Customer eXperience Hypothesis

THE ONLY COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE IS CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

As the sales revolution continues the only true way to differentiate your product or service is Customer Experience (CX).  Business to Consumer (B2C) Industries, such as retail, have been focusing on CX for years however they have had an even more focused effort on CX over the past 5 years.  B2C industries have had to make this shift sooner due to the transient nature of their customer base.  This post will focus on what I have seen over the last 20 years and where I have experienced success and failure in the business.  Companies need to take this challenge seriously if they really want to be successful and exist in the future!

Companies that can bridge the customer experience chasm successfully will drive revenue, market share, and ultimately success for the organization, investors and/or stockholders.  How do I define the CX Chasm – there are 2 foundational transitions (or “gaps”):

  1. Marketing & Sales –> Implementation
  2. Implementation –> Support/Customer Success.  

These transitions sound easy however these “gaps” are truly the most difficult and mishandled in a customer’s journey with an organization.  Why is this transition difficult, let’s take a look at a few dimensions of these gaps:

The seller’s employees involved in the entire process:

  • Marketing – Describing the product or service on “shiny glossy” 1-pagers
  • Sales – Going from 1-pager into detail about the product or service, however there are many details that may not be discussed during the sales process

GAP 1

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  • Implementation – From contract to detailed design and implementation, this is where the rubber meets the road.

GAP 2

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  • Support/Customer Success – Now that the product or service is live with the customer it is time for the organization to support the customer.  Additionally (and increasingly), Customer Success is being assigned a quota.

Now that we identified the players from the selling team, let’s dig a bit deeper and provide some tactical advice to build the foundation of a customer focused organization.

Marketing and Sales

Skill Set Required:

  • Build Relationships
  • Navigate internal and external politics
  • Understand business challenges
  • Educate why your product/service will solve the business problem
  • Negotiation

The marketing and sales team work to educate customers and solve business challenges with products and/or services from your organization.  In the enterprise SaaS world today this could take 6-12 months and in many cases companies are signing smaller contracts to ensure the product/service really solves their business challenges.  Marketing and sales hire expensive resources to work toward building the initial relationship with the buyer.  Throughout the “education” process there are 10’s if not 100’s of conversations between the buying and selling organizations.  I can guarantee you that there will be miscommunication and misunderstanding with several (if not more) of these conversations.  We will now explore the first major gap that will create a terrible customer eXperience.

Gap #1 -> Sales to Implementation

The first “gap” occurs as soon as the contract is signed.  The signing of the contract starts the process of transitioning from the sales team to the implementation team.  The unraveling begins because the salesperson is incented evaluated on working their next deal(s), they do not take the time to properly transition the customer to the implementation team.  All of the conversation that happened in the sales and the customer could never be completely transferred to the implementation team → trust me I have been on the sales and the implementation side of this equation!

This first gap is a huge opportunity to create a eXceptional customer eXperience -> as the misunderstandings occur in the implementation be sure to prioritize and understand the situation.  How you handle this opportunity will set the foundation for the experience of your customer moving forward.  Many organization FAIL to identify this opportunity and therefore handle the situation improperly which will start to create the CX chasm between the organizations.

Tips to managing GAP #1:

  • A well designed transition process documented and driven from the top of the organization
  • Bring the implementation team into the end of the sales process as soon as it make sense
  • Salespeople need to stay involved with their accounts to help mediate and clarify
  • Have agreed upon success criteria documented for the project
  • Tie compensation for the sales and implementation team for a “successful” transition

Implementation

Skill Set Required:

  • Maintain and expand relationships
  • Design the implementation
  • Execute implementation plan
  • Keep project on-time and on-budget
  • Organization

The implementation team is all about delivering the solution that the customer and the sales team discussed during the buying process.  The focus of implementation is to deliver on-time and on budget (or under time and budget).  Implementation time has always varied widely however over the last 5-years Cloud technology has reduced this time dramatically.  Buyers are looking for ROI’s in months and not years, this is one of the factors in reducing implementation times.  I started my career implementing enterprise software in the publishing industry and the implementation team will spend more time with the customer than the sales team.  There are several dimensions that organization need to think about during implementation and I will address these dimensions in future posts.  We will now explore the second major gap that will create a terrible customer eXperience.

Gap #2 ->  Implementation to Support

The second “gap” occurs once the customer moves to production, sometime called “Go-Live”.  Just as with the first gap, the second gap occurs as the customers transitions from one team to another team within your organization.  The implementation team now needs to move on to their next project and they should transition the customer to the support team (in many cases today called Customer Success).  All of the conversations, changes in scope, etc. should be documented however this is nearly impossible. You may be seeing a pattern developing in these identified gaps.

The second gap is another huge opportunity for creating and eXceptional customer eXperience, especially at this critical stage in the relationship with the customer because now they are using your product or service.  The end users will now be using your product or service in many ways that you intended and did not intend.  As you move into supporting the customer, the success criteria and adoption will be essential to monitor.  The “support” team must understand the agreed upon success criteria and partner with the customer to ensure user adoption – if success criteria are not being meet or adoption is low then it needs to be addressed early.

Tips to managing GAP #2:

  • A well designed transition process documented and driven from the top of the organization
  • Introduce the support team at the end of the implementation process before “Go-Live”
  • Revisit and update the agreed upon success criteria documented for the project
  • Salespeople need to stay involved with their accounts to help mediate and clarify
  • Discuss an “adoption” plan and how to adapt if adoption is lower than expected
  • Tie compensation for the implementation and support teams for a “successful” transition

Every interaction is important when it comes to Customer eXperience however not all interactions are “weighted” the same.  When it comes to enterprise software I have not seen many companies manage these transitions “gaps” well and it leads to an unsatisfactory customer experience which in turn will limit an organization’s revenue potential.  The common denominator in these transitions should be your salespeople as they initiate the relationship/trust and at some point there will be additional business.  There are many other places to create an exceptional customer experience (which I will explore) however if you do not manage these two foundational gaps your company will eventually not exist.

Have you been involved with organizations that have managed the CX gaps well?  Please comment below to share your experience with the community!

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