Archives For customer journey

In the first part of this series, the focus was on People. In Part 2 of the series we shed some light on process; what those people should do and how they should do it. For those of you who know me have an inkling for what is coming next <drumroll please> technology. The guiding principle is simple, technology should always be to support people and process

Customer interaction design or is it customer management?

How can and should organizations map the buying process to the selling process in such a way that both personalizes the customer journey and allows the sales organization to scale? At one end of the spectrum, there is the selling methodology that require specific actions and statuses, and at the other end is your best sales person who want nothing to do with your new sales methodology. What is the balance? The future promises artificial intelligence, but that is going to take some time.

Neither the marketing nor sales organization should be dependent upon specific individuals who like to hoard knowledge. What is needed is for implicit knowledge to become institutional, explicit and procedural, so that everyone has the benefit of the expertise of the few.

You pay good money for the tools your organization uses, so the temptation is always there is to rely on technology, sometimes, a bit too much. Organizations often fall into the trap of trying to manage everything from journey design, marketing resources and campaign design to leads, sales tools, and revenue performance all in one tool. Yes, technology has an important role to play in each of these aspects of the lead to revenue engine, but technology cannot take the place of carefully thought, designed and execution.

It is easier said than done

As hard as we wish it to be true, customers simply do not stay inside the prescribed lines. Customers are making their own choices, designing their own journeys, following their own path. These self-designed paths are particularly complex where customers jump from digital to old school (phone or in-person interactions) channels. Sales executives need technology to support their efforts, but technology cannot do all of the work. All too often marketers underestimate the importance of cross-channel marketing content and message delivery.

During the course of this discussion, we have been staying away from pure technology solutions, but at some point, the rubber needs to hit the road. We need the right technology, people need help to get things done. Any and all modern CRM platforms should allow marketing, sales and sales operations to visualize and choreograph both interactions and touchpoints within the customer decision cycle. The benefit of putting this capability within the CRM system is that key stakeholders within your organization will be able to track an individual customer’s progress through the steps of a journey in order to:

  • Understand and remove customer points of friction
  • Understand and remove operational inefficiencies
  • Provide visual cues to Sales team, showing the steps within the customer journey

Extending CRM with the right capabilities, that aids in design and execution, is extremely beneficial to bring people and process together with technology.  Reducing friction will facilitate customer progression through the decision cycle, which in turn will increase sales velocity in a natural way. The improved satisfaction enables your employees to stay on top of their game. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Working towards continuous improvement

When the topic of tools and technology come up in the context of the lead to revenue discussion, marketing automation vendors are typically the first vendors to enter the discussion. Frankly, marketing automation vendors are working hard to claim a leadership position, but they lack the human element. Optimizing processes is NOT the same thing as automating processes. But there is still work to be done. Giving users a guided path and flexibility to adapt to the customers’ changes is paramount to a successful lead to revenue strategy, driven by CRM.

Successful CRM requires an organization to learn and accept new business processes and supporting technologies, which is never easy. Often the greatest difficulty is changing the culture of users. Use quick wins to gain support for the new CRM system and continuous improvement to keep interest high. Users will not adopt new CRM processes and technologies that do not have a clear benefit for them. Nor will they accept a new CRM that is not properly socialized. End user adoption is always difficult, without proper change management and governance practices put in place. There is nothing more beneficial to users than a visualization of the path to success.

Designing and delivering a system for sustained, systematic improvement for the lead to revenue processes requires a more comprehensive approach than simply measuring the results of marketing spend by the metric of revenue contribution. To truly optimize performance, marketing and sales executives need to optimize the drivers of performance, guide the users down that path and focus on making users and customers alike to be successful!

 

In the first post in this series, we made the case for better alignment between two organizational teams, in other words, we focused on the people. Your feedback suggests that we are onto something here, which should be no surprise. The fun part about alignment is that people actually need to agree (be aligned) on something, right? The smart thing to do is to be aligned around the processes required to make money (too direct?) so that everyone is clear on who is doing what (and where the customer fits as well).

Starting with Vision

(Considering CRM like a Corporate Mission)

Unfortunately, very few organizations spend the required time to define a clear CRM program. When asked, most executives admit that a well-crafted CRM program must start with a vision and a roadmap. Even still, these efforts often stall and much needed organizational synergy does not have a chance to take shape. This is, in part, is about technology. But, it is really more about defining how technology should (or should not) be used. It’s also about data (as it should be), but it is more than data. It is really about data combined with process. One without the other is like lyrics without a melody. A well-considered CRM platform will support the company vision and will play a pivotal role in determining how teams can and should work together toward engaging customers across their lifecycle.

