Why Your Customer Experience Strategy is Too Late

Posted: December 21, 2014 by Zach Taylor in Culture, Customer Service, Leadership, Marketing, People, Selling

Zach-Taylor-3Recent articles published by Inc Magazine & Harvard Business Review have capped the increasing amount of attention paid to ‘Customer Experience’.  Apple, and the way they handle the massive crowds at their retail locations, catapulted the customer experience conversation that has exploded in the past two years. The concept originated in the service industry – hotels and restaurants – then moved into the retail environment (ie. Apple, car dealers, etc.), and is now everywhere we look.  The importance of customer experience continues to gain momentum in the B2B arena.  As the world gets smaller and competition grows, great execution of customer experience in the B2B space is now paramount.  While still not perfectly measurable, the strategy is sound: deliver an amazing customer experience and your customers will never leave you (they will buy more and provide referrals).

There is a massive problem, however, in the way the world’s business leaders preach and practice customer experience – they’re starting too late.  Every strategy I’ve read or speech I’ve heard discusses in painstaking detail how a customer is onboarded, what their very first interaction with the product/service is like, how they are supported, how timely and adequately problems are solved, how to create a strong bond with your company via touching and/or witty marketing content, and lastly ensure they are engaged with you via social media.  But no one, and I mean no one, is talking about where the customer experience truly begins in the B2B space: with the sales team.  If you have a sales team, the very first human interaction any of your customers will have is with a sales rep.  That human interaction will be what prospects and clients remember most.  Company leaders need to start here.  Long before clients start using your product or talk to a support person, they talk to a sales rep.

So, here are the questions you should be asking yourself and incorporating into your customer experience strategy.  What is that first touch point like for your prospects?  How do your sales reps treat prospects on cold calls?  Are your sales reps listening or dominating the conversation?  How adequately (and appropriately) do they follow up with opportunities?  How do they handle “No”?  Are they professionally aggressive in their closing efforts?  Are they adding value regardless of whether or not they make the sale?

All of the traditional ‘Customer Experience’ efforts are too late if your sales reps have treated the prospects poorly.  Sure, you may win the business via a shotty sales experience, but your implementation/ops team is starting in the hole, likely to lose the account when the smallest issue arises, regardless of how airtight your amazing customer experience processes are.  And remember, bad experiences get talked about 10x the amount great experiences do (think about the last time you had a HORRIBLE restaurant experience and how many people you told never to eat there…).  On the plus side, if the new client starts with a smile generated by the sales rep, they are infinitely easier to onboard (more patient, forgiving, follow directions better, etc.).

Think about the perception of your business created by sales reps.  You’re only closing 10, 20, maybe 30% of the prospects your sales reps talk to.  But just because the sales process doesn’t go anywhere after that first discussion doesn’t mean that prospect should not have an amazing experience.  The short lived experience of 70+% of your prospects is equally important.  Those people will likely have a need to buy at some point in the future and will loudly denounce your company/service/product if their experience with your sales team is less than pleasant.

Ensure your sales manager has a crystal clear understanding of what an amazing sales experience is like for prospects, delivers that process to their team, and holds them accountable to the high standards your company has set for itself.  You only get one chance at a first impression, and it doesn’t start with account managers or support reps or even your product… it starts with sales.

 

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