We’ve been talking a lot about the customer experience and how it’s evolving in B2B buying and selling. Apparently, we’re not the only ones thinking about it. At Monday’s C3 event in London, an enormous audience (three times the size of last year’s C3 Europe event) came out to hear CallidusCloud’s take on how customer experience fit into the Lead to Money process – and they also came with plenty of questions and some strong points of view.
C3 EMEA 2014
For too long, businesses confined their view of the customer experience in B2B as something that support handled – the customer had a problem, support put a finger in the dike and the business hoped the customer forgot the problem ever happened. That’s just as terrible an approach as it sounds, and it overlooks the fact that a customer’s experience with a business starts with the sale, if not earlier during the research phase of the buying process.

The first step to crafting a great customer experience is understanding how to perceive that experience from the customer’s point of view. The acquisition of Clicktools gives CallidusCloud the tools to provide this. Building in feedback throughout the buyer-seller relationship allows sellers to understand how the buyer views the customer experience, and gives the seller ideas about where to change processes and activities to improve that experience, even mid-deal.

This isn’t just something for sales operations or marketing to be concerned with – the customer experience is vital to the entire business, especially in an increasingly subscription-based economy. Connecting sales performance to customer feedback, for instance, can change how sales reps are compensated – a closed deal is good, but only if the customer experience points toward a long customer lifecycle and maximizes the customer’s total value. If a sales rep’s behavior in getting the initial deal hurts the long-term relationship, why should he be compensated the same as a rep who sets the foundation for years of recurring revenue?

The ability to factor feedback into every facet of sales and marketing is a game changer when it comes to taking action on customer feedback. Instead of a questionnaire at the end of a deal, every customer can be invited to help make a business understand how to deliver great experience at every point in the relationship.

It also forces businesses to be more responsive. If you ask the question and fail to act on the answer, you’re sending a signal to customers – essentially, you’re suggesting that you don’t care. But smart businesses do care and want to respond to customers’ desires, and Clicktools provides intelligence into what those desires are.

Some other observations from the audience at C3 in London:

  • Marketers see the need for greater synergies with sales. The writing is on the wall for alignment; as expectations for sales increase, there simply isn’t time for sales to remediate shortcomings in marketing by spending excessive time prospecting. At the same time, the pressure is on marketing to deliver the leads that allow sales to sell and keep out of the lead generation business. The side effect of this increasing segregation of roles is, almost paradoxically, a need for greater alignment. Marketers are seeing this need to partner with sales and are eager for tools to put a framework in place for real alignment, data sharing and the establishment of common goals.
  • Marketers are also saying that the ability to access campaigns in a simple fashion is huge for their sales teams and thus huge for their conversion rates. When sales and marketing can use the same tools and the same data, they can do their jobs much better and the end result is more wins.
  • When it comes to sales and marketing, there’s a world of difference between automation and performance management. Automation is fine, but automating a bad process only means you’re doing the wrong thing faster and more efficiently. It’s much better to discover the right ways to sell and market and to have those correct ways automated and reinforced by technology.

There’s a hunger to understand the customer experience and to turn that knowledge into action that gains new customers and retains existing ones. In terms of the numbers of attendees, the energy, and the enthusiasm for change, it was a very exciting C3 event. We have another day of sessions in Frankfurt on Thursday, and I look forward to seeing how this momentum continues at C3 in Las Vegas next May.

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