When a business buyer goes online, shows interest in a product and wants more information, the marketer uses a dirty trick: If you want information, you’ll have to fill out a form with your email and maybe a phone number. It’s no fun being held to ransom, but marketers don’t care. They need to deliver a quota of leads to sales.
Once the lead is handed over, the marketer exits the customer journey, while the buyer braces for an onslaught of pitches. Salespeople aggressively “prospect” and “hunt” customers because they’re measured by the deals they close.
If a salesperson converts the buyer, the buyer is passed to customer support. A buyer who encounters a problem and calls customer support will likely receive shoddy service, such as getting stuck in a phone tree. That’s because customer support is a lean organization measured on cost-cutting and saving the company money.
It’s no surprise that metrics drive individuals; metrics drive departments; metrics drive companies. And today’s metrics care little about the customer. “Those are crappy metrics,” says CMO Bill Macaitis at Slack, speaking at Advocamp in San Francisco last week. “They give really crappy experiences to your customers.”
Times, though, are changing.
Customers aren’t buying it anymore
If companies think they can continue serving up bad customer experiences, they might find themselves in a downward spiral. A popular Gartner prediction is expected to come home to roost this year: By 2016, 89 percent of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience.
The reason is that we’ve entered what Forrester calls the “age of the customer.” Recently, Forrester surveyed 300 business decision makers and found that more than half prefer online researching, often over a mobile device, to interacting with a salesperson. The modern business-to-business buyer is self-empowered and not going to put up with a bad customer experience.
“It really changes how marketing and sales together think about going to market,” says Forrester principal analyst Laura Ramos.
Customer-centric companies must figure out how to engage customers on their terms throughout the customer journey, Ramos says. At stake is a customer relationship that lasts a lifetime, an advocate who influences a new crop of potential buyers.
In order to become a customer-centric company, old metrics and models need to be thrown out. For starters, companies should get rid of the traditional sales funnel, Ramos says. It’s a model that calls for marketers to pour money in the top of the funnel hoping something comes out the other end for salespeople.
“It doesn’t work that way anymore,” Ramos says.
Customer-centric metrics and models
At Slack, old metrics have been replaced by customer-centric ones, such as first-response time, customer satisfaction surveys and daily active users. Sales and accounts teams are measured by their average net promoter score, as well as post-purchase surveys asking customers about their experience with the account rep.
While many traditional companies favor sales and marketing over customer support, a customer-centric company considers the entire customer journey.
In fact, the vast majority of time spent in the customer journey occurs after the sale, Ramos says. It’s where happy customers are plucked and groomed to become advocates who recommend a company’s product to their peers. That’s why Slack has three times as many support people than account reps and salespeople, and will be rolling out live chat and voice support later this year.
Macaitis says: “It doesn’t matter if you got the sale. It doesn’t matter if you got the renewal. Did you get the recommend?”
Of course, it’s a lot easier for younger companies like Slack, launched in August 2013, to make the leap to a customer-centric culture than older companies that have a lot of legacy baggage. Older companies tend to have quarterly financial pressures and need to answer to a board of directors. Their employees have carved out careers under the old metrics and won’t give them up easily. Marketing, sales and support have probably operated in silos for decades.
But that’s something that has to change.
“My role is uniting all the customer-facing teams,” Macaitis says. “By having them under one banner, we can think about what those [customer] interactions look like, how we make those handoffs, how we relentlessly eliminate bad experiences and put in good experiences.”
Tom Kaneshige is editor of Five2ndWindow, Penton’s independent news site helping marketers and line-of-business executives get ahead of the digital disruption happening to the customer experience. You can reach him at email@example.com.