Some say the 2019 X Games begin the last week in January in Aspen, CO, but savvy competitors know the real X game is played every day by B2B stars year-round. Yes, we’re talking about CX, aka the customer experience. While it may not be an official athletic event, in the world of B2B, CX is fast-becoming the ultimate game-changer for those companies committed to staying competitive. If you’re worried that you may be too out-of-shape to medal, perish the thought; this blog is a crash course in CX that will have you podium-ready in four steps.
First things first, let’s define CX. In the most basic terms, CX refers to all the interactions that a customer has with your brand, from the marketing communications you use to engage with them, and the people on your sales team who close the deals, to the customer service reps, who manage those relationships after the sale is complete. According to every marketing thought-leader on the planet, content, while still critical, is a king that has not so much stepped down, but moved over so that customers can take their rightful place on the throne. In this new era, known as the Age of the Customer, brands must be very careful to meet and cater to customer expectations or else they will find themselves banished by over two-thirds of the kingdom.
- 76% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations
- 76% of customers say it’s easier than ever to take their business elsewhere
Step 1: Develop a Rock-Solid CX Strategy
According to Ryan Hart, a Principal Analyst for Forrester, “Executives need CX strategies that are both forward-looking and have an actionable level of detail. Above all else, a CX strategy must serve as a road map to actualize, deliver, and measure progress toward the customer-centric goals of the business.” Of all the steps you take in becoming a CX hero, this one will likely be the most time-intensive, but do your homework because the decisions you make here will impact everything else. Whereas most companies begin this process by defining how they want customers to experience their brand and then they build a set of actions around that, we recommend you take a different approach. Remember, the customer is now on the throne, so put them first by conducting in-depth surveys with a good cross-section of happy and unhappy customers. Get real with them, dig deep and ask them details about all aspects of their journey. What were they expecting? What did they not expect? How do they feel about your brand and what would change those feelings? Give them permission to hurt your feelings and to make suggestions they think will be impossible. You’ll be surprised at the perspective-changing insights you uncover that will lead to a leaner and meaner CX strategy.
Be the Customer
Oftentimes in the realm of B2B we get so focused on moving things down the pipeline, we forget what it’s like to be in the pipeline. In addition to a survey, take a page from the hit TV show Undercover Boss and put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Discretion is the key to gleaning actionable insights from this technique. We recommend hiring a few actors to embark on your customer path, and have each one report back on the ups and downs of every step of their experience. Once you are well-informed on the reality of your customers’ current experience and you’ve queried them about their expectations, you are in a much better position to develop a CX strategy that fulfills their desires, as well as the customer-centric goals you have set for your business.
Step 2: Connect Your Tech
One area where customers have ultra-high expectations, thanks to their day-to-day experiences with consumer technology, is in how they experience your brand digitally. In essence, your customers are expecting to have a seamless experience with your brand regardless of the device they use or their preferred channel of communication. Research conducted just last year found that:
- 82% of B2B customers “want the same experience as when they’re buying for themselves” (as B2C consumers)
- 69% of B2B customers expect “Amazon-like buying experiences” tailored to their prior engagements
The most logical way for you to meet this expectation is to connect and coordinate their digital journey by integrating the tools in your stack. Although integrating 20+ diverse tools in a martech stack may seem like a massive and complex undertaking, there are some amazing advances in integration technology that can simplify this process and make it easy for you to not only connect the dots along your customer’s digital path, but cause the various tools in your stack to work together. If you have shied away from looking into integration tools thinking it’s a task better suited for IT, you are in for a pleasant surprise. In the last few years, integration tools have undergone their own digital makeover and some empower marketers to take a DIY approach and connect their tech through easy-to-implement pre-built integrations. A cloud-based integration tool, like Connect, allows you to create the integrations you want between various tools, systems and platforms without having to know code or make daily appeals for help from your company’s resident Spock. More importantly, it establishes a framework on which all of your integrations can be viewed, maintained and tracked via a dashboard interface, all of which brings you closer to delivering the holy grail of CX a B2B version of the Amazon buying experience.
Next Week: Continue your B2B CX championship training with the final steps needed to create a winning CX in 4 Ways to Own Competitors in the CX Games — Part Two.