Having difficult conversations

Options
Anita Toth
Anita Toth Member Posts: 246 Expert
Photogenic 5 Insightfuls First Anniversary
edited August 2023 in CS Conversations
I'm posting this question to find out more about how others navigate difficult conversations. I wasn't trained in any of my jobs on how to have hard or difficult conversations. Eventually I got training but I had to take a course on my own.

I'm curious, does your company train on having difficult conversations and how to handle them?

or did you have to pay for your own training like I did?

If you did get any training on handling difficult conversations, what did you find the most useful?





Tagged:

Comments

  • Anna Alley
    Anna Alley Member, CS Leader Posts: 70 Expert
    Photogenic First Anniversary First Comment Name Dropper
    edited November 2020
    Options
    Hey Anita,

    A really good program that our company uses is called "Crucial Conversations".  There are books, but also courses related to this and it creates a shared language across the entire company. It is often positioned as more of a way of having difficult conversations between co-workers, but I've found it can be really beneficial for speaking with customers as well.
  • Jeremy Donaldson
    Jeremy Donaldson Member Posts: 71 Expert
    Office Hours Host 2022 First Anniversary GGR Blogger 2021
    edited November 2020
    Options
    @Anita Toth - This is a great topic, and one that has come up on the CS office hours before.

    I think the way your handle a difficult conversation is dependent upon the type of issue, the personality of the customer, and just how big is the issue - meaning is the issue bigger for your company or the customer?

    For issues pertaining to product or organizational misalignment, it is important to fully listen and understand the customer's pain, explain their problem back to them to make sure you understand, then politely and transparently address the concerns and a plan of action.

    For situations where someone is rude or abusive, it might be best to involve a company leader as no one should be subject to such a relationship.
  • Anita Toth
    Anita Toth Member Posts: 246 Expert
    Photogenic 5 Insightfuls First Anniversary
    edited November 2020
    Options

    Thanks for sharing this @Anna Alley. I hadn't heard of the book and courses but it sounds interesting. (I just checked out their website.)

    I'm glad to hear that you were able to adapt the training to help with customer conversations. 

    If you don't mind answering, what's the biggest skill or takeaway from the training that has helped the most with customer conversations?


    ------------------------------
    Anita Toth
    Customer Retention/Churn Consultant
    ------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------
    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-12-2020 11:34
    From: Anna Alley
    Subject: Having difficult conversations

    Hey Anita,

    A really good program that our company uses is called "Crucial Conversations".  There are books, but also courses related to this and it creates a shared language across the entire company. It is often positioned as more of a way of having difficult conversations between co-workers, but I've found it can be really beneficial for speaking with customers as well.

    ------------------------------
    Anna Alley
    Director of Customer Success & Advocacy
    ------------------------------

    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-12-2020 09:24
    From: Anita Toth
    Subject: Having difficult conversations

    I'm posting this question to find out more about how others navigate difficult conversations. I wasn't trained in any of my jobs on how to have hard or difficult conversations. Eventually I got training but I had to take a course on my own.

    I'm curious, does your company train on having difficult conversations and how to handle them?

    or did you have to pay for your own training like I did?

    If you did get any training on handling difficult conversations, what did you find the most useful?







    ------------------------------
    Anita Toth
    Customer Retention/Churn Consultant
    ------------------------------
  • Anita Toth
    Anita Toth Member Posts: 246 Expert
    Photogenic 5 Insightfuls First Anniversary
    edited November 2020
    Options
    @Jeremy Donaldson   I missed the discussion on office hours. ?

    You've made some great points here, especially in listening to the customer's pain and being transparent.

    Thanks for sharing. You've given me a few things to think about. 


     
  • Matt Myszkowski
    Matt Myszkowski Member Posts: 143 Expert
    First Comment Photogenic First Anniversary
    edited November 2020
    Options
    Hi @Anita Toth

    Great question, and yes I have ensured my CSMs in previous roles have had the training to ensure they can manage those "Difficult Conversations".

    I am lucky that most companies I have worked for have their own internal training teams so we have used them. What I have found though is that most companies invest in sales training either through internal trainers or external trainers, and that multiple elements of that sales training including having difficult conversations is transferable. So the suggestion is, reach out to your sales peer and see what content you can steal, or can you split the budget with them for the elements that address your needs and that of your team.
  • Anita Toth
    Anita Toth Member Posts: 246 Expert
    Photogenic 5 Insightfuls First Anniversary
    edited November 2020
    Options

    @Matt Myszkowski    I like this suggestion of using sales training to help with having those conversations and tailoring it to the CSM role.

