Gestalt: Elevating customer success
by Leeya Hendricks (@LeeyaHendricks) In keeping with the customer-experience (CX) focus of this column series, the topic I want to kick off with is that of putting the customer first for sustainable business success.
The million-dollar question is this: what do customers need? The savviest executives ask themselves this question with mounting regularity, and rightly so. They understand that they’re in the customer-experience business, and that why and how they deliver for customers is just as important as what they deliver.
To date, the customer experience mandate of the chief marketing officer (CMO) has been to create an experience that will surprise and delight consumers — up to the point of purchase. For far too many, the aftermarket remains an afterthought. This poses a serious challenge to the sales organisation: In the disconnect that follows between what customers want and what sales provides, how can the post-sales customer experience be rectified when no-one has bothered to study it?
Delivering a connected customer and buying experience
To deliver connected customer experiences throughout the sales cycle, companies need to be connected, too. This means breaking down the silos separating data sets, departments and channels to create a holistic customer experience. In addition, all units need to be united around customer satisfaction and success, which is what’s meant by connected customer organisations.
Where it usually breaks down is post-sales — often considered to be beyond the purview of great customer experience. According to Forrester, 72% of businesses say improved customer experience is their top priority. Yet sales organisations have lagged, defining success based on what the company, not the buyer, wants. As a result, not only do customers not get a great buying experience, they don’t get the help they need to solve their business problems.
How to transform the buying experience
The practice of customer-experience management (CXM) is focused on understanding how customers (including prospects/buyers) experience their interaction with companies, and making the necessary enhancements to improve those perceptions in order to increase customer loyalty.
Increased loyalty drives revenue growth because of the loyalty effect.  In a study across 13 different industries, Forrester found that CX improvements leading to a one-point increase in loyalty (retention, enrichment and advocacy) can drive additional revenue of US$5m–US$873m, depending on the industry.
What customers really want — success
Why is there such a big gap between customer experience aspirations and results? The difference lies in ensuring customer success. Customer success refers to the activities and resources provided to customers throughout their journey to increase their chances of achieving their desired business outcomes. All moving parts aimed at achieving this should work together like a well-oiled machine throughout the journey — which may include researching alternatives, engaging with sales professionals, purchasing and using the product or service, and getting help when problems occur.
In each of these, the focus of customer success differs: The early stages focus on engaging interactions, while purchasing is about ease and speed, and post-sales service concerns itself with resolving problems and preserving long-term loyalty.
Solving customer problems
But, ultimately, customers want you to solve their problems. A 2012 Forrester study found that 63% of executives consider a salesperson who understands their business problems and offers a clear path to solving them to be valuable.” Unfortunately, these are the least commonly observed traits.
According to CustomerThink’s 2017 survey, 56% of companies think their sales representatives exhibit these characteristics. That is encouraging, but it may not match buyer perceptions. Forrester has found huge gaps between seller and customer perceptions on four customer success issues — understanding customers’ business goals; quantifying value delivered; collaborating on sales goals; and helping with adoption challenges.
How to solve customer problems
The following two issues get to the heart of the necessary marketing and sales transformation to provide a great customer experience — or lack thereof:
- 35% of buyers in the abovementioned survey say “marketing content doesn’t engage today’s empowered buyer”
- 30% of sales organisations say their “sales representatives struggle to connect our solution to buyer issues”
Technology-related issues also feature, though to a lesser degree. Roughly one in four executives believe their sales efforts were undermined by a lack of access to the right IT solutions, undue complexity and limited training.
Interestingly, organisational culture and making the case for such interventions to top management ranked at the bottom of the list of issues.4 This suggests an execution problem, more than anything else.
The bottom line? Top management wants to focus on customers and believes the strategy will pay off, but experience challenges in translating that aspiration into day-to-day operations that bring this strategy to life for the organisation and its customers.
Updated on 14 November 2018.
Leeya Hendricks (@LeeyaHendricks) is a chartered marketer, global marketing strategist, a digital driver and a Women in Tech leader. She joined Oracle South Africa in 2016 as marketing director SADC, responsible for leading integrated modern marketing strategies for the business across the southern African region, and is currently marketing director for the ECEMEA region, based at Oracle UK, responsible for driving digital strategy, demand generation and transforms portfolios to develop sustainable revenue growth. Leeya contributes the new monthly column “Gestalt”, about putting customer first for sustainable business success, to Marklives.