The article covers six behaviors of leaders who walk the talk and are helping to create the best customer experience.
It is slightly lofty in terms of the "what and why" with only a few hints of "how".
However, the main reason I grabbed this article is in the last behavior:
"a leader... committed to transparency and trustability – ensuring that the organization’s official policy is always to act in the customer’s interest, even when it might not yield the same level of short-term profit."
In my simple mind this means having business rules and procedures which allow the employees to "act" on their own. Don't let them check their brains at the door, let them make decisions and provide them with the proper tools.
If you are curious how this might look:
"The Ritz-Carlton has for many years given staff $2,000 of discretion (yes, this is per employee per guest) to be used to solve any customer complaint in the manner the employee feels is appropriate."
"The days when you can control your brand through your website are long gone. Customers are getting information about your brand and products through a number of different channels and if you aren't listening and engaging these channels, you won’t only miss new business opportunities, but will quickly see the competition pass you by."
"While some form of social in any enterprise setting is now commonplace, just because you add a social feature to your application doesn't mean that you have transformed into a social business and are succeeding in using social to improve the customer experience."
"Doing social for social sake won’t get you anywhere. Organizations must move beyond a social checklist and truly understand how to connect, collaborate and improve customer experiences and then act." By John Newton, (@johnnewton)
John's article is more around the "what and why". Starting from the top and working down towards the "how", without getting into the details.
His thought process around how a B2B company may need to transform to revolve around the customer while using social tools seems dead on to my experience over the years.
Think about it this way. In the past, the "main voice" of the customer was gathered in round about ways and was always filtered, some way, some how. Instant insights into what customers liked or disliked around products, features and capabilities from their own words was slow to come to the table.
Now a person can listen in directly to customer and prospect dialogues around their company products and brand. Hearing directly from those who are active on social sites. (Which is never all of the customer base and may not be a majority today in many industries.)
Truely listening to the customer voice allows companies to begun the transition to a company who connects and collaborates with their customers in real time. Something which was more difficult to do in years past.
If your customers and prospects are active on social sites their insights, ideas and suggestions can help improve the overall customer experience for others.
"There’s a lot of buzz around the action of “storytelling.” It’s a trendy term.
"Some marketers hijack storytelling as the art nouveau of their work. I suppose that’s fine, but it still rings generic."
"Nurses, we live storytelling. Our work is storytelling. The intimacy in the care we provide is like a Bob Dylan song because storytelling doesn’t have to be the feel-good, inspire-the-world marketing scheme. It’s a lived life."
"Storytelling—good storytelling—encompasses the grit and the grime. It is the real, and yes, sometimes it is happy, but sometimes it’s about suffering and pain and a mixture of all those things."
Why do most people trust nurses? Think about why this is in your own mind. Is it the focus on caring for the patient?
Now turn around and view the training and education used to bring your own employees up to speed on "how to care" for your customers.
Have their lips been loaded with "fairy tales" of how great the company is. Or do they know the "lessons learned", the "war stories" of the past?
Most people will agree there is no such thing as a perfect life, or a perfect company. Being able to tell life lessons to customers about helping others may just move the needle on their experience when things have gone south.
It works for nurses to offer up hope in times of need by telling us about others who have gotten through what it is we are about to face. Offering up war stories of the past on how you have helped other customers in similiar situations helps calm the waters on both sides of the table when issues arise.
Than switch to a story tending mode and extract the full story of how the customer ended up in the situation they are in today. It is not always about our product and/or service. However, part of caring for the customer is forming a human to human connection while helping them solve their issues.
Using the power of story to have a conversation is what the best nurses do with us if you think back to a positive experience.They know how to build trust one story at a time. And always remember, keep the stories short, concise and to the point. Use them to extract the customer's story, which is the goal.
"Little Data is a collection of information on an individual or smaller group of customers. Rather than using this data to spot a trend, the company uses the data to customize the customer’s experience."
Big Data: "While the collection of data is broad, based on a large amount of information and customer feedback, these companies are able to filter through it to understand general customer behavior and trends." By Shep Hyken
Even though the article is a survey based on consumer purchasing habits, B2B is not that far behind the findings.
