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Summit 2014 Highlights: The State of B-to-B Customer Experience

June 02, 2014 | By Drew Zalucky

The SiriusDecisions' EMEA Summit, which kicked off at the London Park Lane Hilton today, is the premier b-to-b conference, attracting the best and the brightest in b-to-b sales, marketing and product from across Europe.

To dramatize the circus-like state of customer experience management at many b-to-b organizations, Megan Heuer and Jay Gaines of SiriusDecisions came out hula-hooping and juggling (respectively) at Summit 2014 in Orlando.

Most b-to-b leaders acknowledge that customer experience is important - but many are unsure how to develop the right programs and initiatives to make sure their customers’ experiences are positive.

In fact, when Megan and Jay polled Summit attendees with the question “Is investing in customer experience a priority for your company?” 75 percent chose the response “Yes, but it’s not coordinated.”

As Jay explained, “Much of what we see in customer experience today is execution without coordination, where various initiatives around delivering and developing the customer experience get lost within different functions.” This makes the coordinating function of a dedicated customer experience function and chief customer officer (CCO) all the more important.

Often, the greatest emphasis on client experience is applied during the sales process, when companies want to win buyers over. This has led many organizations to focus on the stages of the buyer’s journey. But what about customer retention and advocacy? These are two of the key aspects of the post-sale customer lifecycle that sales, product and marketing leaders must keep in mind.

Jay and Megan kicked off their presentation by reported the findings of a SiriusDecisions study that asked b-to-b leaders about their customer experience functions, what impact these functions have made, and whether they have a CCO. The findings of the study included:

  • Sixty-four percent of b-to-b companies have a customer experience function, and 54 percent of those companies plan to grow more than 10 percent this year
  • Of those high-growth companies, 82 percent have a CCO, and 74 percent of that group makes the CCO accountable for revenue growth from existing customers
  • For high-growth companies with a customer experience function, 66 percent reported that the investment in customer experience is contributing to higher customer response rates, and 55 percent reported that it is impacting revenue growth
  • Even when companies have a customer experience function, they don’t always optimize its role and impact. For example, 75 percent of companies with a customer experience function are not seeing greater customer advocacy or references.

Megan emphasized that optimizing customer experience depends on cross-functional alignment in order to succeed. “What we need is a much more coordinated approach,” she said. “Customer experience does not need to focus on owning everything, or knowing everything. What it needs to do is align, strategize and support.”

This approach allows each marketing, sales, product and service function to focus on their customer-facing responsibilities, while the CCO brings executive-level leadership and coordination to customer experience.

However, there are ways for organizations get started improving customer experience without appointing a CCO – by increasing customer experience efforts from marketing, sales and product functions. Marketing can increase its focus on post-sale relationships through a customer marketing function and measurement of engagement, retention and advocacy.

In addition to contributing to these measurement efforts, sales can create a post-sale customer support team to allow reps to focus on core selling activities. Finally, product functions can shift coordination of customer events (e.g. user groups, advisory boards) to customer marketing. While a CCO would be useful in coordinating these activities, the individual functions can start to optimize them even before a CCO role is created.

Drew Zalucky

Drew Zalucky is an Editor at SiriusDecisions and has nearly 10 years of professional experience in editorial, publishing, management consulting roles and independent journalism.

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