By supporting customers through their end-to-end journey with you will increase satisfaction and long-term loyalty. This requires a focus on process. The common thread is customer experience and the customer’s perception of their own experiences (not what you think they are). In a business-to-business context, the decision cycle is a series of interactions between individuals. Each interaction results in an experience; good and bad. Good customer experiences correlate to customer loyalty. Which, of course, is the goal because loyal customers are more willing to consider another purchase from a company, are less likely to switch to a competitor, and are more likely to recommend.

Designing the Process to Support the Journey

(Thinking through the journey one interaction at a time)

Lead-to-revenue success is dependent upon well designed and executed internal processes that support the customer’s journey. Process optimization is about using technology to define efficient, nearly procedural, processes for everything from resources and campaigns to generate leads, sales methodology, and sales performance. Managing the plethora of interactions and touchpoints with customers who jump from channel-to-channel requires extra attention. Especially hard is when a customer moves from a digital channel to non-digital. This is where the salesperson needs guidance.

The front-end of the journey is the purchase decision cycle. During a business purchase decision cycle, buyers control the steps of their journey far more than the seller. This is a sea-change from times past that companies (sellers) need to carefully consider. Buyers are engaging with sellers through a multitude of digital, social, and mobile touchpoints. This dynamic changes the role of each player within your organization in a fundamental way. It alters what they must do in order to meet the needs of each buyer. To be clear, this is more than just a journey mapping exercise, this is about diving in one or two levels deeper.

Think big, Start small in Designing the Journey within your CRM Platform

When building your CRM program and considering the vision, it is important to balance two forces: 1) top line revenue growth and 2) bottom line efficiency gains. Both are critical, and the common denominators between them is business process; efficiency and effectiveness. Yes, it is possible to spend time on process improvement that will lead to both cost reduction as well as top line revenue growth, but this is hard. The secret is to design processes that mirror the customer journey and their decision cycle. If your team is able to anticipate the needs of the customer and help them along on their journey, then you can save time along the way while increasing sales velocity and reducing costs.

Benefits of Process Alignment:

Strategic (Company Focused)

  • Grow Revenue
  • Increase Market Share
  • Increase Sales Velocity
  • Campaign Optimization

Operational (Departmental Focus)

  • Increase Efficiency
  • Execution Clarity, Lead Quality
  • Decrease Cost per Sale
  • Capacity for more Campaigns

Your job in 2017 is to articulate, communicate, and evangelize the CRM vision – focus on the process, not just the data. Make a list, prioritize that list and consider the rate of change while trying not to do too much in too short a period of time. With respect to process efficiency, introduce change and transformation properly with input from other teams. Finally, keep an eye on your communications, vertically and horizontally (do more than simply manage up), doing your very best to facilitate the change.

Visionary marketers are quickly progressing beyond simple process automation for demand generation and nurturing programs. The reason is that the buying process is no longer simple. The selling/buying cycle is complex, with many players and personas. Both sales and marketing are about revenue and performance, make no mistake.  In order to accomplish sales and marketing targets (artificial or not), the marketing and sales teams need to work in concert; beyond simple (aka fluffy) collaboration. It is time to focus on people.

To be successful, your organizational selling processes need align with the customer decision cycle. The marketing team needs to transition from pure demand generation to becoming masters of customer engagement, helping the sales folks along the way. The selling process should focus on shepherding buyers through their buying journey. The strategy should not be to move a mass of buyers through a process optimized for management reporting. Instead, the strategy needs to design an efficient process optimized to take a qualified lead and make that lead an engaged, profitable customer. And, once the process is perfected…rinse and repeat.

Taking Stock of the Current State

The proliferation of customers’ digital touchpoints has accelerated requests for and the flow of information, especially in complex business-to-business decision cycles. Furthermore, organizations continue to struggle to predict where prospects will go to look for information. This unknown is causing marketers to do a bit of hair pulling. The idea of determining the right “marketing mix”’ feels a bit too much like a finger in the air strategy when trying to keep up with the vast array of possible touchpoints, along the customer journey.

Marketing and sales need to align their strategies and coordinate communications; both content and timing of message. In many organizations, the most apt descriptor for the relationship between marketing and sales is “frenemies”. Further, being in marketing is often like being an athletic trainer and never knowing if your athlete won the race. The marketing team has limited visibility into leads after they became “sales qualified” and are handed off to the sales team. This lack of insight prevents marketing decision-makers from testing campaign effectiveness or determining why something did or did not work.

Overcoming a Few (relationship) Obstacles

The relationship, at all levels, between sales and marketing is one of the most important relationships within any organization. This bond is personally critical to both the CMO and VP of Sales. The key point of friction is that marketers are focused campaigns and nurturing, while sales folks are focused on the deal and the only metric that matters is revenue. One team is looking at something built for the masses, while another is focused on an individual.

Sales and marketing processes are built with an eye on internal efficiency. However, sales processes need to be reshaped, and should also include an external focus towards the customer buying journey. This is most evident in how success is currently measured in many organizations; monthly and quarterly goals, such as: lead conversion, number of sales qualified leads and likelihood to close (by some artificial percentage).