Such as most of the buy-sell cycle can be done on line. And if the only way to contact your company is via a phone, (or not via a phone), this can create a negative first impression.
As customers we want to deal with the tools we use everyday as means to contact, interact, match products to needs, and receive after sales support.
This is not to say we should run off and setup numerous ways for customers to interact with our company. Yet there are always ways to evolve towards what it is our best customers want us to deliver.
In the B2B space, what the main stream market is doing is not as critical as what our sweet spot is lacking. Watch and listen to which tools your customers are using on a daily basis to make their jobs easier. By incorporating these tools into the overall "product life/usage" cycle helps improve the customer experience.
"The customer experience is the accumulation of elements that make a visit on your page unique and memorable."
"You might have created the perfect website with a very clear interface and an intuitive linking of your pages, you would still like to be able to assist your visitors when they have questions."
"Some websites completely ignore this aspect - leaving their customers on their own - and some overdo it - covering them with pop-ups and unnecessary information."
"There are usually two situations that you want to avoid: the first one is having a sales jumping on you even before you had time to check out a single product, and the second one is having sales ignoring you completely when you would actually require some advice." - Julien Rio
As discussed by Christopher in the article, while customer centric moves to being buyer centric. The buy-sell cycle becomes a conversation, not a one way "pitch" by sales and marketing.
The power of story telling and story seeking combined with a sales methodology is the focus begins to shift in the right direction. It is not about "how" we sell. It is about how the customer buys.
By actively seeking the buyers story, we align ourselves with their needs and can taylor our messaging and product offerings to match what the customer requires. Not what we "believe" they require based on past experience.
How many times have you heard a sales person say, "I know exactly what you need." And all we are thinking is "really", where is somebody else to talk with...
How many of your customer facing people are trained to be able to ask the right questions to get the whole story before we jump in and state our "opinions" of what is going on.
Whether in sales and/or technical support, one of the worst things we can do is "tell" a customer where they are at. We do not know without asking questions first. Remember the saying, "There is more to the story than meets the eye".
NOTE: Read the input from Karen Dietz on how using questions helps to "evoke the customer's story". http://sco.lt/6wO3QP
Storytelling is a powerful business tool. I was reminded of this during my visit last week to the January meeting of the Ohio State Council of SHRM. Although I was there as an invited guest speaker, I certainly feel like … Continue reading → (Three...
"So when I joined a mobile technology startup called Kinvey as VP of marketing, I quickly realized that I had been perpetuating a series of false choices. The content marketer in me had been at odds with the lead marketer in me."
"I now hope to set the record straight, using as an example Kinvey's latest infographic, "How Long Does it Take to Build an iOS or Android App?"
As the author, Joe is recalling 3 false hopes around content creation as he moved from a large company to a smaller startup. Raising questions along the way and discussing how the inforgraphic helps solve the problems of his past traininig and the current state of B2B sales and marketing in virtual space.
Let's face it, the customer experience begins with the buying cycle. And while content is fun to build, (some times), it must engage the prospect to consider raising the question in their mind, "Tell me more".
We've all seen good and bad content. The inforgraphic above does 2 things for me, it helps a prospect understand the "why" and the "what" behind the company services and products. Yet it is done with 2 powerfull skill sets. The first is using a story framework. The second is using images to tell the story and build in the "how" with few words.
"...classic business school thinking always told us that when your customer-satisfaction numbers hit 95 percent or even 98 percent, it’s a waste of money to try to push beyond that because some customers are just grumpy and implacable by nature and you can’t do a thing about that. So move on, we were told."
"And that was okay back in the old days when the seller was in control... But today, that model’s got about as much vitality as the local video store."
"Unhappy customers — even if it’s only 2 percent of your total customer universe — now have the voice and the authority to exact a painful price..."
"In the past few years, I have worked with many companies whose CEO or senior leadership team has identified social media as a major focus in their customer experience programs."
"Many organizations have implemented social media monitoring strategies and tactics to, as its name implies, allow them to monitor and listen to everything said over social media outlets."
