Today’s business to business (B2B) software-as-a-service (SaaS) organizations must perfect their customer experience (CX). Besides the price point of SaaS itself, business leaders compete on CX, as customers make purchase decisions on attributes, including ease of use. People will also pay more for convenience and knowledgeable service when they are aiming to be the best in class. Though CX is the currency around which organizations compete, many customers still feel their needs are unmet.
How can companies ensure they create exceptional CX? By looking inward. CX is a belief, rather than just a practice or catchy corporate buzzword. Therefore, achieving an authentic, impactful, CX starts with the inside out: Build up your team’s engagement to build out customer connections. Companies with more engaged employees significantly outperform those with poorer employee engagement. Leaders should build teams with a foundation of trust, adaptability, and customer advocacy.
Employee trust leads to customer trust
A user’s experience with a product or brand will directly influence their feelings about purchase decisions. When a product lives up to its expectations, a brandtrust is formed and a brand loyalty emerges. The same is true of a company’s employees. Employees desire competitive salary and benefits, complemented by a culture of mutual respect and support.
Gallup points out that customers are seeking the same: “…[they] are looking for relationships, not just transactions” (Gallup). Similarly, McKinsey research suggests that trust begins with the employee experience, as “employees must feel confident that they have the necessary skills and tools to deliver the best possible experience for customers.”
In their capacity as drivers of employee experience, business leaders must make it their number-one job to enable people to perform well by building a culture of trust. There are a few ways leaders can do this, such as leading by example, giving employees room to be heard, and striving for more partnership and collaboration. How, practically, to achieve those ends, is not always clear. At our organization, we practice reverse mentorship to build stronger trust bonds.
Senior team members typically have fewer, but higher-touch customer responsibilities. Their strengths are in bigger-picture strategizing and in building close relationships. More junior people must distribute their attention across a higher volume of client accounts. These people are skilled to conduct the repetitive tactical pieces of the customer experience puzzle. Pairing a senior person with a junior person allows each to learn from the other, while helping both maximize their strengths.
We’ve found that this type of relationship helps raise up and support less experienced employees while reminding senior team members that they can still learn and improve. The ultimate result is a team that trusts and isn’t afraid to ask one another for help.
Adaptable teams can meet the needs of an evolving customer
The “flaw of averages,” coined by famed Stanford economist Dr. Sam Savage, says that plans based on averages, fail, on average. Companies that approach their customer experiences with an average, one-size-fits-all approach will struggle to meet the underserved needs of their customers. This struggle can arise both because there is no “average” customer and because the needs of individual customers evolve over time.
Regardless of the needs in question, modern customers demand frictionless, personalized experiences on their own terms. The ability to meet these needs is predicated on keeping open conversations with customers so that they feel comfortable sharing information teams need to adjust. This type of information collection and analysis is crucial to understanding how industries and customers are changing. Like trust building, the practice of information sharing must begin at home.
McKinsey finds, for example, that “siloed organizational functions address individual touchpoints in a customer’s journey but leave no one responsible for the end-to-end experience.” Internal teams should share the results of their customer conversations with leadership and other functional teams and vice versa. This breaking down of functional walls will help organizations break down the walls that exist between them and their customers.
Customer advocacy begins with empathy
The COVID-19 pandemic in particular has empowered people to be more human-first. Children or pets disrupting video calls, or people leaving a meeting briefly to answer the door are common interruptions that have become accepted, even in business environments. Continuing to be human-first in this vein will help teams become better advocates for customers.
Consider a client who has convinced their organization to purchase your solution. When your solution helps them save money, that individual receives accolades for helping their company. If your solution doesn’t work, that individual will come back to you asking for help. In these instances, it’s important to become a champion for that customer and help them overcome the challenges they face.
At the heart of these interactions—even those in the B2B world—are humans. We’ve become better acquainted with our coworkers’ non-work activities and living rooms than we could have ever imagined because of the pandemic. As a result, many of us have become more empathetic of one another’s struggles.
Client services teams must take this newfound human-first approach and apply it to their customer relationships. Learn what keeps customers up at night and what challenges they face. Building person-to-person relationships rather than customer-vendor relationships is the best way to become a customer advocate and champion.
A strong employee experience leads to strong customer experiences
There are clear connections between strong employee teams and exceptional customer experiences. It is nearly impossible to build positive customer experiences if internal teams do not trust one another. This trust, born out of communication, is the basis for adaptability and customer advocacy. Customers don’t know what goes on behind the scenes; they just know that someone is there, helping them. As business leaders, it’s our job to make sure that a human-centric organization exists behind the curtains. It’s the only way to build remarkable customer experiences.