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Sales Best Practices

Why Customer Experience Should Matter To Your Business

Audrey Weber's Avatar

Audrey Weber

Associate Content Editor

Industry experts often discuss customer experience in the context of B2C businesses, but it’s equally relevant in B2B. Here, too, your prospects or customers are individuals looking for a personalized connection with the brand. Amazon is a great example of a company that found great success in their customer-first approach for B2C ecommerce, and then applied these learnings to their B2B cloud offerings. The fundamentals are the same: it’s all about giving your customer what they want, and then some.

In this guide, we’ll do a deep dive into customer experience benefits, strategies, and resources.

What is Customer Experience?

Customer experience (CX) is how customers perceive your brand based on the interactions with your business at different stages of their journey—from pre-sales meetings to post-purchase support. It’s a subjective feeling from the customer’s perspective.

You may associate the Apple brand with words like high-end, superior quality, sleek, and/or expensive. These word associations are not the result of just one interaction, but the sum of many parts that include the brand’s product and service since the first Apple store opening in 2001.

“Customer experience is a combination of a stable, well-executed journey and a handful of special signature touchpoints which signal clearly to customers that you are different and distinctive.”

- Ian Golding, author of “Customer What: The Honest and Practical Guide to Customer Experience”

Customer experience vs. Customer service

Customer service is just one aspect of the customer experience. Customer service helps customers navigate problems or queries. The timeliness, friendliness, and helpfulness of the response all contribute to the quality of customer service.

Customer service is most relevant when the customer initiates communication. CX, on the other hand, encompasses all stages of the customer’s journey across multiple touchpoints or channels. For example:

CX Questions That Go Beyond Customer Service

  • What is the sales experience for the customer?
  • How is the product’s design and quality?
  • Is there a steep learning curve to use the product?
  • Does the brand spark pride of ownership for the customer?
  • What is the brand image in the media?
  • What is the quality of customer service?

    Basic Components of Customer Experience

    We say that customer experience is the sum of many parts, but what are these parts?

    Here are some of the building blocks of customer experience:

    Core Product Capabilities

    The hero of the story is the product. If your fundamental product is flawed or has inadequate features, customer service and support will not be able to make up for it. Once you have a solid product as your foundation, the next question is: how do you differentiate yourself from your competitor in a sea of similar products?

    Richard Branson, of Virgin Group fame, said, “The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them—preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.”

    One way to go above and beyond is to offer a great product design that celebrates customers’ choices and filters out their inconveniences.

    Tools and Technology

    After product development, the next step is to invest in tools and technology that simplify the customer interaction, such as:

    • An analytics platform that looks at customer usage patterns and personalizes recommendations.
    • A strategic combination of chatbots and human reps that work together to speed up and personalize customer service.
    • Artificial intelligence that helps reps answer customer questions while on a call.
    • Sentiment analysis that tracks and categorizes emotive signals in incoming emails.

    People and Culture

    How you treat your people is arguably just as important as how you treat your customers. Customers form impressions based on their interactions with your brand’s representatives. These are your customer service reps, partners, and employees.

    Your internal culture and how you treat the people within your organization will spill over to how they treat the customers. Focus on nurturing a supportive and growth-mindset culture within your company.

    “Employee experience drives customer experience. Make it your business to understand the picture of engagement in your organization.”

    - Ian Golding, author of “Customer What: The Honest and Practical Guide to Customer Experience”

    Touchpoints and Channels

    Depending on your business model, customers will interact through multiple touchpoints which can include:

    • Brick-and-mortar stores
    • Social media
    • Brand website
    • Mobile apps
    • Review sites
    • Ecommerce channels
    • Customer service phone calls and bots
    • Marketing channels such as SMS and email

    Find out which channels best serve your customer engagement strategy. You can determine if you are leveraging them effectively by monitoring metrics such as customer traffic, lead conversion ratio, sales increase, and customer satisfaction score on each channel. Realign your CX strategy if it’s skewed toward one channel. An omni-channel strategy is a must to thrive in our digitized and dynamic world.

    Why Customer Experience Matters

    In this world inundated with options, customers need a strong incentive to choose and stay loyal to your brand despite the competition.

    According to a 2019 Accenture report:

    • 62% of B2B buyers who make weekly purchases have switched sellers in the past year.
    • 36% plan to switch in the coming 12 months.
    • 80% of buyers would switch brands in a 24-month period.
    • One-third of B2B buyers report that their customer experience expectations have increased in the past year.

    These trends indicate declining brand loyalty. CX is one crucial factor that can really retain customers and maintain low churn rates.

    Low churn rates have a direct impact on your bottom line. Moreover, these loyal customers recommend your brand to others, which may be a more cost-effective way to generate new pipeline.

    “Happy customers are your biggest advocates and can become your most successful sales team.”