"When dealing with social media, there are two primary challenges: 1) addressing the "What's in it for me?" (WIFM) factor and 2) ensuring it ties into the larger organizational needs and objectives." by Melissa Pippine
Melissa does a great job laying out the "what's in it for me" by topic and the possible value added benefits organizations are looking to achieve.
Using this list, and as Melisa said above, these objectives need to be lined up with the priorities of the companies objectives.
Once you have a working list. It is time to drill into the details and be prepared to address the value the social media program spend rates can bring to the table. Granted, many of these are difficult to measure.
Focus on those which are easier to measure directly and use industry ranges for the rest. Seek out case studies around social media and look for improvements in business operations other companies have generated and written about. More and more stories are coming on line now that companies have more experience under their belt.
Here are a few success stories and more are being published every day.
Armed with the type of information suggested above. Social media teams are much more prepared to have a conversation with the C suite to help them get behind your programs. And at the same time, improve the overall customer experience by using the power of social media, which fits your business.
"More and more sales people are using social media to help them prospect and develop new business. It’s certainly an avenue that I use for my client development. Used wisely and effectively it’s a great tool to enhance your business development efforts."
"Allow me to propose this: Are sales people who utilize social media more successful than others, OR is it that consistently successful sales people almost always use the smartest techniques and are ahead of the curve?"
"Social media should be used to create awareness, build thought leadership and inform your prospect but it shouldn’t be applied when actually selling to your prospects. I would actually argue that sales people don’t outsell their peers using social media, but, on a level playing field, they out-prospect them, they out-perform them on their pre-call intelligence." by Monika D'Agostino
I like how Monika builds on the Forbes article and uses practical experience to drill into the why and how around social selling. Aligning the need to use consultative sales skills with social selling and to use the right tools, skills and capabilities at the right time.
In Monica's words, social selling is more about business development, not about the sale. As buyers, we are always looking for competent people when we have questions. And definitely not those who simply want to take over the conversation. How we act on social sites needs to present our consultative skills, not a "know it all" attitude.
Social media is also a great place to pick up on your industry to listen in on the general needs of today. Various tools are available, such as www.socialmention.com, which allow you to setup saved searches specific to your keywords, sources, and industry needs. Crossing all of the main social sites and allowing you to configure which ones you want to monitor on a real time basis.
It is apparent few companies are actually training their sales people how to use social media to help improve the customer experience. Leaving them up to their own to learn how to use the new social tools being deployed. The good news, many of the tools are easy to learn and are low cost or free to use.
2 - The importance of understanding people’s needs
"Listening and hearing are not the same thing. Most people are born with the ability to hear; but few of us are truly good listeners."
"Well-developed listening skills that include asking good questions, combined with striving to satisfy needs will create long-lasting, trusting relationships with team members, internal colleagues and client/customers." by Caroline Rowan
Think about the last great customer experience you had on the phone or in person while talking to somebody who was in a customer facing position.
Now think about the other side of the coin, the really ugly conversations where you wanted to reach out and shake the other person, "please, just listen to what I am saying".
Why do these words swell up in us when we get angry? Could it be the other person, who is supposed to be helping us seems to be saying, "You just don't matter to me, I have a job to do and you just don't understand our rules..."
One of the better ways to help a customer out of a jam is to truly listen to what it is which is bothering them the most. In essence, their needs, forget the internal rules for a moment and try to determine their needs. However, first and foremost, shut out the world for a moment or two and truly listen to their concerns.
As people we love to buy and hate to be "sold to". The type of sales method Aaron discusses has many names and the good news is most companies are already moving in this direction. All, no, just most.
The one tool which has helped this evolution occur faster than any other is the internet. Both good and bad news now travels much faster. Making it that much easier for anyone to locate an alternative to a "pushy know it all sales person".
Modern day sales and marketing teams understand they need to be able to align the buy-sell cycle delivering value at every step. Moving from sales people to "buying facilitators" to help create the best buying experience. The beginning of the best customer experience.
"Buyers are looking for individuals who understand their day-to-day challenges and have solutions that solve them, insight, and unique perspectives. We’re seeing the rise of social salespeople."
"Not all sales reps are equipped to engage in this capacity. But those that are, will have knowledge, experience and unique perspectives that can enrich your internal search marketing integration (SMI) efforts by weaving search engine optimization (SEO) techniques into their day-to-day work."
