Improving Customer Experience in the Midst of Change
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Customer relationships are the core foundation of sales success. Making customers feel supported and comfortable, especially amidst change, helps position customers to experience success in their own businesses while positioning reps to drive long-term revenue. Creating a reliable, positive customer experience is fundamental to the success of sales organizations. As customers and reps cope with change and transition, the customer experience must be prioritized in order to maintain relationships and inspire loyalty.
As a result of the past year, the customer experience has undergone significant changes. As the virtual sphere redefines the customer journey, it is vital to prioritize a comfortable and enjoyable experience for customers to ensure long-term, successful relationships.
To best support customers in yet another stage of change as companies approach the transition to hybrid and in-person environments, consider these best practices.
Remain Agile With Buying Processes
As the buying process becomes more complex, it can also become more difficult for sales reps to win budgets. To be adequately prepared for the redefined buying process, sales reps must be agile and flexible.
“More people are getting involved in making [buying] decisions,” said Aaron Evans, global director of sales enablement at GlobalData. “There’s a lot more around a decision by committee. On top of that, we’re seeing some pretty senior roles getting involved in much smaller buying decisions as well.”
Since many customers are tightening budgets and more stakeholders are involved in deals, buying decisions are becoming more scrutinized. Enablement can play a key role in arming sales reps with the right tools to better align with the customer’s desired buying process. By placing the customer’s comfort and convenience as a priority, sales reps are more likely to move deals forward and foster long-term relationships with customers.
“The way that we’re trying to enable people is to, first of all, manage that buying process a lot better aligned with the customer’s buying process to try and get the relevant stakeholders on board much quicker and demonstrate value,” said Evans.
Especially as customers experience resource constraints, reps must communicate value to customers in every interaction to prove what is in it for them in the investment of time, money, and mindshare in the organization. This means that the discovery phase of the buying process is pivotal to the journey of both the sales rep and customer. Before approaching customers to ask for commitment, sales reps need to ensure that all of the right people involved in the deal are aligned on priorities and bought into the value that the rep’s solution can ultimately provide as it relates to those priorities.
“The discovery phase of selling has never been more important than it is,” said Evans. “It’s absolutely critical because they don’t know whether they’re going to survive over the next two or three years, and you may have a solution that can help them get out of that.”
This shift in the customer’s buying process can be, long-term, highly beneficial for reps. As customer experience becomes a strategic imperative in the buying process, sales reps will be required to gain a deeper understanding of the customer’s values and, in turn, use that knowledge to their advantage.
“The importance of standing out to that customer of real true intrinsic value is becoming absolutely critical,” said Evans.
By arming sales reps with a crystal clear value proposition and the knowledge and skills to communicate it effectively, enablement can ensure that reps will be adequately prepared to demonstrate tangible examples of the ways customers will extract value from the respective product or service.
“I’m trying to add as much value as possible before we ask for something in return,” said Evans.
Placing value in the customer experience ignites a shift in the approach toward the engagement between customers and sales reps. Instead of working to bring any customer in, a positive customer experience requires reps to bring the right customers in. Salespeople can identify what the customer is truly after and align the selling process to those goals. In doing so, sales reps avoid failure or misalignment in the long run.
Focus on Customer Support
As customer experience becomes a top priority for organizations, investment in enablement for post-sales teams is important to ensure customers are supported across the entire lifecycle. Customer success managers and support teams play a key role in ensuring a positive experience for customers. By ensuring customers feel supported even after the buying process ends, organizations create long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with their customers.
Understanding the changes that both internal teams and customers are going through is fundamental to shaping a positive and supportive experience for the customer. By asking the customer about the way their own organization is changing, and recognizing a sense of camaraderie in undergoing immense transition, customer support teams can work with customers to face challenges together.
Every interaction with customers, especially post-sale, should aim to reduce any friction. By communicating transparently with customers and providing them with the best-suited opportunities for success based on their current needs and pain points, customer support teams can greatly reduce any frustration or miscommunication with customers. By keeping customers in the loop throughout the entirety of their experience, the customer will inevitably feel valued and prioritized by organizations.
“We don’t want people to feel like they’re just constantly satellites, orbiting around a planet that they’ll never touch down on,” said Peter Armaly, senior director of customer success at Oracle.
Support Internal Teams
Just like customers, internal teams are facing immense pressure in times of change and transition. Forming best practices with customers is contingent on the work of internal teams. If internal teams are not supported by their own organizations, it is far more difficult for them to support customers. Communicating with internal teams and ensuring they are prepared for the evolving customer experience will prove to be pivotal in shaping a positive experience for both customers and internal teams.
To support internal teams and equip them with the resources to support customers, enablement can make intentional efforts to foster a positive company environment. For example, practitioners can focus on communicating with teams to gauge where people are at in terms of dealing with the various changes at hand. By implementing routine check-ins, reps will be given a dedicated space to communicate the challenges they are facing, and how they are approaching those challenges. By serving as predictable and dependable support systems, enablement can understand the personal situations reps are going through to better shape enablement practices.
“Stick half an hour or 45 minutes in every week where you just sit there with no agenda and have a conversation, because I guarantee this is where the real critical issues or objectives or challenges will come up because that was the time that they used to come by your desk,” said Evans.
Coaching is also critical to guide internal teams through change and help them gain the knowledge and skills necessary to enhance the customer experience. By helping reps refine the strategies they’ll be using to approach and engage with customers, both the customer and the internal teams will be in the optimal position to generate success on both sides of the partnership.
“I think coaching will ultimately create a better customer experience because you’re coaching on the fundamentals that the business wants to execute on to ultimately achieve the goal of adding value in generating revenue,” said Evans.
Through prescriptive and tailored coaching that maps to the customer journey, internal teams will be equipped with the right tools to engage with customers who are also facing change and uncertainty.
Align With Customer Environments
As the customer experience evolves in conjunction with ever-changing norms, teams need to foster alignment and collaboration as the customer navigates the transition between virtual and in-person engagement. By working flexibly within the customer’s environment, whether that be virtual, hybrid, or in person, organizations can demonstrate commitment to the success of the partnership.
To best support customers, organizations must be flexible enough to work with their customers in any setting. For example, even if an organization is in person, the customer might not be comfortable with in-person interaction yet. Customers might not be ready for in-person meetings at the same moment the seller is, and organizations have to be prepared for this.
“In terms of working with customers, we just don’t know or have a say in how they’re going to operate,” said Armaly.
By working with customers to pre-establish the standards of engagement and the model that works best for them, customers will feel more comfortable working with organizations, despite the inherent differences in operations across companies.
“We’ve just doubled down on really understanding what it’s going to take for us to improve the quality of our service and our engagements and all our interactions with customers,” said Armaly.
Although transitions and changes are inherently challenging, the customer experience can be more seamless with dedicated support from enablement across revenue-facing teams. By emphasizing the importance of customer support, remaining flexible with the customers’ evolving buying process, coaching, and alignment, the customer experience can be put at the center even as the world of work continues to be redefined.