Compass for Better Customer Experience

Compass for Better Customer Experience

SellersCompassTM Copyright 2012 NBS Consulting Group, Inc. All rights reserved.In everyday life a compass (also known as GPS or global positioning system or map) may be integrated in nearly everything you do – whether you’re driving, flying or hiking. Imagine such a tool for Marketing, Sales and Customer Care for collectively navigating the journey of prospective buyers and customers across the entire customer life cycle. A step further than the typical customer touch-point map or customer journey map, this type of compass would clarify roles and collaboration to align your company with what’s needed for a great customer experience that results in higher revenue and customer retention with lower costs of marketing, sales and customer care. At a recent customer management conference I heard Christine Crandell, CEO of New Business Strategies, explain her Sellers’ CompassTM methodology, and learned some much-needed new perspectives on ways that Marketing, Sales and Customer Care can improve the customer experience.

Where Does the Customer Experience Begin?
Consider the new reality of the buyer’s process (pre-sales and post-sales): with all the online and peer resources available today buyers often have already completed their Define, Search and Evaluate phases prior to your Marketing and Sales radar registering an official touch-point. This fact is a weakness of many touch-point maps which assume that the customer experience begins at the first touch-point when the company becomes aware of the buyer. Before your company has the opportunity to identify a prospective customer, 25% of buyers have first conducted research about you on the Internet, 22% have consulted external peers, 22% have discussed your company with internal colleagues, 20% have listened to industry analysts, and 11% have used social media to learn about you. Most buyers use a combination of these information sources before showing up on one of your customer touch-points. Crandell points out that your initial customer touch-point is known as “Zero Moment of Truth” (ZMOT) yet then the buyer knows more about you and your products and your successes and failures than most of your frontline people do.

Customer experience is equally affected by the buying decision process and by the performance of your products and services, according to Crandell’s experience in deploying the Sellers’ CompassTM as a Chief Marketing Officer at several companies. “Understand the buyer’s journey! Be where they are and align outward to the buyer” she advises. “Look at the buyer’s journey from a longitudinal perspective.” In other words, connect the dots across all (whether they touch your company or not) of the customer’s concerns and efforts dealing with the acquisition, use and disposal of your company’s type of solution.

Clarifying Roles of Marketing, Sales & Customer Care
“Enable and Engage” are the watchwords of today’s customer-facing professionals. “Enable” is the theme of the buyer’s pre-purchase phase, and “Engage” is the theme of the buyer’s post-purchase phase. With this view of the buying process, Marketing’s role is to enable the buyer throughout the buyer’s journey, helping them along with your marketing assets to build trust, which leads to credibility.

The pre-purchase phase consists of these buying process steps:

  • Define: the buyer’s journey started with an “aha” about a need which they then set out to define.
  • Search: after defining their need, buyers search for best practices and what peers have done, and they learn through case studies (e.g. testimonials, white papers, webcasts, social media, conversations, etc.) to refine their expectations of outcomes and to develop an understanding of the solution landscape and a short-list of potential solution providers.
  • Evaluate: buyers download marketing assets and talk to your distributors and customers (ZMOT).
  • Validate: buyers conduct a gap analysis of whether your solution does give what they’re looking for and validate that what you have told them mirrors what they have learned in their own discovery process. In other words, that you are telling them the truth (ZMOT).

To bridge the Enable and Engage phases, Sales’ role is to be buyer’s advocate. Contrary to traditional thinking, Sales’ role is not to “close the deal”. Rather, each sales representative should be thinking: “How can I help the buyer solve this problem by being their advocate? What will it take in education and experience to help the buyer solve their problem?” Because the buyer has already accumulated a great deal of information before engaging directly with your company, the buyer listens to Sales to validate what they learned during the Enable phase.

Post-Purchase Customer Experience
The buyer’s process too often gets disrupted after the purchase step is completed, explained Crandell, when Marketing and Sales “throw the customer over the wall” to Service or Customer Care. In the post-purchase phase the buyer is interested in their experience matching what they expected. If something unexpected happens within the first 90 days and it’s not rectified, then the customer is very unlikely to rebuy. Traditionally, the Service organization is only interested in top-priority trouble tickets and “one-and-done” or first contact resolution of customer issues. Ironically, Service has tremendous insights regarding the Engage phase that would be extremely useful to Marketing and Sales, yet are often untapped.

In fact, many companies place the burden of customer experience management with the Service organization, without realizing that possibly half of the customer experience is about the company’s alignment to the entire buyer’s process, with the other half about the company’s products and services. In the post-purchase phase, the company’s relationship with the buyer needs to shift to a nurturing role where Marketing seeks to educate buyers, thoroughly understand their world, and co-create with customers. The new “corporate power couple” is Marketing + Customer Care.

Strive for Consistency
“Keep in mind that you must deliver consistent experiences across the buyer’s journey”, says Crandell. To extend the scope of a company’s customer experience management from the beginning to the end of the buyer’s process, Marketing, Sales, and Customer Care must collaborate more closely than ever before and redefine their roles as noted above.

