In the March/April 2019 Issue of SMM Sales&Marketing management, Tim Houlihan takes a dive into analyzing that customer experiences enhance our relationships with the brands we shop for. Not only should it be a top priority for company, but customers are also asking for it. His article is as follows:

In a 2018 survey, Brian & Company discovered that 80% of companies believe their customer experience is not only better than average, it’s “superior.” The trouble is that in the same survey, only 8% of customers believed they were receiving a superior experience.

The Customer Experience is critical in ensuring long-term, profitable relationships, and 57% of companies have made customer experience their top priority, according to the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) in 2018. Why? Because customers are asking for it. If you’re already to work on your customers’ experiences, here are some ideas to consider.

Organize for customer experience

Examine your organization and ask, “Is my company structured to maximize a more/better personalized experience for my customers?”

A senior VP of sales and marketing at half-billion-dollar firm told me that a great customer experience starts with reps’ proximity to clients. He required his sales reps to live or office within an hour of their customers. That way, reps could conveniently hold meetings with customers in person.

In cases where it’s not possible for geographic proximity, a tool like Slack (www.slack.com) can be set up with a unique channel for each B2B customer. This allows the customer to access your entire team directly, albeit in a digital manner.

Also, customers get irritated by a revolving door of reps. Change territory assignments less often to give reps and customers time to build relationships. Better relationships lead to better customer experiences.

Leverage strategic account teams

Let’s face it: selling requires teams. Call them pods or work-groups or something else – but selling is no longer a solo job. Create strategic teams around your customer needs and you’ll benefit from higher productivity and revenue.

In a conversation with Thomas Steenburgh, PhD, a leading researcher in sales compensation and productivity at the University of Virginia’s Darden School, he noted that strategic account reps ‘have a longer-term focus than an ordinary rep.’ That perspective requires multiyear planning but delivers significantly greater value to the customer and increased revenues to the firm.

Also, customers can be overburdened by lots of reps from a single company calling on the same leaders. When silos occur due to highly specific product knowledge, organize the reps by client with a clear leadership structure. Leaders get a broader purview to make each piece fit into the big picture, to share that knowledge and manage account traffic to enhance the customer’s experience.

As you organize, make relevant data and reporting available to the teams. It need not be in one place as long as data analytics tools are available to pull from separate sources.

Focus on process

Too often, sales managers get caught up in making this quarter’s numbers (not a bad thing) and lose sight of long-term potential gains (not a good thing). Good processes will deliver better, more reliable results over time. Bad processes, with a bit of good luck, can get good results, but a good process will make good results, but a good process will make good results the norm.

Customers and change go hand in hand. A solid process and an organizational structure that puts the right people on the forefront of change requests ensure a higher likelihood of delivering a great customer experience.

Also, researchers are zeroing in on the impact of rewarding for processes, not just results. That doesn’t mean bonusing reps on measures that are easily gamed. Not at all. However, doling out rewards when effort, teamwork, creativity, and compliance are visible can help insure that customers get great experiences.

You can do it

Processes focused on customer experience can drive consistency and be tweaked to deliver high-value, customer-centric experiences. And firms that put customer experience at the forefront of their organization are more likely to give customers what they want and need. Don’t hang your hat on, “We’re already there.” Make a plan to improve your customer experience.