolve conflicts.

When a customer remains unhappy and rejects the solutions you provide, you should ask them what they would benefit from in their perspective. For example, use a statement like this:

“I’m sorry that you feel this solution won’t be the most beneficial. I’d love to hear what would make you happy, and see if we can work something out in a feasible way.”

If all alternative methods have been exhausted, it is up to you to lay out the limits of your service and conclude the interaction.

When all is said and done, it is important to manage customer expectations but make sure that it’s not done at the expense of your well-being. It might take time to adapt, but you’ll start seeing results as long as you keep being proactive, maintain a positive attitude, and encourage the conversation.