One way to get started is to conduct 20-30 interviews with lost customers to identify their pre-touch-point journey. You’ll not only find that some marketing assets aren’t used and that some additional assets are needed, but you’ll identify numerous opportunities to innovate customer experience and increase revenue both before your typical initial touch-point and after your typical final touch-point. Through greater clarity of the buying process, change management, training, and metrics transparency in using this compass you’re likely to see cost of sales decrease by 30-70% and simultaneously improve customer experience significantly, turning buyers into brand champions.

SellersCompassTM Copyright 2012 NBS Consulting Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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About the Author:

Lynn Hunsaker is CEO of ClearAction, a customer experience consultancy that grows businesses by helping them become preferred — not just referred. ClearAction is architect of the CX ROI Maturity Assessment, CX ROI Building-Blocks System, and CX Enablement Playbooks for starting, expanding and energizing customer experience business results. ClearAction created the first online course covering the 6 competencies for customer experience success.

Lynn’s career in the customer experience field began in 1991 as chair of a 12-country, six-division taskforce designing customer satisfaction methodology at Sonoco Products. At Applied Materials she led company-wide customer experience transformation as Head of Corporate Quality.
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  1. Joe McFadden 2012/06/14 at 11:59

    “your initial known customer touch-point is a “Zero Moment of Truth” (Zmot) when the buyer knows more about you and your products and your successes and failures than most of your frontline people do.”

    Nothing ruins the customer service than a front line employee demonstrating their lack of knowledge to a well informed customer. A consumer expects your employees to have all the information they don’t and be able to take them to the next step in the process, not fall back to square one. That’s why it’s so important that everyone have access to the same up-to-date information at all times.

  2. Lynn Hunsaker 2012/06/14 at 12:54

    Thanks for your comment, James. You’re right. Customers make cost-benefit assessments based on what’s visible to them at the time of purchase, and every mis-step by the company after that in terms of living up to the customers’ initial expectations and simply preventing issues and making things easy really detracts from the value proposition from the customer’s view. To have a “customer relationship” a company needs to have easy-access data that conveys a relationship just as one would expect in personal relationships.

  3. Christopher S. Rollyson 2016/02/03 at 15:39

    @Lynn, excellent and useful post! At many firms, the realignment marketing, sales, and customer service you describe requires transformation and culture change (as I’ve read, an issue close to your heart ;^). I’ll offer this wrinkle to the culture change aspect.

    First, trust customers to buy from you. Although this may sound silly simple, it’s profound. When you trust customers (and prospects) to buy, you no longer need to sell. You can shift focus to empowering the outcome customers want when they “hire your product” (Christensen) to help them get it. The likelihood of their hiring your products will increase dramatically, as well that of their hiring your other products/services because they will feel empowered.

    Next, trust customers to advocate for you, after an incubation period that depends on your customers and how dishonest you’ve been (harsh but true). Most firms pay lip service to loving their customers, but they put customers second with policies, optimized service, etc. Sometimes it takes a while for them to see that you really trust them and no longer need to sugar coat things, when you admit when your products underperform in certain situations.

    I have found in my practice that this shift is transformational and empowering for employees, too. Honesty and truth-first is so powerful. What do you think?

  4. Lynn Hunsaker 2016/02/04 at 16:24

    Great advice, Christopher! I suppose the source of distrusting customers may have been operational glitches in the supplying company that caused customers to be frustrated. And in some cases, a few manipulating customers poisoning managers’ trust of the great majority. In the course of it all, managers have come to think of customers as a pesky reality that some other part of the company must tend to. Or otherwise, an entitlement that is taken for granted.

    I like your advice to convey trust. Even more, I think managers must set out to earn trust by providing solutions that work right the first time and every time, as much as is humanly possible. It boils down to customers’ realities matching or exceeding expectations. A two-way street with the onus on the supplier.

  5. Christopher S. Rollyson 2016/02/07 at 14:06

    Yes, Lynn, in my experience, many managers’ and employees’ customer attitudes are colored by negative comments, which function as mice to the brands’ elephants. They haven’t seen that people as a group are reasonable and fair in digital public. Your “pesky reality” comment is right on, and I observe that it’s grounded in ignorance of what customers want when they hire products. Many of the conversations I analyze and nurture are deeply meaningful, even those involving banal products like grills, volunteering, and elliptical machines. The thing is, these conversations are public, but they don’t happen in major platforms, so managers/employees don’t see them. When they do, they start realizing the meaning of their products in people’s lives, and it can spark a virtuous cycle. It vanquishes the ignorance because it humanizes customers for managers/employees.

    Thanks, I’m glad you like the bit on trust. This is a delicate subject because it requires honestly taking a look at what we do now, and identifying all the sugar-coating and fibs we tell customers. They don’t fool anyone and drive a wedge as all lies do. Since everyone observes and trusts interactions in digital public more than communications from brands, being explicitly honest triggers the network effect, so accepting customers’ points of view, hearing them and helping them, is way more valuable than the losses we might take from extra returns, etc. Most managers fear that admitted the brand’s faults in digital public will diminish the brand’s value, where the social context of interactions is baked into them. The opposite is true because honesty and consideration drive up value.

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