Customer Success vs. Customer Experience
Customer Success (CS) was born to serve a SaaS-based subscription economy. Today the model is routinely applied beyond SaaS where the goal is to increase lifetime value with existing customers. Customer Experience (CX) is a term used to explain the customer-centric world we live in.
The reality is that CX has always been the special sauce of iconic, consumer oriented brands like The Four Seasons and Mercedes Benz. Each has created intense brand loyalty and a culture of customer service. CS and CX started with B2C focus, both now permeate the B2B world. Frequently, CX and CS are used interchangeably or lumped together as a functional role to expand business. Doing so is a mistake that can cost you growth opportunities. Harnessing an outside-in view of CS using a CX lens can be a strategic growth path.
Inside-out or Outside-in?
Most organizations deploy CS as an inside-out tactic executed with a WIFTB (what’s in it for the business) approach. This may lead to customers satisfied with solutions but it falls short. Creating raving fans leads to premium pricing and isolation from competitive efforts. CX puts the customer at the center of the business as the central point of emphasis. This is an outside-in strategy executed with a WIFTC (what’s in it for the customer) approach that organizes resources to ensure the customer voice remains central to business decisions. Developing a CX strategy to drive CS execution drives retention and growth.
The Financial Impact of Linking Experience to Success
You are probably asking yourself, so what? I am delivering great cross-sell/up-sell revenue and retention through my CS program, why do I need CX? Simply, do you want to deliver good results or great results? If you’re happy with where you are now, then you probably don’t. Leadership must see a payoff for putting the customer in the middle of strategy formulation.
CX is for those who seek to leapfrog your competition and grow faster than your market. This gives you a differentiated advantage. The results are unmistakable. In their “ROI of CX Transformation” report, Forrester found this incredible data point: Customers that rate a brand as good or excellent are 2.5X more likely to maintain current spend levels than those who see the brand as poor or very poor. This increases to 3.5X when evaluating business expansion. If you want to increase your ability to retain and expand with a customer, then experience matters.
Implementing a CX/CS Strategy
It’s one thing to talk about it. It’s another to measure and implement a CX strategy. So, what do you need? First and foremost, you need top down buy-in that CX is a strategic imperative. But, just saying it doesn’t make it so. You must walk the walk. Here is how.
1. Understand the Customer’s Voice
You need to have a complete, unvarnished picture of your customer’s experience. It starts with a detailed understanding of your customer’s journey. This needs to extend beyond how they make purchase decisions and into how your brand is perceived. Are you creating or destroying brand perception through every interaction a customer has? Do your customers have a way to reach out before they do so with their feet?
2. Solicit Feedback Systematically
What gets measured gets done. CX adds a twist to this in that the measuring needs to be done with the balance of continuous feedback without creating customer exhaustion. Just like you can overburden a customer with too many reference requests, too many feedback requests will do the same. You need a comprehensive, automated system to request feedback across your customer base. Use the medium of communication the customer prefers. Follow a schedule to sequence and space out your requests for feedback. Just make sure they don’t have a “how did we do?” email in their inbox every time they engage your company.
3. Measure Continuously (But, Judiciously)
Equally important is how you measure the experience. Asking customers to complete an extensive brand survey every time you ask for feedback creates a negative experience. Another way is to ask questions that are irrelevant to their experiences. It is important to understand that feedback is an extension of the brand experience. B2B companies should measure the overall relationship quarterly to annually, while asking for more specific transactional feedback after interactions that map to their journey. These feedback requests need to be tailored, specific, and short. The power is in the aggregation. Avoid having a select few customers responsible for completing every interesting question from sales, marketing, and the C-suite.
4. Respond Quickly and Authentically
There is nothing worse than getting an auto email after providing negative feedback. A general response thanking you for your feedback or apologizing for a problem isn’t helpful. When a customer gives feedback, it is usually tied to a highly positive or negative experience. Both should be treated with importance. First, make sure feedback and communication originate from the people and locations where your customer interacted. Second, if a response to feedback is required, make sure it originates from the people and location involved. Close the loop with someone who can affect change and is familiar with their circumstances. These things are a loyalty building exercise.
5. Hire Customer-centered Candidates
Your people are your brand. There is no amount of marketing or messaging that can supplant the perceptions created when your customers have direct contact. That means when hiring for CS roles you need to assess customer centricity. Can the person deliver retention and growth outcomes but also, can they create customer-centric outcomes? If you are serious about CX, hiring for it is a must for successful execution.
Have questions about whether you can get more from CS through CX? SBI can help you assess your CS operations, systems, and talent to unlock a CX growth strategy. I would like to invite you to SBI’s executive briefing center, to get started with a customized workshop to develop your customer experience strategy.