Becoming the Solution: How to Build Trust With Your Clients

Alexandra Latter is the Director of Professional Services at OnCall Health and a member of Vitally's Success Network.


Your clients are never going to come to you and ask what types of problems you can help them with.

They will never email you saying “I have a problem with my tech stack/workflow/a product I’m using in conjunction with yours and I’m not sure if it’s in your wheelhouse — can you help?” 

They won’t call you saying they need you to help them figure things out, UNLESS…

1. You have specifically solved that problem for them before

2. They have an extremely high degree of trust and confidence in you and your abilities

3. It’s adjacent to something they know your company deals with

Client-facing teams continually underestimate the amount of mental energy it takes clients in the middle of their day and with everything else they are facing to stop and consider “maybe my CSM for XYZ random SaaS platform has the answers to what I'm struggling with.” Even if you do, and you feel like it’s obvious. If you are client-facing and find yourself saying “well why didn’t my client just ask me about this feature/problem/product?” That is 100% a “you” problem.

It’s worth it to think about why you think this is obvious or clear to your clients. What do you say or what resources do you make available to clients on the features and services that you offer? Unless you have a phenomenal product marketing team, you could probably be doing more to help clients understand the potential impact of what you offer. 

I am going to use this piece to explore how you can get your clients to make the connection between you, your company and services and the problems you can solve for them more easily. This will be especially important for you if your role touches revenue. Problem-solving is the root of impactful sales. When you are solving your clients' problems for them, they will be willing to pay you if the pain point is acute enough. 

Growth Through Proactive Problem Solving

As a Customer Success Manager, it is critical that you get your customers to a place where they feel comfortable reaching out for all kinds of concerns. When your client reaches out to you proactively with their problems, you’re winning. You can identify opportunities for growth, problem areas, improvements, or potential risks before they blow up. 

You want your clients to see you in such a light that enables them to contact you for substantive issues (I’ll go into this more later, but there are also issues you don’t want them to contact you about). The things they know they don’t know how to solve. This is not easy and is completely rooted in trust and your perceived level of expertise. 

Your role is not just to be an expert on your platform, or the tools that you offer, but how your tools fit into their larger organization and tech stack. So, now we’ve established the “why,” let’s talk about the “how.” 

Let’s look at the first two levers: 

1. You have specifically solved that problem for them before

2. They have an extremely high degree of trust and confidence in you and your abilities

The perception of these levers can be managed with your clients by you as a CSM. In other words, you can’t control what your company is known for, generally, but you can control what issues you help your customers solve, and how much they trust and depend on your capabilities to get their programs to work.

If you have any control over the accounts that you work with, go for the “problem” accounts. When I first started as a CSM I was handed the book of all of the accounts that the current CSM didn’t want to work with anymore. Understandable — this is a rite of passage in the CS world. 

What I didn’t know was that this was a gift. Albeit, an unintentional one. I unlocked huge swaths of knowledge about the platform, the issues customers were trying to solve, and more. What the CS team didn’t understand then is that the biggest problem customers aren’t the ones who complain to support the most often, or the ones who don’t do their homework before kick off, but rather are the ones who ask for things that the product can’t do, and likely will never do

These accounts are discouraging, because they ask for things you feel you can’t help with as a CSM. If you can find solutions for these accounts, you will almost be guaranteed success in your role as a CSM long term.

How to Use the Two Levers of Growth

So, back to our two levers. Building trust and proactively offering services are the only ways to make people aware of what your knowledge base is. So, how to make your clients aware you have either solved that problem before, or build trust in your ability to find solutions? 

  1. Show the solutions you’ve worked on for other clients, i.e. create a newsletter, post in your customer community, LinkedIn, blog, or any kind of messaging vehicle to help them understand what you know, and how you can assist them. some text. Depending on bandwidth and your product, doing live demos of solutions can also be a big help. Most people I have worked with say that they are visual learners. It’s the rare person who asks for a support guide over a call with someone walking them through how something will actually look in practice.
  2. Offer related advice during scheduled calls. You don’t need to wait for issues to come up for your clients to offer recommendations. Have you heard about other solutions your team has put in place for other accounts? Raise it with your clients, and see what they say. You won’t know if it’s relevant to them or not until you tell them, and it will usually get them talking about other things that are on their mind.
  3. Look at the other tools in their stack. If you know your clients use another tool outside of your platform, do some light research on it and see if you can help them use it better with your platform, or integrate it, if that is an option for you. 

When clients are coming to you with their concerns it is the best way to build trust by handling the issues quickly and effectively. However, there is also the question of the wrong types of problems coming to your desk. You don’t want to risk your client thinking of you as their TAM or a support person if that isn’t a part of your role. 

Moreover, the opportunity cost is there when you are working on non-strategic issues for your accounts when you could be encouraging them to adopt features. The picture of you that starts to form in your customers’ mind gets reinforced over time with the issues you help them solve — stay away from support tickets and non-urgent/strategic items wherever possible. 

Related: What should CSMs really be responsible for?

And by the way, your clients will still forget what you do and what you offer. Timely reminders at the moment they are experiencing the problem (which is lucky timing or persistent outreach) are the best way to build your relationship as a trusted consultant with your clients.

Don’t expect those opportunities to happen organically, they almost never do.

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