Businesses have long placed a premium on catering to customers. Customer success leads to repeat sales and boosts a company’s reputation. We’ve long heard the mantra that the customer is always right, and while customer relations are much more nuanced than the saying would suggest, making customers happy is a universal business objective.
Maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction, however, can be an elusive goal in B2B sales. Customers have more choices than ever and can quickly find information on a competitor’s products and services. A business can funnel resources into customer support to ensure positive customer experience but solving customer problems is just one component of customer satisfaction. A more effective approach looks at the customer journey and ensures that it leads to customer goals and beyond.
Customer support is transactional and reactive
When thinking about customer satisfaction, support comes to mind. Customer support is an essential component of a company’s overall connection with its customers. It encompasses the advice or assistance given to customers. While customer support can be proactive, most businesses do not know about customer issues until they are communicated to them by customers. So, customer support becomes a reaction to a problem. If your website is down, customers may open a ticket in your support system, looking for a fix.
But there are a few problems with customer support, from both the customer and business perspective. Often, unhappy customers walk away from a product or service that doesn’t meet their needs. An estimated 96% of dissatisfied customers don’t complain, and the majority of those customers will move on to competitors. When this happens, you lose not only a customer but also an opportunity to fix the problem that created the concern.
Another issue with customer support is that the information it provides businesses can be untimely — by the time you hear your customer’s problem, the damage to customer loyalty may already be complete. Smart companies use customer support as a tool to improve the overall customer journey.
Customer experience is the total journey
A better way to approach customer satisfaction is to leverage your relationship to ensure customer satisfaction. Customer experience is feelings-based. It focuses on impressions and is a broad look at the customer journey.
The best way to define customer experience is to ask a question. Can you describe a noteworthy interaction with a business? Maybe you had a great meal at a restaurant or used a mobile app that quickly gave you the information you sought. