My daughter got her driver's permit two weeks ago. Now we are in the somewhat terrifying stage of teacher her to drive.

She's taking every chance she can get to practice, and truth be told, she's pretty good. I anticipate she will be a great driver by the time she turns 16.

One message I found myself repeating to her from the passenger seat is "be predictable."

Stay straight and steady when checking your blind spot.

Keep your speed up before entering the turn lane.

Keep pace with the traffic around you.

Use your blinker.

Be predictable to other drivers on the road.

(Note: I didn't come up with this myself. Someone smarter than me at CS100 gave me this tip a few weeks ago. I can't remember who it was, but if it was YOU, please remind me).

When it comes to communication, especially with customers, we need to follow the same rule: be predictable.

Predictability in any relationship is key to building trust. And trust is the currency of relationships and business partnerships.

As individuals, we can be predictable in subtle but important ways.

Consider the following statement:

"I'll get back to you when I know more."

This is an unpredictable statement. Maybe we're waiting on a teammate to provide an answer or to take an action on our behalf. But we must control what we can control, and make outward commitments we can keep.

For instance, a support rep might depend on an engineer to weigh in on a technical issue. But she can communicate to the customer in a predictable way.

Even if the resolution is out of her hands, she has full control over the commitments she makes to the customer. Like this...

"I'm waiting on word from our engineering team on this. I'll get back to you by the end of the day Monday with an update on where we stand."

The commitment she made isn't to provide the resolution by a certain time. She committed to following up within a specific timeframe.

If she doesn't have the answer by then, she'll provide an update at the prescribed time, and make a new commitment for the next update. Behind the scenes, perhaps she'll escalate to get the answer she needs for the customer.

That's a deterministic and predictable way to communicate to a customer who doesn't need to know the inner workings of our teams and processes. They just need the reassurance that comes from us making and keeping good commitments.

The same principle applies to product enhancement requests and other customer success, sales, and support interactions.

Companies must train their people to communicate predictably.

But predictability doesn't stop there.

A company is at its best for customers when it combines customer-centric communication with predictable engagement cadences, such as...

  • Podcasts - weekly
  • Newsletters - weekly/monthly
  • User group events - weekly/monthly
  • Customer spotlights - weekly/monthly
  • Product update webinars - monthly/quarterly
  • Product release schedules - bi-weekly/monthly
  • Product feedback submission reviews - monthly
  • Recurring user webinars and office hours - weekly/monthly

(frequencies are suggestions only.)

Repetitive programs give customers access to a menu of help, support, and enablement options without having to connect with a customer success or support rep every time they have a need.

The people who create these offerings are different than your CSMs, implementation specialists, and support reps.

They are program builders, customer marketers, and community managers. They have experience in one-to-many and many-to-many engagement strategies.

They generate the proverbial tide that lifts all boats, making everyone more efficient and effective. And making your company feel more accommodating and present for your users.

Combining customer-centric individuals with reliable, programmatic customer collaboration experiences is a winning recipe for customer success.

How are you working to become more predictable for your customers?