Customer engagement is an essential element of any business, but you won’t find it looking in the rear-view mirror.
At Altitude, we are constantly talking about customer service and looking for ways to provide better service and communication to our customers. Sometimes that means deploying new technology. Sometimes that means shoring up or adding new processes. Sometimes it means something as simple as the seemingly long-forgotten art of picking up the phone. We regularly solicit feedback from our clients on how we are doing and how we can do things better – and are never afraid to hear where we need to improve.
And that’s because, the fact is, it won’t matter how many new customers you bring into the fold if you can’t keep any. Nurturing your existing customer base into brand ambassadors magnifies and speeds all you other efforts – from sales to marketing to retention and more.
The problem? Most B2B companies are simply looking behind them to see how they’ve been performing on customer service and stopping right there. By the time a downtrend is discovered, it can be too late. And once you’ve lost customer engagement, rebuilding can be a long and expensive process.
So, what’s the better option? My recommendation: Don’t get stuck reacting to the past. Focus on the road ahead and, for 2016, resolve to build a proactive approach to engagement with these three rules to keep both new and existing customers coming back for more.
1. Measure More Than Just Financials
Reviewing and assessing financial data is important, but as an indicator for organizational performance it is waaaay downstream. Chances are you’ve blown past a whole pile of other non-financial red flags by the time you can see a lag in the bottom line.
Learning what the leading indicators are for healthy (and unhealthy) long-term customer engagement means you can put on the breaks, speed up, change lanes, or take an alternative route well before your financial performance starts to nosedive.
The specific combination of metrics you choose to focus on will be unique to your business, but your recipe should include evaluation and encouragement of customer advocacy and contribution in addition to the more traditional financial assessments. For example customer advocacy can be measured by looking at customer reviews or percentage of new business from referrals, and contribution by looking at things like advisory board participation or how much new product development/strategy is based directly on customer feedback.
2. Get Emotionally Entangled
Customers who are fully engaged with your brand have essentially made an emotional connection. The term “B2B” is a little deceiving in that it discounts the fact that, for the most part, businesses don’t make decisions, people do. There is, of course, no substitution for a quality product or service. However, once customers’ rational needs are satisfied by objective things like speed, price tag and effort/efficiency, they look for factors that satisfy their non-rational needs. And that’s where the real brand engagement happens.
Figuring out what those non-rational needs are requires opening up a dialog with your existing customer base and that, in and of itself, can begin to move the needle.
When customers feel heard, they are much more likely to feel your company is worthy of an emotional investment. And you will have more insight into how to position your product, services or brand to deliver meaningful change for your customers.
3. Focus on Fixing Your Internal Issues
Customer engagement hazards may come from surprising directions. Internal business processes, in fact, can have a profound effect on how customers experience your business and whether or not they choose to engage. Identify a communal pain point for your employees and you’ve most likely also identified a potential customer service liability.
When your team experiences confusion and struggle, there is a much higher chance your customers will experience mistakes or errors, inadequate customer service (or worse), or come away with an overall sense of dissatisfaction. In the end, an investment in repairing internal vulnerabilities is also an investment in your customers.
As we wind down 2015 and ramp up for 2016, I challenge you to take a good look at your current customer engagement efforts, how you’re connecting internally and externally and take a proactive approach to continuous improvement in that area. Do those things outline above – and I bet 2016 will serve up supremely happy clients, increased rates of retention and improved team morale.
Afterall, happy clients make a happy team and a happy bottom line.