Customer experience (CX) is terrible for most these days. How bad, you ask? A survey by SiriusDecisions found 45 percent of B2B customers feel they aren’t getting the value promised them by their vendors, with 61 percent saying they aren’t willing to recommend their vendors. Still, despite data pointing out the negative business consequences, if you’re a B2B marketing leader on the hook for addressing customer experience improvement in your organization, it’s a big mountain to climb.
Because consistently delivering good CX requires smart, good people to change. Most people find change hard. And being a change agent takes courage and requires unilateral support from colleagues and company leadership.
Delivering an excellent customer experience requires companies to look inward and challenge strongly held beliefs. And it takes the vision and effort to face hard business problems. Even when companies embrace the challenge, progress takes sustained effort to nurture.
At this point you might be thinking, “Hey, I’m not a mountain climber – I like yoga! Isn’t there a better way?”
Why yes – there is a better way. You can listen, learn and adapt to break this big, messy problem down into pieces you can more easily manage.
I’ve faced the CX challenge at more than one good company. In each case, we needed clear answers to why products weren’t selling, why growth was slower than desired and why some customers left while others were loyal. What factor(s) in the customer experience made the difference?
How to Break Customer Experience Improvement into Bite-Sized Pieces
Gather Tribal Knowledge and Customer Feedback
Shocking news – your leaders and internal experts have strong opinions. And they’re clamoring to be heard. Your people know things and you should listen. Executives with large teams know the patterns of customer and employee pain. But frontline employees know details and nuanced information that can help you elevate CX. Coalescing this “tribal knowledge” is extremely valuable.
Most marketers stop here. Unsure of how to handle confidently delivered opinions from colleagues and executives, the temptation is to run off and try to serve the strongest voices.
This is where customer research comes in. The tribe has theories and knows common trigger points for customers. Customer research, however, reveals new ways to drive value that don’t typically emerge through the tribe. Customer feedback puts a bright spotlight on the problems that help us to earn their business.
That’s why you need both tribal (employee) and customer feedback. Employees usually can see what and how things break down. But it’s the outside-in customer view that often shows where things break down.
Move the Boulder in the Middle of the Road
Ok, let’s say that you brave the tribal input process and add the all-important voice of the customer. You report the findings. You’ve pinpointed what both customers and employees believe is wrong with the customer experience journey. Now what?
You need to take action and actually address the big challenges your research uncovers. You won’t see constant, satisfying progress until you do. Resist the impulse to pick only the low hanging fruit. Dealing with easier problems appeals to the need for speed and minimal effort that’s tempting for most normal humans. But it’s the equivalent of picking up pebbles from the side of the road, when what’s blocking progress is the big rock.
Time and money fly by when you’re trying to work around a big rock in the middle of your path. So, ignore a weak ‘why buy’ story, a lukewarm sales experience, or a disconnected customer service approach at your own peril. Whatever the big rock is, you have to face it head on. The longer it takes you to face the big issues, the longer you’ll see slow marketing pipelines, missed sales quotas, disappointing growth and tepid customer advocacy.
So find the fun in it. Get your pole vault and leap over the boulder. Lever it out of the path. Get dynamite out and blast it out of the way. Whatever the path, it’s time to free the genius of your people and figure out how to move the rock.
The Two Keys to CX Success
What’s the moral of the story? High-impact CX strategy is built on outside-in and inside-out research into prospect and customer needs.
- Strengthen your strategy with an outside-in view.
Ask customers questions directly. Be fearless. Ask for the truth, straight with no chaser. What’s working, what’s not? Current and potential customers are in the best position to tell you what works and what doesn’t. By listening directly, you’ll find quick wins. And listening directly will also help highlight the hard news you need to hear. Customers will tell you what’s broken about their experience with you. The very act of listening and working to improve their experience can win hearts and minds. Just be sure to follow up on something visible to them.
Get more than just net promoter scores (NPS). Dig deep with probing questions about your customers’ satisfaction at each key interaction point with you. Ask a range of questions, including open-ended ones. Go as deep as your customers will tolerate to see how you’re doing.
Share your findings. Provide your findings with frontline teams as well as executives, so you get a shared view of what customers think.
Tap the expertise and insights of industry watchers and analysts. If you can afford it, get their unfiltered assessment of the industry, you and your competitors.
- Fix the hard issues uncovered by your research.
In today’s competitive era, we all need to deliver measurable value in addressing hard problems that people will pay good money to solve. So, face the big rocks head on.
If prospects and customers don’t get the value of your product, or only a small pool of advocates really love it – figure out why. Fix your value proposition if it’s weak. Innovate in new ways to create demand and win new business in today’s digital era. Address barriers that prevent superior service. These are the things that help great companies grow.
Don’t get lost in trying to solve 100 smaller issues instead of moving the big rock. You’ll risk mistaking activity for impact.
Listen and learn – you’ll say goodbye to guesswork, and hello to educated investment decisions that drive higher satisfaction for customers and employees.