It’s hardly a new idea that sales teams need to understand and respond to what their customers want from their products and services. This kind of insight is part of any basic sales training. Accordingly, most organisations, whether B2B or B2C, work hard to design and market their proposition, highlighting features and benefits that they hope will beat their competitors, and win market share. But what if some of the most important issues for customers fall outside of the traditional sales process? Who is responsible for sales performance if the biggest deciding factor for new customers is what they hear from existing customers?
I’ve met firms who have confidently showed me their positive customer satisfaction ratings, without ever realizing how many sales opportunities they were missing due to an issue that wasn’t ever part of their survey! That’s why maximising sales performance depends on mapping and managing the customer experience – exploring how customers perceive issues in their lives and how/where interactions with companies fit in. It’s an approach that reflects their world, based on their perspective, not our products and our processes. Critically, customer experience insight enables companies to ‘tune in’ to where to make improvements that drives growth, including more frequent purchases, fewer complaints, more loyal behaviour and greater advocacy. And because customer experience isn’t built on an individual transaction but on cumulative encounters, conducting a satisfaction survey right after a transaction will capture some insight but nowhere near all.
Note that, as these clues are things that contribute to the customer experience, not just your company, some firms might feel like such issues are out of their control, even none of their business! Yet, all too often, it’s that ‘left-field’ insight that starts you thinking down another road, and brings you to ideas and actions that your competitors haven’t picked up. It stems from a mindset that all customer comments are valid (treat them as ‘expert in their own lives’), even if only some of the insight will ultimately be actioned. Some may be valuable only when combined correctly, perhaps with other data already in the business. There is no magic bullet but there is a technique for finding and applying such experience insight to drive performance.
Customer Experience brings a different perspective to issues of revenue and cost. Many businesses start out believing it costs too much money to create an experience – funds that could be better spent on new product development (NPD). However, customer experience understanding can identify not only product shortfalls, but also where to win customer loyalty through service delivery, or information provision. It can even highlight areas for cost-cutting, such as where customers may prefer self-service if reengineered (think ATMs, Oyster cards and beyond).
Sales leaders face tough choices everyday, constantly balancing where to invest their energy and ideas to achieve their objectives. Customer experience provides an opportunity to focus their ability to generate revenue through highlighting what customers value most, while cutting costs by eliminating issues that detract from the experience or are not highly valued.
Note: there are a number of other benefits to organisations of managing customer experience that indirectly affect sales, notably around employee satisfaction, and brand reputation. Such benefits matter to your investors and your wider ability to compete. But that’s the focus for another blog!
Download an executive summary of our Sept 2012 seminar on this topic: