A 3rd area is also mentioned, aligning the sales messages with the marketing messages.
Consider what may happen if a customer perceives your sales messages do not match what the company says. Is it possible they will consider you or the company to be untrustworthy because one of you is lying?
What is more difficult is if marketing and/or the company has raised the bar so high. No matter what you say as sales, the experience the customer recieves is not attainable based on their perception.
Here is an article on Making Promises and Keeping Promises focused mostly on what marketing may be doing, or not doing well enough.
A difficulty faced by all sales and marketing teams is the customers’ touch points during the buy-sell cycle translate into their perception of your products and company. Unfortunately any weak links will stand out and these are the touch points to improve the most.
As sales, focusing on creating the best buying experience is something you have the most control over. Helping to align your sales messages with marketing in another area you have a high degree of indirect control.
"...director Konstantin Stanislavsky helped found the Moscow Art Theater in 1898. It’s here where Stanislavsky turned Western drama and acting techniques and training on their head."
"Stanislavski believed that the true magic of theater came only when an audience felt as if the characters on stage were living out the story, instead of reciting a memorized script."
How many times have you wondered about the person on the other end of the line when you contact customer service to try and resolve something which went bad on your end? Ever fill as if their whole job is to prove you were at fault, even though the product and/or shipment failed poorly?
Image a company who treats you like a human being and they sincerly want to help you resolve your problems. Plus placing blaim is not the highest priority on the list. The first action is taking care of your immediate needs and they do not transfer you to somebody else after you have explained what just happened.
If it is possible to create a better customer experience by loosening up the scripts used by customer service departments. Why is it more companies have not joined in? The good news, as customers, we get to choose who are suppliers will be in the future.
"We have all read articles on “consultative selling,” and at Fishbowl we have taken it one step further by removing the “selling” portion. - David K. Williams"
"For example, I ran across an expert remark that stopped me dead in my tracks: “The golden rule of sales compensation is that your sales team will behave exactly according to the plan’s reward system, concentrating their efforts on what pays them the most.” –Colleen Francis, Best Practices for Effective Compensation, May 29, 2012, Eye On Sales"
"No! Never! This classic thinking flies in the face of what our own team knows and believes."
At first one may say, this is crazy, how can you run sales without compensation tied to their efforts? Read on for ideas around how Fishbowl has revamped their sales efforts to make sure the customer is the hero.
It is interesting the above image has a caption, "Learning to create sales superheros..." Viewing from the outside, the Fishbowl sales team is focused on the buyers journey, it is not about the product, it is all about how to help the customer succeed. Thus the customer is really the hero in all of their stories.
"According to Forrester, Customer Experience (CX) leaders outperform the laggards:"
* CX leaders increased their value by 22% over 5 years
* CX laggards’ value declined by 46%
"A recent study from Bloomberg Businessweek revealed:"
* 80% of companies want to get closer to their customers
* Only 20% believe they are doing a good job
* Only 8% of their customers think they do a good job
"Since we were interviewing executives about what they felt contributed to an extraordinary customer experience, we naturally asked what their companies were doing...The specifics varied widely, but there were three areas of commonality:"
1 - Customer Insight
2 - One-to-one Interaction
3 - Execution excellence
Read the article for ideas of how others improve the customers experience:
"As social media has become an important channel of daily communication, engaging with customers socially should be the next step for brands. Tom Kelly, CEO of Moxie Software, says social media is another communication channel and should be supported just like email and the phone."
This comment by Tom Kelly makes sense and is part of the reason I scooped this article. Most of the article reads more like a promotion for Social CRM. Yet towards the bottom IBM points out more then 50% of consumers do not even consider intereacting with businesses via social.
Perhaps this begs the question, what is the % in the B2B space? Odds are it is lower. This does not mean to turn a blind eye towards social media tools, however, it does mean to go in eyes wide open.
Read the article with a "grain of salt" for ideas in the B2B space for Social CRM and keep an open mind "if" your customers are already using social media tools to discover and begun evaluations to satisfy their needs.
The intro to this article begins with B2C examples, however, the 4 steps to Social Maturity apply to both B2B and B2C. Jump to this point in the article if the beginning is boring for you, (look for the image shown).
"The effectiveness of using data-driven intelligence to drive business strategy depends on a brand’s social media maturity..."
"We have learned over the years that there are now four stages to Social Media Maturity:"
Stage 1: READ and understand customer sentiment
Stage 2: ENGAGE and connect to show you care
Stage 3: EMPOWER staff to make decisions to fix issues
Stage 4: OPTIMIZE customer feedback to drive improvements
"If you've really done your homework then you should know to avoid jargon that the C-level executive may not know."
"Consultants are always trying to "assist us in managing our third-party spend," whatever that means. It must be something important, because I get two or three calls a week to help me with this problem."
"Maybe if they positioned it from my point of view and used language that I use they would get further in their call." Mike Parrot, VP,Costco
Read the last sentence again and notice two main issues.
1 - Use the customers language
2 - Use their point of view.
Early in the buy-sell cycle, the customer is looking for the "why" I should consider anything new. Sound bites of, "this is what my product can achieve will also not go very far".
Consider this: If you wrap a previous customer success within a story framework that matches the customers marketplace, you can cover both points Parrot desires, language and point of view.
A note of caution, stories need to resonate and be worded to match the title of the person you are calling on, not just the industry/market.
A phrase by Nancy Duarte is important while building stories:
"By reminding people of the status quo and then revealing the path to a better way, you set up a conflict that needs to be resolved." http://youtu.be/UfQF3DXG-S4
A good story does not start with success or sound bites or symptoms, it starts with a business challenge. In the above example by Parrot, third part spend is a symptom. He wants to know the business challenge a product or service can help him resolve based on his position.
"We approach service by forcing customers through countless hoops, secretly hoping that they’ll drop off from our phone system (IVR) maze before they actually land in a queue to talk to a real human being. When they finally do, red tape, “policies”, and other gotcha’s are littered along the way to keep the customer from ever arriving at their desired solution."
"We need to step back and evaluate our customer service systems, processes, and practices. Are they fostering and encouraging customer collaboration? Are they promoting solutions to customer problems?"
"As we embark on a journey with the customer – which is much more likely to result in the outcome you want, we’ll begin to develop better customer relationships. The customer of relationships that allow customer service to build customer loyalty."
Read the article for ideas of how the best Customer Service Rep is helping their customers when problems develop.
"To thrive in business, a business owner needs to have a great antennae, and the ability to look at their business through the eyes of others."
"Unfortunately, as time goes by and a measure of success is achieved, many business owner's antennae signals start to fade and they no longer look at their business through fresh eyes."
"This excellent article, identifies seven things that your customers will most likely not tell you, and it suggests ways in which a business can obtain the information they need from their customers to help improve their performance."
The article explores 6 areas customers may not be telling you about today, yet they may be lowering the customer experience for all. Plus 1 more which is actually a very positive thing to know about, yet your customers still don't tell you about it.
"As a customer experience advocate, it is common for me to be asked, “What is the difference between customer service and customer experience?” While the answer is quite lengthy, the short response is simply this: customer service is one element of customer experience."
"Customer experience encompasses every touch point that someone may encounter when interacting with a company – support, sales, and customer service. And there are many communication channels that combine to make a customer interaction with one of the three key touch points a positive experience."
"Consistent messaging across all channels and touch points is integral to successful customer experience and vital to company success."
An interesting side point is those companies who have aligned sales and marketing use a common language. Without doing this, how does a company align messaging to make sure the customer has the Best Buying Experience, which is the beginning of the Best Customer Experience.
Think about it this way, you see something while browsing and click a link. Landing on a page which looks unrelated. Do you stay or keep moving on? Most leave due to a bad experience around poor messaging.
Read the full article for 3 other tips on how to improve your customers experience.
"Earlier this week, I wrote the first part of this two-part series that covers my take on Dr. Stephen Covey’s 8 Habits and how they can be applied to the customer experience discipline. I covered the first four habits in that post; today I’ll start with habit #5."
5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
7. Sharpen the saw
8. Find your voice, and inspire others to find theirs
"The passing of Stephen Covey in July was one of those moments that caused a lot of people to reflect on their lives and on how effective they are, both personally and professionally. I was moved to reread his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It's amazing that it has been on USA Today's bestseller list for 10 years! And it has been named the #1 most influential business book of the 20th Century. It's not hard to see why."
"While he's best known for The 7 Habits, Mr. Covey also published The 8th Habit. More on that in a bit. I know I'm not the only blogger out there to pay homage to him by taking his wildly popular 7 Habits and repurposing them for the topic at hand. Unfortunately, with his passing, it was a great reminder to revisit those eight habits to see how they are being applied to life in general today."
"As I did just that, I couldn't help but apply them to the customer experience discipline, as well. How do they relate to creating an effective customer-focused culture? I think it's a no-brainer; I'll take a look at all eight this week."
Read the full article for another example of using Steven Covey's original principles in your own company.
"...last month I challenged... to tell me why they could claim to be a customer experienced focused software company where just a few months before they were something else..."