"So, how can you effectively and efficiently enable your sale team to improve your SMI?" - Brad Miller
It is refreshing to see an article of how to integrate your sales people in social selling. They likely know more about the customer and what resonates with them than any one else in the company.
As you read the article, think about your sales people and why not use them in more social selling. However, this also means to help "load their lips" with stories which others have learned across the company. Don't make them work in silo's, figure out how to share what works and what doesn't.
Many companies are using social media to help keep employees up to speed. Why not share stories across sales channels which benefit all as well as lessons learned.
The author discusses a story which they remember after going to a restaurant. I do not know if the restaurant decided to use a story format with their customers, or if they are just doing it naturally.
You may wonder if I'm kidding. However, there is a beginning, a middle and an ending. Perhaps without knowing it, the restaurant is getting people to discuss their offerings by experiencing and living the story while at their restaurant.
By using a story format, it is easy for the customer, in this case the author, to repeat the story which encourages others to ask about the restaurant and perhaps go themselves if nearby.
In years past, I heard one of Dell's executives declare how their strategy was to "wow" the customers on line experience. And for years they did just that and many customers left brick and motar companies to buy computers from Dell.
Then they decided to cut cost and outsource support.... Customer experience has gone down hill fast. Yes, they saved money, but to what end?
Think about your customers journey and how you can wow them during their experience buying, sourcing and using your products and services. And make sure to ask those who make the product. Many times they have better ideas then most of us in sales and marketing because they are immersed in the products all day long.
It is refreshing to see this point of view, which I for one support 100%. Customer experience has grown the way "Quality Projects" were growing a number of years ago. Lots of money spent across the board and not enough success stories to justify in my simple mind.
What I also like about the article is the author provides 6 quick success stories.
Each one of these stories will provide ideas around the types of customer experience projects to consider. Another quick way to locate projects, review the office area with the eye of an operations person.
In operations, to improve the flow of production, people look for physical build up of inventory to eliminate constraints. Around customer experience, many times the best projects are around the piles of paper found in the office. Such as returns, complaints, and credit memo's.
"In the past five years, the financial industry has taken a drubbing. Plunging profits, allegations of improper behavior, customer backlash against rising fees and massive layoffs have challenged the industry."
"But various sources list one bank as a best place to work, and its practices may provide a blueprint to other companies on how to keep workers engaged even during tough times." -Anita Bruzzese, Gannett
If you are tired of hearing about the financial mess in the news. Read this article to put some faith back into your heart their are still some out there making a difference.
Imagine a company who has 93% of their employees, (no this is not a typo), out spreading the word via the stories they tell across 4 states and 1757 organizations.
Now think about the customer experience if you were to meet one of these employees and discussed their company. (Experience being defined from the moment you begin to consider, "should I do my banking with this company"?)
"Bill Harley, a Friend, storyteller, author, songwriter, teaching artist; two-time Grammy winning artist in the spoken word category; Lifetime Achievement awards from the Rhode Island Council on the Humanities, Children's Music Network and the National Storytelling Network."
Pixar Studios filmmaker Andrew Stantongave a good TED talk about a year ago where he states that one of the key aims of any good story is that it must make the audience care. "Make me care," he says.
If you research the advice of famous directors and screenwriters of today and of years gone by you will find this is a common refrain: You have go to make the audience care.Presentations in all their many forms are never just about transferring information alone.
We are emotional beings, like it or not, and to connect and engage people to the degree that they will care enough to listen to you, you have to evoke in them some kind of emotion. The TED talk below is well worth watching; the storytelling lessons in this short talk are many.
In B2B sales and marketing, content is considered king by many today. The objective is to provide a better experience for our prospects and customers who are reading and/or following our content development.
However, have we really re-invented how we develop content, or are we just restating old stuff in new written articles, posts, and tweets?
Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from journalist who tend to be on the edge of the learning curve. Let's face it, no readers, no job, for a bad journalist.
The battle of visual stories vs. white papers is far from over and the odds are both will win. The more important question is how much will B2B companies embrace visual stories to improve their customer's experience during the buy-sell cycle.