Customer experience (CX) brings many benefits to top brands. One your Board will love is "incremental revenue". Indeed, research (1) shows that in transaction-based businesses, "good client experience" - a customer experience scoring 10/10 - achieves a revenue 2.4 times higher than one scoring between 1 and 3/10. So why not try a few "marketing tricks" in 2018?
I have noticed that B2B and technical companies that decide to change the way employees interact with clients often face a number of challenges to:
- Ensure everyone - not just Managers - embark on the transformation journey.
- Secure the swift implementation by teams who are not so marketing savvy.
- Switch from projects-based work to value-based lasting business relationships.
Kicking off this complex change process requires leadership drive but not only. It takes a lot of empathy, first and foremost, some readiness to change and consider new tools and training methods, setting realistic team goals and managing progress effectively. Try these four simple steps to optimise your customer experience.
1. Research the voice of the customer
Run a 360o review of the situation always starting with the client(s) to understand what is "a good customer experience": meet and/or phone your clients to understand their service, product and care expectations. Obtain feedback on the current delivery too. Some truths might be hard to hear yet it is essential to make sure you document the clients' words and perception, not yours.
"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning" Bill Gates
At this stage, map the “customer journey” to tell the story of the customer experience with all his/her client actions, thoughts but also emotions at all the brand “touch-points”. This will enable you to discover opportunities for growth and to refine your customer engagement strategy.
Robert Dew recently wrote an excellent post about the customer journey mapping process. There is no standard in UX maps but a recent Nielsen Norman Group survey (2) among practitioners - CMOs, Brand Strategists, Customer Experience Professionals - showed most maps look like the example below. The horizontal and vertical axis being entirely customised to reflect your business activities.
Source: Nielsen Norman Group
Try and engage your client in the transformation process discussing the process, potential benefits and challenges.
Then switch to the internal clients: talk to the Account Managers and their teams to hear their version of the story, challenges their experience with client care, expectations of a new way of working with clients and perception of the potential transformation hurdles. Use the research findings as the foundation for the following learning phase.
2. Improve soft and hard customer skills
Based on the above findings, develop a bespoke training for Account Managers, their teams and anyone interacting with customers. A team effort with everyone adopting a more customer-centric attitude.
The interactive training might cover:
- the importance of customer satisfaction
- why customer centric brands succeed
- what a customer centric approach looks like
- how to improve client relationships.
Offer pragmatic solutions and “easy-to-implement” changes: teams need to be able to test new ways within hours and on top of their current workload.
3. Set transformation goals then practice, practice, practice
Now is the time for teams to "own change". Coach them to set customer experience improvement goals that are sufficiently easy to implement and achievable in a short period of time, at least initially. Probably a bunch of "learning goals" rather than goals that stretch team members too much so they feel they are achieving quickly.
Then let your teams free to explore the new approach for a couple of months: drilling into client needs to build more customer-centric value, add new touch points during project, map client influencers, etc.
Provide support on-demand and have formal meetings every 2-3 weeks to review clients’ feedback, progress and to keep the focus on the customer experience transformation goals.
4. Review the outcomes and progress on the journey
The last step of the project requires a benchmark to close the loop with the initial 360o review, evaluate the outcomes and the impact of the culture shift. Set new goals for the following quarter including some that will be meaningful for your C-level executives such as incremental revenue from existing or new clients. Of course, CX improvements and revenue are not always in sync, so give your company executives a timeline for when to expect revenue gains.
Recent research (3) recommends measuring the customer experience in a business-to-business (B2B) environment on the basis of outcomes rather than adopting the input-output-based measures used in the business-to-consumer (B2C) context. The paper authors believe this approach generates opportunities for value co-creation throughout the journey.
On the journey map, a line could show the variation in the customer satisfaction levels before and after the transformation programme.
If you are interested in reading more, discover a case study outlining a recent project to transform the customer experience of an international civil engineering firm.
Virginie Vinel DipM MCIM
Co-founder and CEO
(1) Medallia Analysis research published in HBR.ORG
(3) "Strategic B2B customer experience management: the importance of outcomes-based measures", Journal of Services Marketing. 2017, Vol. 31 Issue 2, p172-184. 13p.