When people hear the term “customer experience,” their thoughts most often turn to B2C relationships. Perhaps the epitome of this is American Girl, a doll line produced by Mattell that focused intensely on the customer experience (described in depth by Paul Greenberg here). American Girl immerses the customers (to be more accurate, the customers’ children) in a series of experiential activities that make the dolls much more than a mere product.

The American Doll customer experience, as effective as it is, does not translate into the B2B space – business buyers have nowhere near the time to spend with B2B sellers, and that immersive experience isn’t what they want, anyway. They’re looking for a frictionless relationship in which they can do business in the way they want, when they want. They’re looking for sellers who know who their customers are before customers call and who can deliver on promises. The experience they’re looking for is much simpler – they want a seller that’s organized, easy to deal with and values the buyer’s time and business needs.Measuring the Customer Experience

Almost every business thinks it’s providing a great customer experience. A 2012 Oracle study revealed that 91 percent of businesses want to be customer experience leaders, but only 20 percent reported their customer experience was “advanced.” Meanwhile, the divide between business leaders and customers remains wide, stark and concerning. Of the executives polled, 49 percent said they believed customers would switch brands based on customer experience – but 89 percent of customers said they already had. Similarly, 44 percent of execs said they believed customers were willing to spend more because of customer experience, while 86 percent of customers said they already were doing just that.

Clearly, customers are leading the way on customer experience, and business is playing catch-up –and somewhat unenthusiastically at that. That’s a problem – or, if you’re smart about it, an opportunity.

The issue is that understanding the customer’s experience in B2B involves more than looking at children’s smiling faces in a doll store built specifically to cater to them. It involves getting feedback from B2B customers whose experience is in part defined by how long they’re forced to deal with sellers. This presents a real quandary – does the act of measuring experience in B2B relationships actually degrade the experience?

Not if that feedback is solicited and collected in way that’s integrated into the sales and marketing process. That integration is critical; the very idea of customer experience exists to extend the customer lifecycle, so it’s critical that feedback opportunities exist at all stages of the buying journey, from first contact through the close of a deal and on to the next selling opportunity. Sticking a damp finger into the wind at one spot along the journey will tell you what the customer experience has been like until that point – and nothing more.

But it shouldn’t be up to marketing to gauge customer experience – not when the relationship with the customers starts with the sale reps, whose personal involvement makes or breaks a relationship. Today, that relationship may not end with the prospect, but with everyone connected to the prospect through social media. The salesperson must strive to make the experience a great one.

Because salespeople do what they’re compensated to do, smart sales organizations are factoring customer experience surveys submitted by customers and potential customers into sales compensation. Depending on the organization, that compensation may be tied to the number of surveys a sales rep’s contacts send back, or on how well the rep’s performance is scored on the survey. A bit of thought must go into the design of a survey-based component of compensation – and that variability points at why it’s important to include a tight integration between feedback and compensation in your sales management software.

How do you allow your customers to tell you whether the experience you’re creating will keep them as customers? Constant feedback, collected in a palatable way. We are very excited about adding this capability to the Lead to Money Suite through the acquisition of Clicktools, one of the top enterprise cloud B2B survey and customer feedback solution providers. The Clicktools team already has 500 customers, a testament to the effectiveness of their solution. Combining this technology with the other capabilities of the Lead to Money suite will give businesses the ability not just to successfully manage the sales and marketing process from start to finish, but to understand how the things a business does during the sales process affect the attitudes customers and prospects have about that sale – and about your business. That understanding means you can be more agile and more responsive during the sales cycle and set your business up for success not just in today’s sale but over the lifetime of a customer relationship.

Want to learn more about how and why CallidusCloud has made this move, and how it plans to use Clicktools technology to shape customer experiences in real time? We’ve put together an FAQ about the acquisition that explains clearly how Clicktools will enhance every aspect of the Lead to Money process.

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