Maintain Relevance to Your Customers with These Frameworks
In uncertain economic times, smart business leaders know that the path to loyalty and retention is paved with CX. Closing the loop with customers is critical to drive loyalty and retention, and there are multiple approaches that have specific benefits. This article will demonstrate three ways business leaders close the loop with their customers, as told by three companies doing great CX work and maintaining relevance with their customers.
The frameworks detailed in this article will help you understand how these approaches work and recommend ways to determine which method is best for them. Each of these approaches should be balanced against how your customers expect you to engage with them: What is the level of personalization required by your customers and how can you reach it most efficiently? What have they come to expect from you? From your competitors?
When considering these options, understanding how you balance automation versus human touch is critical. Each of these three approaches should be considered against the backdrop of your customer’s expectations.
- 1:Many — A time-efficient communication method used in emails, websites, and other mass communication tools.
- 1:1 — A more time-intensive, but personal method to reach out to customers to solve their problems.
- Many:1 — The most time-intensive method, but also the one with the highest potential reward by solving problems that require cross-functional solutions. In some cases, a many to one method can be the only way to truly solve more systemic customer problems.
Choosing the Right Method
Each method can be further explored by examining a great example.
- 1:Many by Autodesk: The product research team at Autodesk uses events and “sharebacks” to publicly prioritize the release of features and functionality. The team is candid when features or releases are delayed or canceled. “[S]ince launching ‘meet the product team’ events and research ‘sharebacks’ to keep its customer research community updated, Autodesk has seen a double-digit jump in satisfaction scores.” [Forrester: Answers to the Top 10 CX Questions]
- 1:1 by Amdocs: The Amdocs Voice of the Customer (VoC) team interviews VP and C-Suite customers 1:1, and surveys mid-management and experts online. The face-to-face interviews match well with their business, where each account is worth a substantial share of revenue. The 1:1 method paired with online surveys netted over 60 account improvement plans last year to help Amdocs truly take advantage of feedback.
- Many:1 by Malwarebytes: The customer marketing team initiated an NPS Council where special cases are elevated for cross-departmental solutions. It would be too time-intensive to use the Malwarebytes NPS Council for every customer issue, but it is astoundingly effective for complex challenges. “I would say we have reduced in half the time it takes to solve complex CX challenges, thanks to the NPS Council,” says Senior Manager for Customer Lifecycle Marketing Diane Beaudet.
There are a range of options, with different levels of personalization and automation. On the 1:Many side, personalization may be sacrificed for automated effectiveness. But on the other side, the Many:1 method is highly personalized, but may not be as scalable as it is more reliant on human-to-human contact. Consider these details when determining the best method for your organization:
Your challenge is to determine the ideal CX method blend to meet your customer’s expectations.
Another way to think about this is from an equation perspective where the numerator is your CX feedback method for closing the loop. The denominator is your customer’s expectations for feedback follow-up (i.e. level of personalization, speed, automation, etc). You need to be confident that you understand customer expectations to ensure your methods match those expectations. In some cases, it may be a blend of multiple methods.
Malwarebytes is an exceptional example of using a blended approach in order to meet their customer’s needs. They use 1:Many emails and webpages that many companies use to inform the largest group of customers. Their customers expect small problems to be fixed quickly and accept high levels of automation in 1:Many communications. They use a Many:1 approach with their NPS Council, solving complex challenges for a small number of customers because sometimes their customers require a higher touch. The customer expectations in each case match the CX method in place.
These companies are great examples of how CX can be implemented effectively:
Set expectations candidly.
Autodesk is upfront and honest about managing the expectations of users, even when they determine not to prioritize particular features. They listen to customers and balance the information they provide with customer expectations — maintaining relevance with these customers. Forrester cites Autodesk leveraging one-to-many messages to set expectations about timing and depth of communication, saying “[s]uccessful brands have business rules to guide responses and communicate these rules to customers….” [Forrester: Answers to the Top 10 CX Questions] Likewise, Amdocs uses different feedback collection mechanisms depending on the contact. For decision-makers, “Tzachi and team arrange face-to-face meetings…To the remaining mid-management contacts, the team sends an online survey.” [Forrester blog: B2B Firms: Adopt A Bespoke Approach When Collecting Feedback From Large, Complex Clients]
Deploy tech and leverage resources effectively.
The most evolved companies ensure that data is usable across the enterprise. Malwarebytes is setting up an NPS for individual Customer Support Managers (CSMs) and Account Managers (AMs). CSAT scores go directly from the Alchemer Enterprise Feedback Platform to ZenDesk where they can be used in performance reviews. In short, it is essential that feedback data is integrated with the systems your teams already use today. Likewise, Amdocs marries web survey data with their face-to-face metrics in a data lake, giving Amdocs the ability to connect robust Voice of the Customer (VoC) data with operational or transactional data.
Scale toward personalization.
These companies align their CX programs to work with how their businesses operate, but always grow with an eye toward customer expectations and ways to personalize. For instance, Amdocs leadership receives periodical and real-time reports that summarize the feedback collected from accounts. “In addition, [the VoC team] ‘slice-and-dice’ the data for internal functions like the scoping team or HR. And when the VoC efforts uncover a systemic issue, the VoC team passes that on” to the various business units.* At each step, the team considers how they can grow by being more relevant to internal stakeholders. *[Forrester: B2B Firms: Adopt A Bespoke Approach When Collecting Feedback From Large, Complex Clients]
At Malwarebytes, the Customer Lifecycle Marketing Department chairs the NPS Council, a cross-functional group that includes Customer and Corporate Marketing, Product Management, Product Marketing, Customer Support, Engineering, and Sales. Monthly meetings ensure CX topics are brought to the fore and teams can be assigned to solve for each CX challenge. For instance, when The Council noticed a dip in NPS after conversion but prior to the 6-month mark when Malwarebytes generally receives stellar reviews, they were able to assign a team to improve the onboarding process. A more personalized approach enabled the team to identify the correct path and scale up quickly.
All three engagement methods can be useful in closing the loop with customers. However, each organization needs to evaluate the methods against their customer’s expectations to ensure they have selected the correct ones.
Here are my recommendations for organizations considering one or more of these methods. Keep three things in mind when considering the perfect method(s) for your organization.
1. Balanced equation
Your goal is to balance the method of engagement so that it proportionally satisfies your customer’s expectations. Don’t set up an NPS Council if you barely have the resources to send 1:Many communications. Likewise, don’t focus 1:Many efforts on high-value accounts where a more personalized touch would greatly benefit the organization.
2. Blended framework(s)
Consider one or more of the approaches within the frameworks to appropriately close the loop with your customers. Malwarebytes continues to email customers on a 1:Many basis despite the great work occurring in the Many:1 NPS Council. Amdocs pairs online surveys with their 1:1 highly personal touches in a similar manner. Use any and all methods that pair well with your organization’s ability to respond.
3. Multifaceted approach
As your company builds out the necessary methods to drive relevancy with customers and help close the loop, you will find that different customers have different expectations. Prioritize your customers and then match their different expectations with the level of care you can provide. You have to find the balance of approaches that meet your customer’s differentiated expectations.
Economic uncertainty makes it more critical than ever to ensure that your CX program meets or exceeds your customer’s expectations in order to continue to drive loyalty and retention.