Not All Customers Are Created Equal

Not All Customers Are Created Equal

Article originally published on CMS Wire

Businesses should take care of all of their customers, it’s true. But not all customers are created equal, which is why businesses should take extra care with high-value clients. If the people who provide your company with more revenue don’t receive a higher level of customer experience (CX) in return, they’ll likely go to a competitor that they feel better recognizes their value.

Below are some ways to show your high-value customer’s extra appreciation.

Do You Know Who Your High-Value Customers Are?

First things first: does your company know who its high-value customers are? “By segmenting existing and prospective customers across multiple dimensions, we can analyze each cohort by their needs, decision criteria, purchase process, and value so we can begin to serve them differently,” said Janet Balis, EY Americas customer, and growth market leader, and marketing practice leader.

Some companies fail to properly segment customers, particularly if segmentation efforts are pursued in different divisions or by different functions, Balis said. For example, finance may look at revenue generation patterns, while sales may look at the likelihood to convert and overall wallet size. Different leaders have the same end consumer but cannot connect the dots because they haven’t unified their view of the customer.

Jeremy Korst, president of GBK Collective, agreed: “The most important thing a company can do to differentiate their brand perception and overall customer experience for their highest value customers is to embrace a consistent definition of who those high-value customers are across the entire organization.” Otherwise different groups will focus on what they feel provides differentiated CX.

“Once these strategic target customers are defined, then it is key to engage directly with these customers to better understand their unmet needs and desires —which of course change over time — and then build their organization and CX around these specific customers,” Korst said.

“The top 20% of a company’s customers account for 105% to 113% of a company’s net income,” said Ali Cudby, managing partner of Alignment Growth Strategies and author of “Keep Your Customers.” “The majority of customers are actually served at a loss.”

Cudby recommended creating “playbooks” to recognize and reward those high-value customers: “Playbooks deliver consistency to everyone in your organization. They contain the specific, step-by-step actions needed to cultivate long-term loyalty.”

For example, one of Cudby’s clients, a B2B subscription service, developed a playbook designed to better onboard new customers, eliminating what had been a poor experience for many. As a result, customer retention increased by 30%.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Get the basics right, said Stacy Sherman, founder of Doing CX Right. One of the most basic elements of delivering the best CX to high-value customers is excellent communications.

“Customers expect information on a timely basis,” Sherman explained. “Even when there are no updates to share, great CX means picking up the phone and explaining that you have not forgotten and that you are still working on a resolution. Silence is never an option, especially for high-paying customers.”

Outside of phone calls, Sherman recommended leveraging technology to better communicate with customers, such as sending SMS text notifications with an estimated time of arrival, when applicable.

Assign Top Employees to Top Customers

Assign the best customers to the organization’s best-performing employees for servicing needs. Make it possible for those employees to do what’s right for the customer without requiring supervisor approval, Sherman added. “Starbucks is known for this as whenever a personalized drink does not satisfy a customer, the staff corrects the problem immediately without any questions asked or management approval. It’s one of the many reasons customers pay triple the cost for a cup of coffee than other shops.”

Use a Data-Driven Approach

“Customer experience cannot be designed from the inside-out, rather it must be crafted around the most frictionless path-to-purchase that the customer desires to meet their articulation of needs,” Balis said. “In a human-driven sales organization, we must focus on account-leadership assignments, account-based marketing strategies, and solution-based selling strategies and solution-based selling strategies to be sure that customers’ needs are met in a truly consultative way based on the issues they face.”

Balis added that in a B2C context, physical and digital retail must create an experience that is connected, easily navigable, and personally relevant, where appropriate. In both B2B and B2C, companies must look at the purchase not as the endpoint of the journey but instead as the beginning of a lifetime relationship to cultivate and nurture.

Data and technology are the lynchpins of pulling this all together, according to Balis. “Differentiated offers, bundles, loyalty programs, and service levels can all be deployed, but data-driven and digital approaches allow us to be far more scientific and precise in our analysis and deployment.”

Are Your Customer Experiences Driving Customer Loyalty?

Are Your Customer Experiences Driving Customer Loyalty?

Customer loyalty article featuring Stacy Sherman originally posted March 26, 2021 in CMS Wire by Phil Britt.