I named... 8 companies... offered them... to prove... as customer experience focused..." - Paul Greenberg
SAP provides some interesting insight into how the CRM market place has been evolving and the current direction/focus. Some of the highlights:
1st Generation - Improve efficiency in marketing, sales, & service
2nd Generation - Combined tools into an integrated solution
3rd Generation - Software as a service, no change in functionality
Next up - Social CRM, added dimension, still focused on front office
Today - Evolution as Customer Experience Management
Per Volker Hildebrand of SAP, these advances in CRM did not cover all aspects of customer experience.
Based on interviews with executives and thought leaders there are 4 distinct qualities that a customer values:
**Reliability, Convenience, Relevance and Responsiveness
Two companies who are using their CRM solutions to create a competitive position by providing a better customer experience were covered. One is a cement company and the other is a grocery store. The CRM of the front office is integrated with the back office.
Example: It is one thing to order up grocercies and have them delivered, it is another to hit a 30 minute delivery window.
Per SAP, these companies illustrate three key success factors (that go beyond ‘traditional’ CRM):
**Customer Insight, One to One Interaction, and Execution Excellence
The overall conclusion by SAP, traditional CRM is required, yet not sufficient to deliver a better customer experience. It is required to have the front end CRM functionality as a feed to the back end portions of the business which helps deliver a competitive customer experience after a decision is made to buy from your company.
"Patricia responded to an audience question by saying that Europcar focused on creating a customer-centric culture because the company can't script every interaction. Therefore employees need to be able to make the right judgment calls on their own..."
"...every time I see USAA's Wayne Peacock speak, he always uses the phrase "We do the right thing because it's the right thing to do." He's the EVP of Member Experience at USAA, which is the number one bank, the number one credit card provider, and the number one insurance provider in our Customer Experience Index."
Read on to compare a story about a Southwest Airlines pilot to the decisions made by some United Airlines employees.
An Aberdeen report on 252 companies showed the Best In Class had a customer retention rate of 82%, while the industry average was 77% and the laggards came in at only 24%. Types of industries are not detailed in the report, making it difficult to review against your own customer experience management measures, however, the trends in the report are still worth reviewing.
Such as the Best In Class were able to drive down response times of customer inquires by 35%, increase customer life time value by 21% and increase satisfaction by 20%. During the same period of time, the laggards came in with increased response times, lower life time value, and worst customer satisfaction measures.
It is an above average report to review, whether you are actively engaged or just beginning to consider a customer experience management program, and are looking for benchmarks from the B2B industry.
"I have to admit, this is shockingly simple, no secret wisdom. What is even more shocking, though, is this: most companies get it wrong. And in the age of the digital customer, these simple qualities have become more critical than ever." Dr. Volker G. Hildebrand, SAP
Woo hoo! If there was any doubt about the necessity for crafting and promoting your customer's stories, then this quick post will dispell them all.
Customer case study specialist Casey Hibbard shares some research from Gartner about the impact of customer stories on sales, and then lists specifically how customer stories can lead to business growth.
As I'm rebuilding my website, I'm taking Casey's advice -- and hope you do too.
Oh - but make sure you are actually writing customer stories to share and not testimonials. Testimonials are critical -- yet they are mostly valuable opinions from customers about their experience with you. That's part of your 'story' but they often are not really stories.
So - write mini-stories or storied case-studies about your work with customers to receive the full impact of your customer stories!
"Each day you settle in to the same place, do your typical things, work with similar types of people, and generally answer the same type of questions."
"Answering the following questions will help you start the next day on the right path. The answer to these questions ensures that we understand where we succeeded, where we need improvement, and how we’re creating a better atmosphere for tomorrow."
1 - How many people did I WOW today?
2 - How did I fail at creating a memorable experience for someone?
3 - How did I contribute to making my team better today?
Customer experience is about how well we care for their needs, not ours. It is easy to "handle" an issue and get the customer off the phone and close the file. Yet if the above questions are being asked by all, the customers experience is more likely to go up, than down.
The objective during the buy-sell cycle is to help the buyer create a vision of a solution based on value. Don't just "show up and throw up", use the power of a visual story to help resonate with the buyer. (Ken Jondahl)
"I've found that the most effective presenters use the same techniques as great storytellers: By reminding people of the status quo and then revealing the path to a better way, they set up a conflict that needs to be resolved."
"That tension helps them persuade the audience to adopt a new mindset or behave differently — to move from what is to what could be. And by following Aristotle's three-part story structure (beginning, middle, end), they create a message that's easy to digest, remember, and retell. - Nancy Duarte)
Review by Karen Dietz for her curated content on business storytelling:
Here is a quick and concise post on the essential elements of creating a presentation as a story from presentation master Nancy Duarte.