The Path Forward

It is time to focus on positive customer outcomes and define organizational goals that support and even reshape marketing practices to drive effective customer engagement. This is about customers, not products, features or solutions. Work hard to balance pushing customers towards the next step and make sure you understand where they are in their buying journey. Once you understand where they are in the process, the right information can easily be shared. Context is a critical element within the buying journey. Customers need care and feeding – the right information, at the right time, on the right device.

We are no longer in the information age, we are in the age of customer centricity, customer focus and customer engagement. In order to succeed, the sales and marketing organizations need to match the selling process with the buyer’s journey. Yes, this is about customer acquisition and revenue generation, but it is also about lifetime value and establishing lasting company/customer relationships. Many factors have come together that extend marketing’s role much further into the selling process; even through the very end. Marketing is accountable for content creation, but they cannot do it alone, the sales team needs to come along for the ride! Marketeers and marketing leadership need to collaborate with sales folk and sales leadership to design and build a lead management process that makes sense to all players. Organizational alignment around the buyer journey is critical to success – hard stop.

After aligning goals and objectives within the team, the next logical step is to be do aligned on the processes required to support the customer journey. In the next post within the series, the focus will be on process improvement and efficiency.

expLast week SugarCRM was the lead sponsor of the Conference Board’s 11th Annual Customer Experience Conference held in downtown NYC. The conference brought together hundreds of cross-functional executives and thinkers responsible for the customer experience at organizations of all shapes and sizes.

In addition to some great keynotes from former Sprint CEO Dan Hesse and Overstock.com president Stormy Simon, SugarCRM CEO Larry Augustin explained to the captive crowd the importance of using a modern CRM as the tool to unify the customer experience across both digital and human touch points.

Overall, the importance of focusing on the “human element,” especially when thinking about optimizing customer experience was a theme that ran throughout the event. During a panel I moderated with executives from Citi, Constant Contact and Sparks Grove – the overarching message was to think of the people at the heart of the equations: the individual customers and the employees trying to help them along their customer journey.

The event was a great way to talk to some business and individuals in various stages of a customer experience transformation. And the fact that so many businesses are considering CRM as a major lynch pin to the success of their customer experience initiatives was great to see.

So, a big “thank you” to the Conference Board for putting on such an exceptional event, and a huge thank you to all the attendees, for all the great interactions and conversations!

As today’s marketplace becomes more and more competitive, it becomes harder and harder to compete based on the old standards: price and product features. Customers today simply have more choices, and are more knowledgeable than ever thanks to the web and social media. The best way to stand out in business today is by offering a superior experience for every prospect and customer.

But, how can you ensure you are providing the best possible customer experience? One method is to align your internal business operations with the typical lifecycle of your customers. This can be done through what is called a “customer journey exercise.”

By mapping the customer journey, any organization can identify how a customer typically goes about making a purchase decision with the company. And, these exercises can help identify internal gaps where the organization is not meeting the expectations of the customer. But how do you turn your customer journey map into the actions that will transform your business?

Join us on February 18th for an informative webinar from SugarCRM and Phil Winters, the head of CIAgenda and a “Customer Perspective Champion,” and “Data Whisperer” with decades of experience helping hundreds of organizations better align their operations with the customers’ perspective in mind.

In this webinar, Phil and SugarCRM Vice President of Product Marketing Karen Hsu will outline the reasons why mapping the customer journey can have a huge impact, illustrate some basic steps to get started, and provide some success stories of organizations which have effectively mapped their customers’ typical journeys.

If your organization has customers, and it has yet to undergo a customer journey exercise – don’t miss this opportunity to learn from the experts! To join the webinar, simply click HERE to register.

Is your CRM strategy and vision aligned with the modern customer? Does your CRM system support the full customer life cycle? Is your organization reaping the benefits of having a modern, forward thinking CRM? Regardless of the answer, there is always room for improvement when it comes to delighting your customers and improving the productivity of all of your customer-facing employees.

On November 5, Forrester Research’s Kate Leggett and myself will be sitting down to discuss what modern organizations need to match their CRM initiatives with today’s more engaged, informed, and connected customer. We will outline some of the core tenets of a “modern CRM” initiative, and cite several successful examples of modern CRM in action.

Join us Wednesday, November 5 and learn:

  • The six critical building blocks of modern CRM
  • How organizations are shifting from systems of transactions into systems of engagement to support the entire customer lifecycle
  • Tips on how any organization can begin modernizing their CRM initiative in the age of the customer

This promises to be an engaging and informative session for any business that is looking at the customer experience in the new the age of the customer. Join Kate and me on Wednesday and we will be happy to address any CRM and customer related questions you might have.

Registration is limited, so click HERE to register today. We hope you can join us!