As a customer success leader, you are no doubt well-versed in the importance of listening to your customers. When done properly, listening builds strong relationships and without this skill, trust suffers.

There are countless books and resources focusing on the importance of listening in all aspects of life. While there’s many skills to learn, listening is one of the most important ones we should be aware of.

Our focus is on how customer success managers should listen to both clients – those inside of the organization as well as outside clients that are paying for a product or service.

1. Listen First, than take action

Customer success management professionals talk to customers in several ways that may include, but are not limited to:

• What is your opinion of XYZ feature?

• What is the problem you have with X?

• Why are you contemplating abandoning us?

Customers will often share feedback with you if you lend them an ear, but even when they do there may be information that’s left off the table.

Asking questions allows you to guide the conversation and learn what they want to talk about.

Rather than starting with a barrage of open-ended personal questions, write them down so you can come back to them later. Open your conversation by asking one closed question that begins with “would you …”

By asking your customers a simple question, you can steer them towards the problem they’re experiencing.

Many customer success leaders are required to have many phone conversations in their job. This can be hard even though you cannot read facial expressions from a distance, like with video or in person meetings.

If you have to use your phone when assisting a customer, make sure you are actively listening and following along by responding with simple words such as “Got it”, “Okay” and “Makes sense.

2. Ask for Clarification

As soon as the customer starts talking, take some notes. The customer will love knowing you’re actively listening to their story and taking down their words.

When the customer has let you respond after asking questions, refer to your own set of questions.

Make sure you fully understand what the customer has confided in order to be of better service.

3. Repeat Back

In order for your customer to know you understand their needs, make sure you ask questions clarifying what they are asking before just giving a response.

Too often, we believe we understand the situation and take action when it’s not yet clear what the problem actually is. Taking action on a problem without examining the data can have disastrous results – even if our intention is good.

Once you have repeated the necessary information back to a customer and they acknowledge that you understood them, let them know what will happen with their input. Make sure they are aware of your plan for future use so that it doesn’t feel like their valuable data is disappearing into a black hole.

4. Take Action

If you told the customer you would take action, now is the time to do the task. Not all data points are important, but each deserves attention and tracking for future reference.

When you have a calendar reminder to bring up information in your next CS team meeting, or need to pick up the phone and act on something more urgent, do it immediately.

Waiting to take action can simply create dust and lose you trust with your customers if they begin to notice nothing happens with the information they entrust.

Most CEOs of companies don’t have time in a day to focus on the bigger picture (i.e., not just responding to fires). To overcome this, put your thoughts together each morning–review everything from yesterday and try to address problems or act on deadlines. Use that hour every morning as sort of a gut check for how your company is handling clients.

5. Report Back

A forgotten step that often gets overlooked is reporting back to the original creators. So much helpful feedback can be given in this way. Information might help fix a bug, streamline business, or create more seamless experiences for clients.

This customer input is gold but, unless they know it’s being taken seriously and considered, they’ll stop sharing. Reporting back in this way takes time away from their job so you want to say thank you for their input.

Employees should be reminded of their positive contributions as well as warned about forthcoming changes.

Send an over-the-top thank you when someone provides valuable information to your company. Since these gestures will be memorable and people know you’ll care about their input, they’ll continue to share good ideas with you moving forward.

6. Seek Input & Repeat

Use this technique to create the never-ending feedback loop that will push your customer engagement and ultimately make them a much happier customer.

Ask them what they think could have made the process better or what else is on their mind.

Customers will likely provide more feedback when they feel that you are listening, so it is important to reward open and honest communication.

Customers will be more willing to work with you when they know that you are listening and responding to their feedback. They will feel confident in your products or services knowing that you value them enough to take the time to help.

The outcome: Greater customer trust