Who’s in charge of the tech customer experience?
June 16, 2016
When it comes to the technology purchasing process, it’s hard to know where one role ends and another begins. This makes ensuring a consistent, positive customer experience challenging to say the least. Marketing is responsible for creating most of the content customers see, while sales is the final lynchpin between the product and the buyer. In the end, each works together to play an integral role in the attraction and retention of customers. But neither is truly in charge of the customer experience. That role has always been owned by the customer, now just more than ever.
Let’s face it: the conundrum of improving customer experience isn’t unique to tech marketers and sellers (only 23% of B2B organizations overall are implementing truly effective customer experience programs and achieving higher revenue growth as a result). However, the tech customer experience is unique and marketers need to do more to reach customers and curb their frustrations.
Like many B2B marketers, technology marketers face a buying committee. This diverse group of purchase decision-makers includes those up-to-speed on technology and your product, as well as those still learning the basics about your product and the problem it can help them solve. In the end, this self-educating, content-consuming mix of customers at varying levels of sophistication decides, on their own terms, how and when they want to interact with you. And their choices are many – search, company/product website, review sites, calling customer service, blogs, videos, webinars, word of mouth and more. In fact, the average IT Committee member needs to consume 5 pieces of content before they are ready to talk to a sales rep.
All of these touchpoints are a stop along the customer’s journey. It’s a journey that’s non-linear, highly unique, and personal in terms of the education process each customer prefers. This makes it hard to take charge of the sales path for potential and existing customers. And this is where tech companies are falling short on the customer experience curve.
Focus on the customer journey if you want to make it to the purchase destination
Understanding this helps all stakeholders involved in the tech purchaser lifecycle – CEO, Marketing, Sales, Product Development, Customer Service – to align in order to get a better handle on how to cater to customers where they are, and how to meet the high expectations of today’s buyers. This includes addressing the growing evolution in B2B buyers behaving as B2C consumers and demanding the experience be the same.
So while customers are in charge of their own experiences, tech companies need to be in charge of managing those experiences. It’s about knowing what factors contribute to a positive customer experience and folding those into a set of clearly defined initiatives where all internal stakeholders ultimately have a seat at the technology marketing table.
Map out your customer marketing path
How can tech companies set themselves apart to provide the best possible B2B customer experience for all members of the tech buying committee? By practicing a customer-first versus company-first approach to marketing, thereby making everything about the customer:
1) Ask customers what they want:
- Solicit regular feedback about what customers need and how you could better address their concerns at all stages of the buying cycle. Where are there gaps? Where is conflicting information shared? Is their experience inconsistent?
- Put yourself in their shoes – envision what would make you engage with and pursue your product if you were a tech buyer, and then create an experience to mirror that.
- Put yourself in their line of fire – for tech decision-makers, credibility is on the line. Understand what’s at stake for them – financially, reputation-wise and operationally – if an IT implementation isn’t successful, and message to those pain points.
2) Eliminate silos:
- Minimize disconnects in customer interactions and hand-offs between functional teams by planning out a communication strategy beforehand.
- Hold a regular cross-functional team discussion about customer experience and consider creating a devoted Customer Experience role.
- Put measures in place to properly gather meaningful sales and customer data, then share and integrate that data to refine your marketing strategy at every stage.
3) Make it personal:
- Be sure you understand each member of the tech buying committee – their roles and what impacts their decisions at each stage.
- Create personas to help marketing and sales get a better sense of who they’ll be talking/messaging to.
- Avoid generic communications – make sure every call, email, and other connection point feels personal and underscores that you understand a particular tech buyer’s situation.
4) Keep the journey seamless:
- If you start in the analysis stage by talking about growth of cloud computing and its benefits, don’t suddenly start messaging about data center storage solutions in the next stage – mixed messages will make customers think you don’t understand their needs.
- Tell a consistent “story” to customers throughout the purchase journey.
By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. For tech companies, where it’s a formidable challenge to even make it on the vendor short list, this means customer experience could become the key factor that retains your customer’s loyalty or sends them fleeing to competitors. So while customers are still master of their experience, it’s time to step up and make it nearly impossible for your customers to find a reason to go anywhere else.
Are you improving your customers’ experience? Is there advice you’d share with other tech organizations? Join the conversation in the comment section below.
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