    — Lisa Masiello, author and entrepreneur

    A good product pitched at a competitive price can get you started in the business. But the difference between good and great companies, the ones that survive and the ones that are remembered for generations, is a positive customer experience.

    Customer Experience Management

    Customer experience management (CXM) is the process of planning and establishing processes that help a company understand its customer interactions throughout the buying lifecycle.

    When we talk about CX, we talk from the viewpoint of the customer—how does a customer see your brand? When we talk about CXM, we talk from the viewpoint of the business—what can a company do to improve CX?

    “It’s important to remember that customer perception is what it is — it’s not your role to say whether customers are right or wrong.”

    — Ian Golding, author of “Customer What: The Honest and Practical Guide to Customer Experience”

    It is your responsibility to align the perspective of the company with the perspective of the customer. Take the case of Slack, a business communication platform with CX at the heart of its business model. As an early mover in the market, the company depended on word-of-mouth to build its customer base. According to Gartner, Slack “moved up the CX pyramid from being useful and usable, to meeting needs that its customers didn’t know they had, to focusing on the inspirational and aspirational things that a passion for great collaboration can enable.”

    The company has a strong feedback culture: it actively solicits feedback through the app and social media channels and then works on updating its features accordingly. It’s no surprise then that its customer satisfaction score is a whopping 97%, which also reflects in its consistent revenue growth.

    Components of CXM

    Gartner defines customer experience management (CXM) as “the discipline of understanding customers and deploying strategic plans that enable cross functional efforts and customer-centric culture to improve satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.”

    Let’s look at some aspects of good customer experience management.

    1. Senior leadership onboard with CX culture: Leaders encourage a customer-centric approach rather than playing the numbers game. They believe that numbers will come when the customer is the focus.
    2. Positive customer service interactions: Customer service teams effectively resolve customer queries. Customers leave those interactions feeling that they made the right choice to invest in your product.
    3. Authentic approach to sales: No false pretenses and no overselling the product. The sales team is transparent on pricing and sets realistic expectations that can be met by the product and support teams.
    4. Comprehensive marketing: The marketing strategy integrates both digital and physical channels. Marketers have an ethical approach toward customer data.
    5. Respect to privacy: Companies earn the trust of customers by protecting personally identifiable information (PII) and other confidential data.
    6. A culture of “listening” to the customer: Customers know that you take their feedback seriously because you add features they ask for, improve UX, and introduce more convenient touchpoints.

    Steps to Create a Solid Customer Experience

    As CX is a subjective discipline, companies often struggle with where to start. Should you invest in R&D? Should you spend your time training your customer service reps? Should you be shopping for CX enhancing technologies? Yes, to all this and more.

    Let’s simplify this with a step-by-step approach to CX.

    1. Create a CX strategy (CXM): CXM is a top-down process. It starts with senior leaders designing a framework to measure, analyze, and improve CX at each touchpoint. A group of experts then translate this framework into specific processes and action plans to implement on the ground. This way, customer experience becomes rooted in a company’s DNA.

    2. Bring the CX mindset into every part of the organization: Most companies ensure that the sales, marketing, and customer service departments have a CX mindset, but they may ignore other support functions. For instance, when buyers walk into your office, their interaction at the reception desk could be a deciding factor. When buyers renew the software license annually, they expect a seamless payment gateway.

      “The functions which are less “on show” – finance, facilities, HR, Risk, IT, Distribution, and Internal Communication – need to be part of your assessment. They influence the environment, culture, and context in which decisions about customers are made.”

      — Ian Golding, author of “Customer What: The Honest and Practical Guide to Customer Experience”

      3. Acknowledge different customer needs: Even though your customers may be buying the same product, they each may have a different motivation for doing so. Get insight into their unique rationale, different buyer personas, and where exactly they are in the buying journey at this point.

        Also, in a B2B context, it’s important to recognize that one customer equals a group of people at different levels within an organization. Find out who the key decision maker is and tailor your strategy accordingly.

        4. List all your touchpoints: Customers may interact with your brand through more touchpoints than you recognize. Here is a list of touchpoints to start with.

        It’s important for these touchpoints to not operate in silos. To give your customer a true multi-channel experience, you need data exchange between your touchpoints. For instance, you don’t want to be sending salesy ad pitches to a customer who’s already further ahead in the buying journey.

        5. Integrate technology into your CX framework: CXM could appear overwhelming at times. To keep track of all customers throughout their lifecycle at all touchpoints and then personalize products and experiences to each of them isn’t straightforward. It’s a big ask from your employees—your sales, marketing, and service teams.

        Technology is the superpower you need to give your employees to solve this problem. It gives them data to make decisions and automation to increase productivity. For example, a smart AI platform that listens to sales calls and analyzes buyer sentiment could be a lifesaver for your sales teams.