Some customer experience efforts only drive short-term results, without helping build long-term customer loyalty, which as we all know is critical for customer retention, sales and revenue. We spoke with marketing experts to get their advice on how to create customer experience (CX) strategies that drive customer loyalty. Here’s what they had to say.

A Comprehensive Approach and Cross-Organizational Support Drives CX

The key to connecting CX to loyalty is to execute a comprehensive strategy for investing in your customers as a crucial asset. This approach links together customer acquisition, customer engagement, retention, customer value and brand advocacy, according to Jeb Dasteel, founder of Dasteel Consulting.

“The comprehensive approach to CX requires orchestration of the entire executive team,” Dasteel said. “CX leaders cannot do this alone. What the leader can do is outline strategic CX objectives, their impact on loyalty, and how that creates measurable value for customers and results for you.”

Dasteel recommends companies make the following CX investments for long-term customer success and to promote loyalty:

  • An account management program to guide interactions and deliverables for your most important customers.
  • Codified approaches to customer adoption and value.
  • A customer marketing program to translate value and loyalty into new customer acquisition.

“The most powerful loyalty weapon you have is a portfolio of CX engagements, sponsored by your executives, and aimed directly at your customers’ business outcomes,” Dasteel said.

Also essential in driving loyalty via CX is to have participation across the organization, said Ali Cudby, adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Purdue University and managing director of Alignmint Growth Strategies. For most, a loyalty program is not enough, though Starbucks is a notable exception.

“Too often, companies relegate the customer experience to a single department, like customer support or customer success,” Cudby said. “That’s a fatal flaw. CX is bigger than any one department. A customer’s experience includes the promises made by sales and marketing: The product doing the job it was promised. A path to success as a customer. And even technology that makes it easy for customers to engage.”

Companies need someone to be in charge of the customer relationship, and that person needs the authority to influence action cross-functionally, Cudby added. When CX is buried in a single department it’s almost impossible to deliver a truly great, consistent experience.

“Customers need consistency across all of their points of interaction with a company,” Cudby said. “Consistency builds trust and trust is the foundation for authentic, long-term customer loyalty.”

Know Your Target Audience To Achieve Customer Loyalty

Building customer loyalty through CX starts with clearly defining the target customers you’re optimizing experiences for, said Rebecca Szew, GBK Collective executive vice president, research and insights. “Too often, we see companies that are heavily focused on customer acquisition and near-term sales, without a clear segmentation and brand strategy in place to inform what products, services and experiences they need to develop to maximize customer value over the long-term.”

Many CX specialists and marketers define loyalty as repeat purchasers, when in fact, those customers may only be transient loyalists who will quickly switch to a competitor based on price, a new product launch, or other factors, Szew added. “Ultimately driving meaningful differentiation through experience comes down to how well a brand knows what their target customers value.”

Szew recommended that companies have holistic programs to measure the impact of their CX efforts across areas — from product development and marketing to sales and customer service. They also need to be open to new ideas to maximize the impact of their CX efforts.

Build Communities to Foster a Larger Sense of Purpose

“Companies that successfully foster a sense of social engagement or community beyond the transactional use of the product tend to have more loyal followers,” said Dhaval Moogimane, West Monroe director, high-tech and software. “Take the example of Peloton. While the bike or the treadmill itself is a good product, the digital engagement around the product has created a very loyal fan base due to the interactions with the trainers, the social interactions with friends, the synchronization with music, etc.”

B2B companies can follow the same strategy by investing and innovating in their community platforms to foster engagement across customers, gamify experiences, create champions and ultimately advocates, Moogimane added.

Keep Your Customer Journey Maps Up to Date

The customer journey map is essential in driving customer loyalty, said Stacy Sherman, founder of Doing CX Right. “Define how people (your target personas) can learn about your brand, buy, get, use, pay their bills and obtain help when needed. If you already have a journey map from prior years, re-create it because human needs and expectations have changed a lot. Bring employees from different departments to co-create the journey map as everyone owns the customer experience, not just one person or team. They will also feel more connected and empowered to deliver customer excellence when part of the process.”

Sherman also stressed that once designed, the customer journey map must be validated by real customers to determine if any changes are needed. “For example, if you offer an 800 number for customers to get help with their product or service, but the majority prefer to not call and use online chat instead, then there’s a gap that must be addressed. Ask your customers what they want. They’ll tell you.”