    CSMs are in a very unique spot -- they serve the customer and serve the company. Sales is there just on behalf of the company and doesn't serve the customer/client. While customer support is there to serve both customer and company but doesn't have the relationship aspect that CSMs have.

    Certainly worth investigating role plays that help address the unique situation that CSMs are in.

    Thanks for the feedback. ?
     

  • Kelly McGillis
    Kelly McGillis Member Posts: 3 Seeker
    Photogenic First Anniversary
    edited November 2020
    Options
    Hi Anita,

    I would highly recommend reading "Fierce Conversations" by Susan Scott. She provides examples that apply to both personal and professional life, which I thought was very valuable.

    She brings up the great point that every individual has different experiences, strengths, and skills that impact how they perceive situations, so it's important to reconcile the opposing realities that various stakeholders might hold.

    There are also a lot of great examples on how to acknowledge an elephant in the room, as well as how to create trust by showing genuine curiosity and asking questions that ensure that your client's goals are met. I think this is a really important part of customer success! If your conversations aren't able to penetrate the surface, you might be wasting energy on achieving whatever you or the client thought was the most easily attainable outcome, rather than something they truly desire.

    I have to admit, I still have a few chapters to go, but I've really been enjoying it, and it makes a great focus for a book club choice!
  • James Conant
    James Conant Member Posts: 37 Expert
    First Anniversary
    edited November 2020
    Options
    Hi Anita - It def makes sense to invest in training if your company doesn't offer it. I see some good suggestions here so I will offer some general advice I've given my teams - 
    • Always prepare beforehand, if you can. I do a 360 on their acct and then I write down key points I want to address (though, see next step....). Take some deep breaths. Find your inner calm and stay there. 
    • Practice(!) Active listening - its a soft skill that can be developed. As they talk write down key points and tell them you're taking notes. Be aware - they may or may not be telling you the real issues  - you have to find the root issues (you'll develop an antenna for these over time). Ask clarifying questions. Acknowledge vocally that your listening (uh-huh, oh ok, etc). Your job is to find the real problem.
    • Show Empathy, Say you're sorry. Try to see the problem from their perspective (IMPT!!). I try to "picture" in my mind how I'd feel if faced with the same issue. 
    • Let them vent. Don't take it personally. You are the release valve. They need to get it out. Be calm, always.
    • Acknowledge without agreeing. Easily said, harder to do. Again, it's a soft skill that must be developed. Sometimes NO is the right answer. How and when you say it takes practice. Practice scenarios with your colleagues. Conflict Resolution training is very effective - look to Coursera, etc
    • Agree upon actions and the timing of such and memorialize them (email etc) then do it. On the next call etc START with those and their status. Always remember your customer doesn't see what you do behind your walls and they need to feel/see movement. (this applies to all meetings by the way).
    • Remember, you will not make everyone happy or be able to fix every situation satisfactorily. Do your best, and give yourself some grace. These conversations are stressful and can take a lot out of you.
    I hope you find this helpful.
    Jim


    ------------------------------
    James Conant
    ------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------
    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-12-2020 09:24
    From: Anita Toth
    Subject: Having difficult conversations

    I'm posting this question to find out more about how others navigate difficult conversations. I wasn't trained in any of my jobs on how to have hard or difficult conversations. Eventually I got training but I had to take a course on my own.

    I'm curious, does your company train on having difficult conversations and how to handle them?

    or did you have to pay for your own training like I did?

    If you did get any training on handling difficult conversations, what did you find the most useful?







    ------------------------------
    Anita Toth
    Customer Retention/Churn Consultant
    ------------------------------
  • Pam Micznik
    Pam Micznik Member Posts: 50 Expert
    5 Likes Name Dropper First Comment Photogenic
    edited November 2020
    Options
    Isn't it awesome that what makes you good at being a CS professional makes you good at being a person?

    You may find "Fierce Conversations" by Susan Scott is available online at your library.
  • Anita Toth
    Anita Toth Member Posts: 246 Expert
    Photogenic 5 Insightfuls First Anniversary
    edited November 2020
    Options

    Thanks for this suggestion @Kelly McGillis. ??  Sounds like the book I'm looking for. I just got an Amazon gift card sent to me 5 minutes ago -- I know now how I'm going to use it. ?


  • Anita Toth
    Anita Toth Member Posts: 246 Expert
    Photogenic 5 Insightfuls First Anniversary
    edited November 2020
    Options
    There definitely is overlap between the personal and professional. Having difficult conversations can be practiced in both worlds.
  • Anita Toth
    Anita Toth Member Posts: 246 Expert
    Photogenic 5 Insightfuls First Anniversary
    edited November 2020
    Options
    Fantastic suggestions @James Conant. Letting them vent without getting caught up in the details is an incredibly powerful activity. Just like we all do, they want to be heard. They want to be acknowledged. And sometimes this is the only place they can 'really let go' and let it all out.