I love how she chunks the presentation down into manageable chunks and gives examples as we go along so we can really get it.
Now you have this template, there's no excuse for creating 'death by PowerPoint'!
This is the fourth post in Nancy Duarte's blog series on creating and delivering presentations, based on tips from her new book, the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations. The other 3 articles are listed at the bottom of the 4th article link above.
If you prefer to watch the video by Nancy, go here:
"If you’re only developing content with consumption in mind, you’re missing a huge opportunity to keep momentum going as prospective buyers move through the buying cycle."
How often have you repeated a "good story" you heard? Now compare this to how often you forward something you read as "content about a product or service". Content is over rated in the marketing world, however, if you wrap solid information about how to "use your products and services within the power of story to satisfy the customers needs", the odds go up it will resonate and be shared.
Read on for Karen Dietz's ideas around this article.
I've said this before -- biz storytelling is about engagement, not simply broadcasting messages. This is the first article I've found that actually tries to break down the different types of conversations you want your biz stories to spark or serve.
I disagree with the distinction between dialogue and conversation. I think a better distinction to make is between messaging and conversation. And stories are often shared within a conversation. Conversations are not necessarily storytelling. So that is my nit-pick for today.
I really wish the author, Stephanie Tilton, would have included examples for each type of conversation mentioned. She tries to explain the different conversations but I need examples this morning in order to get ideas for how to apply her advice. Or maybe I'm just too tired this morning!
So there are 2 lessons here -- 1) target your storytelling to the conversations you want to promote and help along; and 2) make sure when you write content you give examples so you don't make it so hard for your readers to apply your insights.
I also really like the point the author makes about shifting from talking to listening, and shifting to serial storytelling in your business. OK -- I'm heading into the kitchen for some more coffee!
"How do you explain the success of companies that consistently provide a poor experience but perform well financially?"
"I wish more people asked this question because it shows that they're thinking about customer experience in the right context: as a path to profits."
"Here's my answer: Creating a superior customer experience is the most important thing that companies need to do. But it will never be the only important thing they need to do."
The article discusses 2 situations in the market where even poor customer experience can survive. When a company has a monopoly or they just happen to be the best of the worst, in terms of poor customer service. The author also covers how much poor customer service can costs a company and provides examples.
As Harley Manning says, "The bottom line: So is it possible to explain the business success of companies that deliver a flawed customer experience? Sure it is. Just don't count on that success continuing as we get deeper into the age of the customer."
"As business leaders we tend to pay a lot of attention to the metrics important to the business, that is, revenue, cash flow, profitability, growth and so on… but the real drivers of these business outcomes are customers."
"So the obvious question becomes what customer metrics should I be tracking to make sure my business metrics continue to head in the right direction?"
The article explores customer metrics from satisfaction, net promoter score, value analysis, and life time value. Reviewing various metrics and what to measure around all of these topics helps companies understand what is driving their customer experience "north" or "south".
Explore ideas of around the what, why and how to measure your customer experience. Links in the article will take you to previous articles around the details of "how", yet the article covers the "how" from a high level view.
"There are three key touchpoints that, regardless of industry, reveal if a company is just talking the “customer-centric” talk or if they are walking the walk."
"As you design your customer experience strategy don’t miss these often overlooked touchpoints. Getting them right shows customers that you truly “walk the customer-centric walk” and guarantees that your customer experience will stand apart from that of your competitors."
1 - The point where you collect their money
2 - The company return policy
3 - The point the customer chooses to leave
Read the article for ideas of how to improve this touch points with customers and think about those who do it right. Amazon always comes to mind for me while considering ideas around payment and returns.
In the world of curation, one can easily chase the ranking score of your topics and the quantity of posts. Or as Robin Good suggest below, we can focus more on the quantity of followers and interactions we receive back. It is not about us as curators, it is all about how well the content we discover increases the experience of our readers. - Ken Jondahl
Review by Robin Good: If you are looking for ways to improve your content curation efforts, Joshua Merritt has published five useful guidelines to follow.
These include abandoning high frequency / high-volume practices, integrating your opinion whenever possible, researching deeper, citing sources and treating curation like original content production.
Joshua writes: "If two different people curate and distribute the same content (which happens every day times thousands), what makes the experience of your followers more valuable?
The answer doesn’t have to lie in a single piece of content, but it must lie in the story arch of the greater body of work, and the more you treat each item you curate as a diamond in the rough that needs some extra cutting and polishing to be ready for your audience, the better your content will perform and the more loyalty you will drive in your followers."