Gestalt: Elevating customer success
by Leeya Hendricks (@LeeyaHendricks) In launching “Gestalt” and staying true to my column focus, it would come as a natural segue to start by discussing and putting the customer first for sustainable business success.
What do customers need? The savviest executives are asking this question more frequently than ever, and rightly so. Leading companies understand that they are in the customer-experience business, and why and how an organisation delivers for customers is beginning to be as important as what they deliver.
To date, the customer experience mandate of the chief marketing officer (CMO) has focused on creating an experience that will surprise and delight consumers up to the point of purchase; unfortunately, the aftermarket for far too many is an afterthought. Looking at it from the sales organisation’s point of view becomes more challenging, where a disconnect exists on what the customer needs vs what sales are looking to provide.
Delivering a connected customer and buying experience
Delivering connected customer experiences means you need to get connected, too. It means breaking down data, department, and channel silos and enhancing the holistic customer experience. It means uniting everyone around customer satisfaction and success. It means becoming a connected customer organisation.
Most business leaders indicate they want to differentiate based on great experiences. Forrester states that 72% of businesses outline that improving customer experience is their top priority. But sales organisations have lagged. Jobs are typically designed around what the seller wants, not what buyers need.
As a result, customers don’t get a great buying experience. More importantly, they don’t get the help they seek 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) perceive their experiences, then
- making improvements that will improve those perceptions, so that
- customers are more loyal
Increased loyalty is what drives revenue growth over time. In a study of 13 different industries, Forrester found that CX improvements were linked to revenue increases. Improvements of just one point in loyalty (retention, enrichment, and advocacy) could drive additional revenue ranging from US$5m for credit card providers to US$873m for mass market auto manufacturers.
Better experiences drive more revenue because of the “loyalty effect” – loyal customers tend to remain customers longer and increase their spending.
What do customers really want? Success!
Undoubtedly, there is ample work to be done but why is there such a big gap between customer experience (CX) aspirations and results? The simple answer? Customer success.
Customer success is the set of activities and resources an organisation provides to its “customers” throughout their journey, with the purpose of increasing the likelihood that they achieve their desired business outcomes. Like a well-oiled engine, all the parts within need to work efficiently to have the machine running as a whole, and as it should to get moving. The complete journey may include a broad range of interactions such as researching alternatives, engagement with sales professionals, purchasing, using the product or service, and getting help when problems occur.
The focus of customer success initiatives differs, depending on the customer’s stage. Early stages focus on engaging interactions, purchasing is more about ease and speed, and post-sales service concerned with resolving problems and preserving long-term loyalty.
Solving customer problems
What’s clear is that the customers want you to solve their problems. A 2012 Forrester study found: “The overwhelming majority (63%) of executives surveyed agreed that a salesperson who understood their business problems and offered a clear path to solving them was valuable.” Unfortunately, the same study found these were the least common traits perceived by buyers.
According to CustomerThink’s 2017 survey, a solid majority (56%) agree that “[o]ur sales representatives understand our prospects’ business problems and offer a clear path to solving them.”
That suggests satisfactory progress but it may not match buyer perceptions. The Forrester study found huge gaps between seller and customer perceptions on four issues that more precisely define what it means to focus on “customer success”:
- understanding customers’ business goals
- quantifying value delivered
- collaborating with the customer on sales goals, and
- helping with adoption challenges
How to solve customer problems
The following two issues get to the heart of marketing and sales transformation, or lack thereof:
- 35% say that “marketing content doesn’t engage today’s empowered buyer.”
- 30% say their “sales reps struggle to connect our solution to buyer issues.”
Technology-related issues do feature, to a lesser degree. Roughly one in four executives believe their efforts were undermined by lack of access to the right IT solutions, complexity, and limited training.
Interestingly, organisational culture and making the case to top management ranked at the bottom of the list of issues.4 This suggests more of an execution problem. Top management wants to focus on the customer, and believes that the strategy will pay off. But it’s difficult to translate that aspiration into day-to-day operations that makes this strategy come to life for the organisation and its customers.
 Drive Revenue with Customer Experience, 2017, Forrester
 The Loyalty Effect: The Hidden Force Behind Growth, Profits, and Lasting Value, Frederick F. Reichheld, 2001
 Executive Buyer Insight Study: Defining The Gap Between Buyers And Sellers, Forrester, 2012
 “How to Transform the Buyer Experience”, CustomerThink, 2017
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.