By Curtis Schroeder
A recent article in The New York Times describes how a huge chunk of ice the size of Delaware broke away from the Antarctic Peninsula and now stands as one of the largest icebergs ever recorded. The break-off has been anticipated for years, but only recently have the implications of the separation taken shape.
While many of us will never make the trek to Antarctica, we can appreciate the scale of this rift, as it reshapes the topography so dramatically that every map of the world will need to be redrawn. What’s more, the Antarctic landscape will continue to change, requiring cartographers to continually adjust their representations of the frozen tundra.
Likewise, the customer buying landscape has also experienced Antarctic-like rifts in recent years. Customers’ access to a range of new digital channels, tools, and information has forced vendors to redraw their go-to-market strategies, focusing less on product and price and focusing much more on the total customer experience as the way to achieve sustainable competitive advantage.
Impact of Everyday Experiences
In addition to assessing quantitative metrics such as Net Promoter Score, which gauges customer loyalty and brand sentiment, digitally astute vendors also tap real-time consumer feedback on social media, on ratings sites, and in other forums. Some companies, including Warby Parker and Chick-fil-A, have taken that feedback and developed unique and memorable ways to enhance their interactions with customers.
One of Mastercard’s most customer-centric innovations is a program that gifts random cardholders with “Priceless Surprises” on various transactions. These surprises include everything from refunding the price of a purchased item to providing exclusive access to music and athletic events. Mastercard, which has “surprised” more than 97,000 cardholders to date, encourages recipients to share their positive experiences on social media using the #PricelessSurprises hashtag.
It’s clear that companies that focus less exclusively on the goods they sell and more on cranking up the experiences they provide will have a leg up in the new customer-centric market.
Innovation as Differentiator in B2B
Delivering innovative customer experiences isn’t exclusive to B2C interactions. More and more, business customers expect to be treated the same way as they engage with their suppliers, making the B2B buying process more difficult than ever before.
The authors of The Challenger Customer find that about 5.4 stakeholders are involved in the average complex B2B sale. Establishing consensus among those stakeholders stalls deals in ways that suppliers are often unable to overcome.
In fact, the biggest competitor B2B sales teams face may be a “no decision” outcome. Even when customers report that they have aligned their buying process based on specific unbiased criteria, the truth is that individual and collective decisions are driven primarily by emotional motivations.
Enter customer experience. Like their B2C counterparts, B2B sales teams must also reimagine how they establish emotional connections with their customers.
Maersk Line, for example, has used visual, collaborative marketing techniques to break records for lead generation in the global shipping industry. Field sales and marketing company Mosaic uses innovative PR stunts and experience-based events to connect with end users and “turn interactions into transactions.”
Techniques such as customer journey mapping can also help companies see the world through the eyes of their customers, helping them deliver innovations in line with the “moments that matter” in a sales cycle.
Regardless of the approach, sales teams can reduce no-decision rates and open up huge opportunities once they engage their customers’ emotional motivations in new and creative ways.
You don’t have to be the chief customer experience officer at your company to make a difference with customers. Even in one-on-one customer interactions, a focus on experience will provide a sustainable competitive advantage.
Curtis Schroeder, an Oracle customer experience strategy and innovation consultant, has worked with numerous companies to drive CX best practices, including Macy’s, General Electric, American Airlines, JCPenney, Facebook, Texas Instruments, and Mazda.