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Whether your customers are businesses or consumers, winning and retaining them is an increasing challenge.

Any quote or retail price can instantly be compared to competitors’ prices by just reaching for a smartphone or online buying exchange. Digital tools and social media platforms provide an intense spotlight for every stage of the journey, whilst increasingly crowded markets make it easier than ever for a potential customer to jump ship at the last minute.

From the perspective of your customers, this environment often triggers a powerful, persistent question:

"Why should my experience be difficult, and why should it differ because of the channel or device used?"

With buyer power at an all-time high, it has become necessary for organisations to scrutinise their customer journeys to truly understand what's really getting in the way of great customer experience. This can include challenging existing touchpoints, processes, technology, culture, measures and incentives, organisation structures and even your operating model. Keeping customers ‘in the funnel’ is often a function of the experience they receive and the ease of the transaction.

How compelling is your overall experience?

There is an increasing realisation that, regardless of the product or service you sell, your overall customer journey is just as important as the point of purchase, or initial acquisition. Poor customer journeys are now being seen as one of the primary barriers to long-term sustainable growth.

Understanding every step your customer takes, from the initial moment of need, through enquiries, purchasing or even complaints in public channels, has become a key priority. As smaller, nimbler disruptors with the ability to rapidly deploy simple, smooth experiences at scale have demonstrated what cutting-edge journeys can deliver, your customers don't just expect seamless experiences, they demand them.

Social media has also matured in parallel with these developments, becoming a channel of choice for consumers to air their influential voice, as promoters or detractors, that can no longer be ignored. B2B isn't immune to this either, with professional networks and forums providing just as strong a platform.

Driving future growth with your existing customers

More 'traditional' approaches to growth have seen companies entice new customers with special deals for insurance, banking or TV entertainment packages. In the world of B2B, some vendors offer additional licences, improved service level agreements or more favourable contract terms in order to close new deals.

In 2013, Avaya and BT Research uncovered that 44% of consumers considered customer loyalty to be a relic of the past, perhaps a symptom of many sectors focusing on tantalising offers for new customers, with existing customers given no incentives, effectively sidelined. 

The cost of acquiring a new customer is believed to be seven times more than retaining an existing one. This, coupled with the likelihood of selling to an existing customer calculated at 60-70% comparing with only 5-20% for new customers (Invesp), shows that growing your customer base at volumes that outpace attrition is, at best, leaving money on the table and at worst unsustainable in the long term. 

Your existing customers are the key to your next stage of growth; they just require some attention.

Better customer journeys lead the way to greater business value

From a holistic standpoint the creation of customer value through good experience adds long-term business value. There is a growing argument that we should stop differentiating between B2B and B2C in this fashion, with every business focusing on person-to-person.

When businesses take transforming their customer experience (CX) seriously, they often start with targets for the marketing or digital function to improve in individual areas such as mobile or web presence.

Whilst important, operations, finance, customer service, and sales should also be involved, looking at the bigger picture and digging deep into experiences to reveal every touchpoint. 

There is a long list of traditional incentives for focusing on a better CX. Improving customer satisfaction and building stronger relationships to increase loyalty, that in turn will improve revenue and sales, are relatively obvious examples. However it also represents the best opportunity to differentiate against your competitors and avoid the race-to-the-bottom typically associated with a focus on factors such as price.

There has never been a time where there is so much transparency regarding products, features, prices and service. In a world where anyone can find anything, anywhere with a simple click of a mouse or swipe of their smartphone, understanding and improving customer journeys is rising to the top of many corporate strategies.

Build your future atop smooth, seamless customer journeys

Short-term approaches or quick fixes are no longer an option. With increasing disruption it has become essential to remove any unnecessary friction points from your business before a competitor or new startup does it for you.

The reality of these emerging and yet essential requirements is that every channel and process will need to be analysed as a part of the whole customer journey. In parallel to this, company cultures need to be transformed, and silos eradicated. The phrase "but, we have always done it this way" could be indicative of organisational behaviour that, according to data from Salesforce, make your customers four times more likely to move to a competitor over service-related issues, rather than price or product quality.

For organisations yet to embrace their customers in this fashion, time and options are running out. How well do you understand the complete journeys taken by your customers?



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