‘Customer interaction’, like customer experience’ has become a buzzword. As a reference point, what does ‘customer interaction’ actually mean to B2B customers?
Based on my experience helping companies with their customer-alignment initiatives and having conducted hundreds of customer interviews, what B2B customers want is relatively simple:
- Know who I am when I contact you, regardless of channel
- Follow and engage in conversations across channels
- Don’t ask me to repeat information that you already know
- Understand my business, strategy, product usage and needs
- Don’t give me generic answers or half-truths
- Be transparent, responsive and forthcoming
- Build a relationship with me, as an individual
- Prioritize engagement with me throughout our relationship lifecycle
Most vendors look at this list and say ‘check’ until they get to the last two bullets. Tracking and prioritizing engagement with your most valued customers or qualified prospects from first touch throughout the entire relationship lifecycle is hard. Most companies focus on winning “any” customer versus spotting which are the “best” prospects and then managing all omni-channel interactions to meet their expectations and maximize life time value.
Equally hard is meeting a growing expectation from customers to always interact with the same person or team. While companies are focused on building a relationship between a customer and the brand, it is the exact opposite that customers want. They want a relationship with a handful of the right people behind the brand. Automating this is hard because most customer interaction solutions aren’t designed to capture and leverage the intelligence needed to build meaningful human-to-human relationships.
There is a new class of cloud-based customer interaction vendors addressing this problem. Companies like Five9 and NewVoiceMedia blend call center, omni-channel and sales features into new solutions that deliver customer interactions the way customers want them.
NewVoiceMedia, a cloud contact center vendor, redefines how businesses build human-to-human omni-channel relationships. Integrated with popular marketing solutions like Marketo and FlipTop and Salesforce, NewVoiceMedia can spot and move high value customers and prospects to the front of any contact queue. For sales and marketing that means more time spent building relationships with the right prospects. For customer support and success teams it means deepening relationships by putting a consistent face on the relationship and customizing the context of conversations to the customer’s needs and expectations.
A core tenant of NewVoiceMedia, according to Jonathan Gale, CEO, “is that it is the employee that makes or breaks the customer relationship. Each service interaction has to be a consistent experience from empowered and informed employees so they can do the right thing for the customer; that drives brand preference.”
That speaks directly to why B2B sales and marketers struggle with customer interaction or engagement solutions. The breadth of vendors that have jumped on the customer interaction and success bandwagon is mind-boggling. Masquerading as a customer interaction vendor, few actually provide demonstrable approaches to building enduring human-to-human relationships over time.
Monica Girolami, head of marketing for North America for NewVoiceMedia, shared they target companies with in-house contact centers that understand customer value and loyalty is rooted in the service and benefits that wrap around the product. She believes that mindset isn’t something you can outsource.
For vendor employees, all of the customer’s interaction history is displayed in sequentially order, regardless of channel, in a side window in Salesforce. A unique feature is ‘whispering’ which delivers to frontline employees the customer’s Gainsight score so they knows beforehand if that customer is at risk of defection. Because the platform plugs into various clouds they catch all customer interaction history as well as internal knowledge and expertise so “the next best contact, content and expert” can be provided by the employee interacting with the customer.
When asked what has to happen for companies to get customer interaction right, Girolami shared four points:
- CRM maturity needs to advance across all industries; companies need to realize that implementing the technology is not the end game;
- Companies need to get their entire organizations on a customer journey platform, not just marketing or sales;
- All SaaS applications need to be managed from a company-wide perspective and cross-functional business processes routinely fine tuned; and
- While new customer acquisition is key, companies need to realize their growth will come from customer retention.
The bottom-line is all customer interaction vendors are not alike. Dig deep to understand their frameworks keeping in mind that customers want relationship with people, not with brands and their technology.