    Once that steam is released, it's amazing how the conversation can then move forward.

    Thanks for all these suggestions. Super helpful. ?
  • Kmoertle
    Kmoertle Member Posts: 8 Contributor
    First Anniversary Photogenic
    edited November 2020
    Options

    @Anita Toth - you've received a lot of great suggestions on this thread.  Great book recommendations along with specifics individuals shared.

    I actually created a training for sales and customer success professionals on this very topic. My sole reason for creating the course is because I found this to be such an incredibly important skill required for any successful CSM or sales professional yet it was a skill that not many had mastered.   I was seeing CSM's reacting vs. responding which was causing a less than optimal experience for the client and less than optimal results for our company. I was also noticing that were were 'giving away the farm' because of unrealistic demands from the customer that our team didn't know how to handle effectively.  I also noticed there were revenue generating opportunities hidden within these difficult situations that were not being pursued. 

    So I created a training course to address all of the above.  Here is the A.V.A.T.A.R. framework I teach (if this is helpful):
    - A - Active Listening (critical to solving the right problem and building connection with the client)
    - V - Value (get curious and find what the real value is to the client and to you so that you are working towards a mutually beneficial outcome)
    - A - Attitude (your attitude determines your outcome so check your attitude to ensure you're setting yourself up for success)
    - T - Think bigger (use this situation to explore if there is a hidden revenue opportunity or relationship building opportunity available to you)
    - A - Accountability (this is another critical step in building trust with your clients; do what you say you will do and stay with it until the end)
    - R - Resolution (how you navigate the discussion with the client when you are not able to give them all they are asking for has a big impact on whether the conversation goes well or poorly.  There are tips and tricks on how to do this).

    I hope this helps.

  • Anita Toth
    Anita Toth Member Posts: 246 Expert
    Photogenic 5 Insightfuls First Anniversary
    edited November 2020
    Options
    Wonderful stuff @Kelly Moertle. Thanks for sharing. Sounds like it has a lot what CSMs need to succeed in these conversations. I like the AVATAR acronym, very helpful in remembering all the moving parts in these types of conversations. ??

    ------------------------------
    Anita Toth
    Customer Retention/Churn Consultant
    ------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------
    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-16-2020 11:48
    From: Kelly Moertle
    Subject: Having difficult conversations

    @Anita Toth - you've received a lot of great suggestions on this thread.  Great book recommendations along with specifics individuals shared.

    I actually created a training for sales and customer success professionals on this very topic. My sole reason for creating the course is because I found this to be such an incredibly important skill required for any successful CSM or sales professional yet it was a skill that not many had mastered.   I was seeing CSM's reacting vs. responding which was causing a less than optimal experience for the client and less than optimal results for our company. I was also noticing that were were 'giving away the farm' because of unrealistic demands from the customer that our team didn't know how to handle effectively.  I also noticed there were revenue generating opportunities hidden within these difficult situations that were not being pursued. 

    So I created a training course to address all of the above.  Here is the A.V.A.T.A.R. framework I teach (if this is helpful):
    - A - Active Listening (critical to solving the right problem and building connection with the client)
    - V - Value (get curious and find what the real value is to the client and to you so that you are working towards a mutually beneficial outcome)
    - A - Attitude (your attitude determines your outcome so check your attitude to ensure you're setting yourself up for success)
    - T - Think bigger (use this situation to explore if there is a hidden revenue opportunity or relationship building opportunity available to you)
    - A - Accountability (this is another critical step in building trust with your clients; do what you say you will do and stay with it until the end)
    - R - Resolution (how you navigate the discussion with the client when you are not able to give them all they are asking for has a big impact on whether the conversation goes well or poorly.  There are tips and tricks on how to do this).

    I hope this helps.


    ------------------------------
    Kelly Moertle
    KCM Coaching, LLC
    ------------------------------

    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-12-2020 09:24
    From: Anita Toth
    Subject: Having difficult conversations

    I'm posting this question to find out more about how others navigate difficult conversations. I wasn't trained in any of my jobs on how to have hard or difficult conversations. Eventually I got training but I had to take a course on my own.

    I'm curious, does your company train on having difficult conversations and how to handle them?

    or did you have to pay for your own training like I did?

    If you did get any training on handling difficult conversations, what did you find the most useful?







    ------------------------------
    Anita Toth
    Customer Retention/Churn Consultant
    ------------------------------