Focus on World-Class, Part 9: Channel Consistency and Customer Experience

In this 12-part series, each blog examines one of the 12 best practices identified in the 2017 CSO Insights World-Class Sales Practices Report. Today’s best practice: “Customers have consistently positive interactions with us regardless of which channel(s) they use to work with us.

For the first time, CSO Insights has expanded our annual look at sales practices to explore a broader range of practices that drive customer interactions before and after traditional sales and account management processes. Two of these new practices showed strong enough correlation to make our top 12 list for 2017. The first we discussed in Part Three of the Focus on World-Class blog series. The second we explore here: “Customers have consistently positive interactions with us regardless of which channel(s) they use to work with us.”

This practice came to life for me recently when purchasing support services. Due to corporate reorganization on our end, I ended up with three different “sellers” at one of my vendors. One was a national account rep who was working with my parent company. One was a territory rep who owned the geography where my old company was head quartered. One was an implementation professional charged with managing, and upselling, my account. When faced with a need, I had to contact each.

The experience I ended up with was very fragmented. Each used a different approach for the conversation – some consultative, some not. Some of my conversations and email communications were useful, some not. Each proposed a slightly different solution at three vastly different prices. (One said they were limited to list price. One offered up a 30% discount before we even got to negotiations. Yikes!) At the end of the day, none of my interactions were negative. But it was hardly “consistently positive.” The resulting experience was confusing, like dealing with three different companies.

My vendor is in good company. Excelling at this is a rarity. In the 2017 World-Class Sales Practices Report, 82% of World-Class organizations were strongly confident that they were executing on this practice while only 26% of the overall study respondents agreed.

This practice is hard to execute because of the detail required to get it right. Consider the key elements:

“Consistently positive” – To know whether experiences are positive means you have to measure them and have a standard for them. To know that they are consistently positive means you have to regularly measure them. That’s not easy to do. Experiences are relative to the customer. Whether they are positive or not depends on whether they meet or exceed the customers’ expectations. It is easy to measure revenues, conversion rates and more. Measuring an experience requires quantitative and qualitative analysis.

“Interactions” – The key to long-term customer relationships, or lifetime value, is that they encompass a range of opportunities and implementations. Each involves a series of interactions. And, each individual interaction is comprised of a series of defining moments during which the customer forms an impression. Key interactions can take place in the before, after and during the sales process. Delivering the right experience must start with a focus on the most fundamental element, the interaction and its defining moments.

“Channel(s)” – For over a decade, the retail world has worked to better serve customers who split their purchase stages across multiple touchpoints, the widely discussed move to omni-channel. But this is not exclusively a B2C challenge. Most organizations have many sales channels: inside sales, territory sales, key account sales, alliance partners, distribution partners, service personnel with responsibility for upselling, customer success positions, etc. Unfortunately, not all of these audiences are being supported by your sales enablement team. And, with customer organizations increasingly complex to navigate, it’s likely that customers will engage with your sales organization in more than one way.

As with many initiatives, the best way to begin work on this practice is to start with the data. Define your customer experience, the common pathways, the phases and the roles. Then, mine your customer feedback to understand which interactions carry the most weight. Now, drill more deeply into those interactions to identify the specific defining moments that make the difference. Find out who is responsible for them. Finally, ensure that they have access to the enablement tools, training and coaching they need to be successful.

That’s a lot of work.

Yet, the payoff is worth it. Win rates of forecasted opportunities in this year’s study were reported at 47%. That means organizations close less than half of what’s in their funnels. There is simply no room to lose deals, or relationships, to disjointed experiences. Further, revenues brought in from won deals were 68% attributable to existing customers. That means it’s just as important not to mishandle, or miss, opportunities to satisfy customers after the sale as it is during the sales process. Winning and keeping more is a clear business case for broadening your perspective on sales from sales process and salespeople to customer experience.

Related Questions:

  • How do you measure customer experience at the interaction level?
  • How is this information being fed back to the Sales, Service and Marketing teams?
  • How do you know what makes an interaction positive, negative or neutral?
  • Which job roles are critical to this practice? How are they being enabled?


Related Blog Posts:

Running Up a Down Escalator: How the Best make it to the Top

Focus on World-Class, Part 3: Brand Promise and Customer Experience

Customer’s Journey Alignment Drives Performance – If Done the Right Way


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