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Progress not perfection - striving for customer excellence

A recent Accenture survey showed over 90% of B2B companies plan to increase spending on customer experience; 78% of those questioned believe it provides competitive advantage.

B2B companies are increasingly aware of how vital great customer experience is to the success of B2C companies and the impact it has on competitive success and the bottom line.

So, think about the experience your own customers have on their journey through your company. How easy do you make it for them to do business with you?

Which one of these would be your response?

Bsquared quotes

If your company regularly exceeds customer expectations - that's great news and you need read no further. If, on the other hand, your company is like many that we see, and you'd like to do better, then please read on...

Companies that from the very start aim to be the best at customer excellence are generally successful and outperform their competitors; these organisations can be clearly identified. In the UK, First Direct, John Lewis and Lush scored highest on the UK Customer Experience awards in 2016; Amazon came in 5th (KPMG Nunwood’s Customer Experience Excellence Centre).

Most start-ups have customer experience as one of their main tenets - and it's a no brainer; through great customer service, excellent account management and creating total ease of doing business, new entrants, unencumbered by legacy systems, can start off with the infrastructure in place to support their customers.

The majority of B2B companies struggle with customer engagement. A customer is four times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service-related rather than price- or product-related (Bain & Company). Customer service might be reasonable, but the very nature of many organisations means that there may be many touchpoints for the customer on several different levels - sales, operations, fault resolution, invoicing, and servicing to name but a few.

My advice, for what it's worth, is to aim for progress, not perfection.

Your customers may be happy with the current level of their relationship with you. If they are not, they will be very happy with some level of demonstrable, sustained improvement. It's a journey of discovery to succeed in this area, know more about your customers and how they perceive you, at the same time as educating them about you.

Bsquared relationship pyramid

Knowing where you are on the relationship pyramid, where your customers want you to be and what is achievable is an imperative. Moving in the right direction will take both time and effort but will bring sustained, profitable benefit in the long term. Understanding how mature your existing customer engagement is and identifying areas for improvement would be useful.

You can use this simple tool to measure this

Practical steps you could look at to make progress:

  1. Listen to customers on a regular basis  - this could a simple satisfaction survey or a more sophisticated programme. A regular input of customer feedback will give you some direction and the building blocks for your future customer engagement strategy. Choose your method for gathering feedback so that it is appropriate, gives the right information and is not too arduous for the customer to complete.
  2. Create an infrastructure to make sure that the feedback gets to the right place in the organisation. These may be small problems which can be easily resolved or larger issues which may require organisational changes - how you as a company deal with these needs some careful thought.
  3. Communicate with the rest of the company - make sure you establish a way of communicating this to stakeholders - this might be through a simple monthly dashboard or in the regular newsletter - regular information about customer feedback, shared internally, is not only valuable, but interesting too.

Any progress you make towards a better experience for your customers will drive positive changes to customer loyalty and improve customer retention. It costs less to retain an existing customer than to obtain a new one and price is not the main reason for customer churn; it is actually due to the overall poor quality of customer service (Accenture global customer satisfaction report 2008).

It's one thing to say that you want your organisation to improve the customer experience, but it's quite another to set this in progress. You have to ensure that it's a common goal and that starts at the very top driven and supported by the CEO.