Regardless of what kind of business you are in, your customers pay for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You probably have a strategy for growing your business and growing your team; you better also have a strategy for your customers. In most cases, the cost of acquiring a new customer is far greater than the cost of retaining and growing the revenue from your current customers. According to an article in Forbes, “Increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profitability by 25% to 95%.” Turning your customers into advocates can also result in referrals and generate new logos for your company as well. According a study cited by John DiJulius, customer experience leaders outperform the market, generating a total cumulative return that was nearly three times greater than companies who lag in this area; “We now have proof that [customer experience] is actually one of the highest returns on investment a company can make."
So, what’s your strategy to engage and delight your customers?
Here are some key insights to consider when crafting a customer strategy:
- Your customers are people. Whether you are selling direct to consumer or business to business, there’s always a person who makes the buying decisions and a person who actually uses your product. Sometimes these are different people, and it behooves you to understand both the buyer and the end user for your product and service. What are the needs of the end user? What criteria is most important to the person making the purchasing decision? Working through your strategy to identify your Core Customer and secondary customers is a key first step in your customer engagement strategy.
- Get to know them. Actually talk to them, and meet with them face to face. Surveys are good, but in-person interactions are so much better. Observe your customer using your product. Where are they getting stuck? What do they love? What problems are they solving with your product or service? What is important to them? Don’t do this once, do it often. Things change fast, so you need regular interaction with your customers to keep your finger on what they need. Share your learnings. Create personas for your customers, and document detailed use cases. Communicate this information about your customers with everyone in your company (it is valuable for marketing, sales, customer service, product development). Everyone in your company should have a clear picture of the customers you are serving and how your product helps them.
- Map out your customer journey. Most Sales and Marketing teams have a good idea of the funnel prospects go through prior to making a buying decision. They have clear touch points and messaging and metrics for each touch point. We should have a similar process mapped out for our customers. For some companies, the first 90 days are key to customer success; in some industries, if you haven’t created value for the customer in the first 90 seconds, you’ve already lost them. What are the steps once the deal is closed? When are the critical points to deliver value to the customer? What does the customer need to know to be successful with our product, and what is the best way to give them that information? How can we remove barriers to customer success and delight them with the best possible experience of our product or service?
- Be proactive. We often reward hero stories about companies that go to the extreme to save the customer relationship when something has gone wrong. While it is important to take care of customers who are unhappy, we should spend more of that energy and those resources proactively designing experiences and products that just work the way the customer wants them to work. Rather than having to swoop in with the big save, what can you do proactively to ensure your customer never needs to call your support team or issue a compliant? How can you delight without the heroics?
- Measure what matters. For the different stages of your customer journey, identify key metrics for success. Capturing an NPS or customer satisfaction score one time isn’t enough. You need leading and result indicators for each stage in your customer’s journey to let you know if you are on the right track to retaining and growing your customer accounts. Put some key customer KPIs on your dashboard, measure them every week, and talk with your team when the indicators are off track.
- Get everyone involved. As I mentioned before, it isn’t just the customer-facing teams that are in charge of delighting the customer. Every person in your company has a role to play, and the most successful companies have found ways to integrate a customer-focused mindset into their company culture. The customer experience can’t be an afterthought. It should be an integral part of how your company operates; makes strategic decisions; designs products and services; communicates internally and externally; makes resource and hiring decisions; and invests in systems, tools and training. Don’t create silos by delegating this key aspect of your business to one leader or team.
If you want to learn more about how to make customer experience into a competitive advantage for your company, we are thrilled to have the definitive expert on this topic, John DiJulius, speaking at our Breakthrough Conference this October here in Charlotte.
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