I spoke recently with Kerry Bodine, customer experience consultant and the co-author of Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business. Her ideas, analysis, and opinions have appeared on sites like The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Forbes, USA Today, and Advertising Age. She holds a master’s degree in human-computer interaction and has designed interfaces for websites, mobile apps, wearable devices, and robots.
I had noticed that some of the techniques I use to map out my buying processes to help my clients improve their sales were similar to those used in the customer experience field. I had some questions about customer experience generally, and how it applies to B2B businesses specifically. So I turned to Kerry, a globally renowned expert in this field. Here’s what we discovered.
Aldwin Neekon: How do you define customer experience?
Kerry Bodine: From the customer perspective, the customer experience is the customer’s perceptions, thoughts, emotions, and memories about their interactions with a company. Perceptions are the most immediate response, thoughts are how we translate those perceptions cognitively, emotions occur on a more visceral level, and memories are what really stay with the customer over time. From a business perspective, customer experience is the discipline around improving customer interactions.
Aldwin: So in that definition, there are the ideas of discipline and of improvement. What can companies do to better understand and improve the customer experience?
Kerry: Companies can—and should—do a lot of things. That includes sending Net Promoter surveys and soliciting feedback about specific touchpoints. Doing ethnography and in-depth interviews. Mining social media. Listening to customer service calls. Looking at analytics and identifying behavioural and purchasing trends. There’s this big mess of data out there that you need to get really comfortable swimming in so you can look for patterns.
Too often companies just rely on a single data point, like an NPS® survey. The Net Promoter people have billed this as the ultimate question—and although it’s a very worthwhile question to ask, it’s just one question. And no one question, data point, or type of data is going to give you the full picture. Companies that live and die by their NPS are miss out on truly understanding the quality of their customer experience.
Aldwin: So one discipline companies have to have is to broaden their view and not have tunnel vision on one question or one type of inquiry. What are some other disciplines that a company has to develop to improve customer interactions and customer experience?
Kerry: After they bring all these data points together, companies need to find ways to share them with management and staff. But you can’t just throw all of your customer data at every single employee. Companies need to be more strategic by asking: What are the key pieces of information that people in our customer service organization need to do their jobs better? What does our sales force need in order to communicate about the customer experience to prospects? What’s relevant to the marketing team or to the people in finance? Then companies need to share the key data points, whether those are verbatim quotes, trend data, videos, etc. And, in some cases, that might mean involving employees directly in customer interviews or workshops.
Organizations also need to help every single employee understand what their personal connection is to the customer experience. I truly believe that every single person in the company—and their outside partners—contributes to the customer experience. It’s not always a direct impact. It’s not that someone in finance or legal is necessarily talking to or interacting with customers every day. But the decisions they make and the actions they take ultimately impact other employees and other internal clients—and through that ripple effect, they ultimately they impact the customer.
I think that’s the biggest thing. We all talk about changing the culture, which is important, but probably the most direct thing that companies need to do is share customer insights so employees can understand the impact they’re having on the customer experience. The goal is to get those employees to say, “Oh, I can proactively think about the decisions I’m making today and how they’ll impact the customer.” or “I’m going to think about how changes to this process might make the customer experience better.”
To me that’s the holy grail. You can have all kinds of change initiatives, but ultimately you have to have every person in the organization taking some personal ownership and responsibility for making the experience better.
Aldwin: That makes sense. When I think of the interactions that I have with companies where I find myself saying, “These guys are amazing, I’m never leaving this vendor. This person has decided to make it their mission today to solve my problem,” those are the companies whose employees have taken personal responsibility for improving my experience with them.
Kerry: That’s right.
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In part 2 of this series on B2B customer experience management, I ask Kerry how to interpret and use the massive amounts of data that can be generated by a customer experience management discipline.
To find out more about getting your sales and marketing teams working better together, contact Aldwin at InquisitiveMarketer.com/contact.
And don’t forget to join the B2B Customer Experience group on LinkedIn.