        6. Create self-help resources: Make it easy for your customer to learn about your product. Anticipate their questions proactively and create an FAQ that answers even their simplest query. Create whitepapers and webinars that demonstrate the value of your product, and a self-paced advanced product training platform for enterprise clients (e.g. Outreach University)

        B2B purchases often involve a big initial investment and steep training effort. Buyers want data that points to clear ROI before they dip into their wallet.

        Case studies and feedback from other customers help potential customers understand how your product helps them overcome their specific challenges.

        7. Create feedback mechanisms: As CX is all about perceptions, it’s important to have structured methods in place to track and record experiences. The only sure way to know what your customers are seeing, hearing, and feeling is to ask them. Feedback mechanisms replace speculation with concrete data and help narrow in on improvement opportunities.

        Golding refers to a feedback mechanism as “a touchpoint in its own right.” He also asks to “design the feedback mechanism to ‘fit in’ to the journey.” In essence, get customer feedback at multiple points—before a purchase, when they are shopping around, right after a purchase, during and after a service interaction, and at different channels such as apps, websites, social media, emails, and review sites. Finally, use the feedback to improve the customer experience.

        Measure and Analyze Customer Experience

        Through surveys and feedback forms, you can gauge the customer sentiment and compute relevant marketing metrics. Metrics, by their quantitative nature, are suitable for comparisons and answering questions such as: Are we doing better with CX after the launch of a new marketing campaign?

        Two warnings though, before we review a few useful metrics:

        • Don’t rely too much on just one metric. For instance, if the customer satisfaction rate is high after a specific interaction, but the overall net promoter score is low, find out why—perhaps there are other touchpoints and interactions that haven’t met their expectations.
        • Understand the big picture behind the numbers. For instance, it’s not just enough to know that the customer effort score is high; you also need to investigate what factors are making their life difficult, and how you can help resolve them.

        7 Key CX Metrics

        No

        Metric/KPI

        Definition

        Process

        How it helps measure CX

        1

        Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

        Total score given by respondents/Number of responses

        Rated on a scale of 0 to 10.

        Quick and simple way to gauge the customer’s reaction to an interaction.

        2

        Net Promoter Score (NPS)

        (Number of promoters – Number of detractors)/Number of responses

        Rated on a scale of 10; Respondents categorized as promoters, detractors, or passives based on their survey response.

        Higher NPS scores indicate stronger brand loyalty.

        3

        Customer Effort Score (CES)

        Total score given by respondents/Number of responses

        Rated on a scale of 0 to 10.

        Higher CES indicates customers had an effortless experience.

        4

        Employee Engagement (eNPS)

        Total score given by respondents/Number of responses

        Questions can be rated on a scale of 0 to 10; some questions can be subjective as well.

        Measures employee satisfaction and how likely they are to recommend working with your company to someone else.

        5

        Customer Churn

        (Number of customers at the start of a period – Number of customers at the end of a period)/Number of customers at the start of a period

        Systems in place to compute the number of customers.

        Measures customer attrition during a period.

        6

        Time to resolve service tickets

        Total time to resolve service tickets/Number of tickets

        Ticketing system tracks resolution time.

        Measures the effectiveness of your service team; Also indicates product gaps that lead to repeated tickets.

        7

        Focus group discussions

        Qualitative feedback

        Focus groups identified as a representative sample of all your customer profiles.

        Brings out tougher discussions in the open and gives an opportunity to see the big picture behind quantitative scores.


        Customer Experience Resources

        Books

        The Customer of the Future by Blake Morgan

        Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the "Customer" in Customer Experience by Annette Franz

        The Convenience Revolution by Shep Hyken

        Customer What?: The honest and practical guide to customer experience by Ian Golding

        Punk CX by Adrian Swinscoe

        CXM Tools

        Outreach Kaia: Real-time virtual assistant for sales calls

        Outreach Success Plans: Collaboration hub for buyers and sellers through the deal lifecycle

        Outreach Insights: Buyer sentiment analysis on sales activities

        Customer Thermometer: CX surveys

        Jira Service Desk: Customer service ticketing software

        Gliffy: Customer journey mapping tool

        Adobe AEM: Digital experience platform

        Empower Your Employees with CX Tools

        Customers can tell if you aren’t being authentic in your approach to CX. To enable your employees to deliver great experiences, you need to give them access to the best tools in the marketplace.

        Outreach Kaia is an intelligent virtual assistant that listens to your sales calls and helps your team respond to customer queries with real-time suggestions. Think of Kaia as a coach who logs into calls and handholds sales reps.

        Outreach Insights is a machine-learning powered tool that sifts through your various sales activities and helps distinguish between the ones that work from ones that don’t. It answers the key question: how buyers respond to a specific sales strategy, so you’re not shooting in the dark.

        Learn more about Outreach products and request a demo now.

        Improve your CX with Kaia and Insights

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