B2B Customer loyalty and customer experience (CX)

Customer Loyalty: CEO’s #1 Focus to Protect Revenue This Year – Part 3

B2B Customer loyalty and customer experience (CX)

Customer loyalty (CL) is the number one focus for many CEOs and business owners interested in stabilizing, generating, and predicting revenue. In fact, “research shows that loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.” Your company will tap into these kinds of numbers by unlocking the secrets of customer loyalty – one of these secrets is customer experience (CX).

We know that customer-centric business models outperform the competition in the marketplace and as I discussed last time, safeguard their brand. It is also interesting that, as experts prove, “negative interactions cost brands big: it takes an average of 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience.” So how are CX and CL intertwined? The fallacy with CX is that, even if it is perfect, it can’t guarantee loyalty. Here’s why:

Degrees of Loyalty
There are a number of types of B2B buyers experiencing your brand so it is important to develop a customer loyalty strategy and messaging to handle a variety of buyer personas. In reality, there are degrees of loyalty which are manifested in buyer stereotypes such as switching buyers, habitual buyers, complaining buyers, and satisfied buyers. When creating and reviewing your customer experience, it is very important to keep all these buyer behaviors in mind.

  • The switching buyer is one that starts interacting with you but is not loyal even though they have a successful CX, and a good impression. Hopefully, their CX is positive and memorable enough to make them carry your brand in the back of their minds and return to you once they have made the rounds of the competition. If so, this is your true advocate and one that can provide powerful insight into your competitive advantage.
  • Your habitual buyers are your loyal bread and butter. If you can be their easy, go-to purchase and keep them happy for the long haul, you secure and protect your revenue stream.
  • Complaining buyers may appear to be the nemesis of your company but you can gain deep and lasting rewards from listening patiently and making modifications based on their input. Of course, there are times when you will have to assess the marginal costs of chasing this buyer’s ‘perfect’ experience (after all, we are in business to make a profit) and be okay with their okay – as I discuss in the Customer Experience Success Range below.
  • Finally, there are the satisfied buyers whom we need to pay careful attention to because this can be our biggest trap. When we have buyers satisfied with their CX and loyal to our brand, we may be overly confident and tempted to rest on our laurels. Yet, this is where we must commit to continuous improvement by listening to our complaining and switching buyers for new and impactful ideas on how to build customer experience and loyalty.

Understanding CX Touchpoints
The best way to start is to figure out the most valuable “customer experience” touchpoints in your company. Often, the customer service, sales and marketing teams will work together to safeguard CX. Wherever CX is happening now, make sure that every functional group has a way to contribute to it in a meaningful way, using solid data. If you are not doing so, you will lose the pulse of your business.

Once you’ve identified the most influential customer-facing people and processes, make sure you codify and train on how you manage positive and negative interactions to “the close” of the ticket. That’s borrowing a phrase from customer service for a reason: Your front-line impact can’t be overstated. All CX programs live and die at the contact centers or among your “Help” buttons and “Contact Us” forms online. Any CX strategy that doesn’t continually take the pulse of these interactions will not be effective.

Throughout these touchpoints, there will be opportunities to listen patiently and carefully to get the information you need to eliminate problems and make improvements. Use multiple methods and leverage what you learn from listening tools, surveys and events in your B2B space. Customer awards, customer appreciation events and surveys will encourage discussion and engagement. Reviews are another valuable gold mine of information about your competitive advantage.

Customer Experience Success Range
To secure customer loyalty, we must ask ourselves what constitutes a successful customer experience. Because there are degrees of loyalty, it’s risky to chase CX perfection when you’re dealing with customer expectations. We can easily get caught in this trap and we need to be realistic about how we define our success range – the range where your products and services comfortably add value to meet your prospects’ and clients’ needs and expectations.

Many times, the client’s needs and wants exceed what you can deliver, resulting in a poor customer experience. Also, there are times when what you deliver is not understood or appreciated by the buyer. The key is to carefully manage the expectations you create with your messaging and brand and deliver what is valued so as to remain in this success range.

We enjoy a very low churn and are thankful for loyal customers and strong sustained revenue. But with any business, there are struggles when delivery collides with expectation – the classic and healthy tension between marketing/sales and operations, e.g., “You’ve committed us to do WHAT?” This is when we must pay particular attention to the customer “success” expectation range, communicate internally prior to committing and manage the scope of the projects and processes. Loyalty is built from trust, credibility AND good CX.

B2B Buyer’s Journey – Consistent and Customized
Customers and prospects now experience your brand across an omni-channel journey. Most are expanded across multiple channels. For example, Aberdeen’s Omni-Channel study shows that 51% of firms use at least eight channels. Across these delivery methods, it’s difficult to control a consistent experience among your prospects and customers. Automation can help streamline this effort but the fact remains that the most impactful and impressive communications are always relevant and meaningful.

Marketing automation tools, while good for mass nurture and repeat promotions, can only get us so far in the meaningful communication space. Especially for Account-Based-Marketing and content deeper in the funnel, we need to engage our customers and prospects on a very targeted and relevant level. Loyal customers deserve and depend on relevant and personalized touch points.

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Throughout the customer experience, CL is won or lost through a dance of art and science, psychology and technology – obviously a complicated and data-driven response to a pressing business need. Once you’ve created a great CX strategy that works in concert with brand equity programs, you will be able to build the loyalty you need. Remember, we’ve decided that you can only be confident in your CX program when it works seamlessly with your effort to safeguard competitive advantage. Your CX teams will then see results that will encourage and empower you to deepen and strengthen customer loyalty. Best of all, you will know that you have done the right thing for your customers and for your P&L.

Next time we’ll talk about the best metrics to use to guide your CL strategy.

Gail Syman Carson

Managing Director, Marketing & Client Services at Fusion Marketing Partners
Gail Carson is Managing Director, Marketing & Client Services at Fusion Marketing Partners. She is a recognized expert in B2B marketing and named by the Sales Lead Management Association as one of the most influential individuals in marketing and sales lead management.

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