Using Role Play Scenarios to Help CSMs Navigate Tricky Situations

role play scenarios

It is important that Customer Success Managers know how to direct (or redirect) conversations with customers or industry leaders when the dialogue becomes challenging, and it will at some point.

Sticking to a script is beneficial when discussing the benefits of a product or service. When customer questions veer away from a script, however, Customer Success Managers should anticipate and be prepared for how best to respond.

Structured theoretical scenarios and guided role playing are great teaching tools that can help CSMs work their way through challenging conversations.

Role Playing in the Workplace

Role play is a technique that has been very successful for any type of business process.  For Customer Success, role play is an effective tool in obtaining and maintaining customer satisfaction. This article will discuss three different types of scenarios and how best to role play them.

Role play can help your team prepare for unexpected or difficult situations, and helps individuals obtain a level of comfort when coming across challenging situations or dialogues. Practicing before you have to face the real thing can make a big difference in defusing any stress or anxiety.

3 Examples of Role Play Scenarios for Customer Success Managers

The Angry Customer

This basic scenario is an exercise in communication and problem solving.

Undoubtedly your team has plenty of experience with this, but it can be good to revisit the basics from time to time to keep their skills fresh and tease out weak spots, or just to make sure that they’re ready if they end up on the wrong end of a phone call. This is a great opportunity for your managers to test the skills of their team and prepare them for what will hopefully be a rare occurrence.

How It Works

Have a team leader or someone with contextual experience take on the role of a customer with an issue specific to your product or service. Model their role off of one of your existing relationships (but don’t hew too close!) and have your CSMs walk them through your process.

Opinionated Key Opinion Leaders

This is an exercise in addressing challenging dialogue with a potential customer or Key Opinion Leader (KOL).

Every Customer Success Manager will come across challenges to their solutions. The dreaded, “No!” should be viewed as a temporary roadblock. Sometimes the challenge rests in finding another way to show the customer the benefit. Other times it may be finding the right product to fit within a customer lifestyle or organization. 

Pick cards out of a bowl that include different personalities and business titles your CSMs will encounter.

How It Works

Have your team brainstorm two different categories: 

  1. Clients and KOLs (ex: Joe Customer, Product Engineer, Purchasing Agent)

  2. Personalities (ex: Hard-to-Please, Data-Driven Questioner, Distracted)

Place each category in a separate bowl. Have one team member  pick a piece of paper from both bowls and share the title but not the personality trait. Have  another team member act as a CSM and begin the conversation with team member that is acting as the client

A mediator can stop the process to redirect the flow of conversation or invite other team members to share suggestions. 

Feedback is Your Friend

This is a visual exercise that shows the importance of messaging and feedback in product training and usage.

CSMs are often tasked with teaching clients how to use the product or how to use specific features so their clients can achieve their desired outcomes. Clearly explaining things is a skill that CSMs need to master. Feedback on product training can help them hone this skill, and will eventually lead to an increase in customer satisfaction and decrease in churn.

How It Works

Have a list of products, related or unrelated to your product, in a bowl. Have one member pick a topic and begin instructing another on how to use that product. The other team member should try to use the product according to the instruction given. 

Everyone watching should take notes and provide constructive feedback to help their team member maintain a clear message.

Other Role Play Ideas

There are many other types of role play scenarios that would be effective in helping CSMs obtain better results. Think of ways you can address the following topics with role play in your team:

  • Solution Sourcing: The Art of Dialogue and Persuasion

  • It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over: Customer Retention and Churn Reduction

  • What Not to Share: Maintaining Relationships and Product Updating

Customer Success Managers are all about the interactions. The more comfortable CSMs are in coming across challenging situations, the more successful their outcomes.

Do’s & Don’ts

  • DO role play with team members during every training session

  • DON’T forget to ask for feedback from your team on the exercises

  • DO prepare thoroughly in advance for the role play scenarios, as it decreases the time spent on the logistics and increases the time spent in role play interactions

  • DON’T interrupt as the mediator unless a team member seeks help or needs redirection

Sarah Pike

Sarah Pike, M.B.A., is a freelance marketing copywriter based in San Diego. She enjoys writing about business, fashion, food, healthcare, leadership, motivation and technology.