Use These 3 Steps Toward Building a Better Customer Strategy

Loyal customers are easy to spot — just as easily as poor customer experience will lead to losing them.

Ask nearly any business leader today, and they will tell you their company is “customer-centric.” But far too often we see statements like this made more as lip service, than real, tangible actions.
When a company gets it right and delivers value, customers know it. They reward the business with their loyalty and repeat purchases and will even advocate for that business. But what is different about the companies that get it right? What differentiates their approach from competitors?

To explore this topic in more detail, I recently chatted with several senior leaders about what goes into building a successful customer strategy and some of the common gaps that get in the way.

1. Adopt An Expanded Mindset

Companies today are under incredible pressure to transform and improve customer experiences while driving consistent top line growth and sales. The business landscape is rapidly changing, as are customer expectations.

Identifying the right strategies to accomplish your goals requires making tough trade-off decisions to prioritize in the right areas to maximize customer value and long-term value creation.

This not only requires empathy for the customer — anticipating their current and future needs — it also requires “teaching everyone across your team to have an ‘expand’ mindset,” shares Rachael McBrearty, the chief customer officer of LeanData. “No matter what role you are in, you should know how to make recommendations that deliver additional value to your clients.”

One of the most common mistakes companies make is taking shortcuts, making tactical improvements to customer experience, rather than addressing the most fundamental gaps that exist across their organization getting in the way of delivering consistent value to customers.

2. Empower Employees to Focus on Customer Outcomes First

Senior leaders play a key role in striking the right tone when it comes to customer success. How many times have you gone to a meeting in your career where the people in the room discussed the business, product or sales outcomes they want to achieve with little or no mention of the customer experience? This happens all the time inside companies and can quickly derail your efforts.

Leaders play a key role in modeling customer-centric behaviors for employees and coaching other leaders — from the way they communicate internally to how they engage with customers.

Building a holistic strategy requires a common language for what customer success looks like and how it lines up with your company’s objectives. Employees need a shared vocabulary to describe how they’re investing in customers, what return they deliver to them and how that yields value to the business and even their careers.

“To ensure commitment and accountability across your organization, you need specific incentives for employees tied to key customer metrics,” shares Brian O’Neill, Chief Client Officer at FIS. “It is critical to align incentives to the behavior and outcomes you want to achieve.”

3. Make Customer Data and Stories Actionable

Another key area of focus for companies is the application of customer data to decision making. This is easier said than done. Not all data is created equal, and teams often don’t have a clear process in place to translate data into actionable insights and then into value for customers.

As Mike Marcellin, CMO of Juniper Networks, shares, “the trick is triangulating it, figuring out the data that matters, and then agreeing on the actions. Companies need company-wide metrics for customer success with clear owners for gathering and reporting on those metrics.”

Another key to success is teaching everyone across your team how to use customer stories to influence, teach and inspire. “Customer stories are the most powerful tool we can leverage,” notes McBrearty. “The power of the story is that it’s more memorable than simply relaying the facts and data of a use case. You have to constantly prioritize learning from customers and share with others.”

Why This All Matters to Customer Experience

It’s not enough to say your company is customer-centric. Your culture and customer strategy also have to be built around delivering that value in a dynamic and real-time way. As customers, we get excited when we experience companies that stretch further to make our lives easier.

As O’Neill notes, “It is the simplicity of the experience and the removal of friction from customer interactions that matters most.”

The goalposts of what defines success with customers are constantly moving. Companies have to stretch beyond the functional benefits of their product or service and the tactical improvements to deliver a customer experience designed to increase value over time.

This article originally appeared in CMSWire.

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