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Customer Experience Is the New Driver: Can You Compete?

By Jennifer Tomlinson, Last Modified
Oct 16, 2018
> Business Basics

By now, it’s a given that customers will write a bad review if they’re unhappy. In fact, they’re likelier to write a negative review than a positive one, which is all the more reason to create a great customer experience every time.

According to a B2B Marketing/Earnest survey, 96 percent of respondents said customer experience would influence whether they purchase from you again, and 83 percent will give a referral as a result of a positive experience. Businesses, especially digital, need to understand that customer experience is the new driving factor for competition. Focus solely on data or targeted messaging, and you risk losing to businesses that help customers win over their teams, conquer challenges and succeed in their careers.

Instead of concentrating on how many new leads your company can gain, you need to focus on the value you create. 

Each year, my company creates and distributes research projects to help its partners learn more about the current marketing landscape and establish best practices. This year, we and International Data Corp. developed an e-book titled “IDC Microsoft Next-Gen Partner Marketing: How to Meet Higher Customer Expectations and Win Their Trust” to identify how marketers are adapting to shifts in customer expectations.

Our research showed that customers expect to be the primary focus of brands, seeking more personal recommendations and a connection with the companies they purchase from while maintaining their privacy. As a result, business and marketing practices need to think about data ownership as a human matter rather than a question of numbers on a screen.

To earn the trust (and five-star reviews) of customers, use these three steps to create a foundation for building long-lasting relationships.

1. Discover your customer’s actual expectations

Before you do anything, you need to know what customers want from you. You don’t need to know everything, and your outcomes don’t need to be flawless; but you need to understand why customers would choose you over others. Watch for both engaged and disengaged customers to also learn why people stop using your product or service. 

One easy way is to build a transparent relationship with the customers you have. Give them a reason to give you information about themselves, and ask for their consent to learn more. After you gain their permission, you can use technologies to study behavior and your user journey. RedPixie, for example, uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to understand its buyers and help them down certain customer journeys based on their behaviors. 

2. Don’t try to do everything at once

Begin with just one persona so that you can test what works and what doesn’t. Shape the best possible experience for this persona (or your best customer) and watch out for results. Once you know what works, you can push that experience out to the rest of your customers and leads.

Some things to test include going beyond their purchase. What else might these customers need help with after they complete step one? Lead your customers down a path of continual education. Customers want to learn more, and you’re in a unique position to guide and mentor them based on the product or service you provide. 

3. Meet customers where they are

It’s easy to assume you’re being intrusive when you contact customers, but when you’re providing value, that simply isn’t an issue. Using data and personalization, reach out based on the formats they use the most — whether it’s through email, social media, webinars, etc. — and make sure your communication is going out at a time that works best for them. Companies like Big Red Cloud have already tackled this: they use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and even Instagram to meet its business customers on the basis of how often they use the platforms. 

While you’re considering when and where your customers will interact with you, make sure all your interactions connect. The last thing you want is for customers to get fed up and write a bad review because they had to explain the same problem every time they spoke to someone at your company.

By using these tactics to thoughtfully gain consent and personalize your customer experiences, you can gain the information you need for your databases. As a result, the cycle of fulfilling customer expectations can continue well into the future. You’ll always have the data you need while competitors who opt out of gaining permission also opt out of creating value.

Technology and privacy are in constant opposition, but consumers want both. It’s your job to earn their trust by continuously delivering value. You might assume that you’ve already shifted to putting customers above all else, but it’s easy to fall back into a product- or numbers-based approach to your business. 

Don’t fall into this trap. Customers are guiding the future of business now — not providers — so it’s in everyone’s best interest for companies to adopt a customer-centric mindset. Do it successfully, and watch as your business and your customer relationships soar.

Jennifer Tomlinson
Jennifer Tomlinson
See Jennifer Tomlinson's Profile
Jennifer Tomlinson is senior manager of channel marketing at Microsoft. She leads partner marketing efforts to help companies manage their current customers and grow their customer base. Jennifer has more than 20 years of experience in implementing successful, scalable marketing strategies for product, audience, and channel marketing in enterprise and small- and medium-sized businesses.
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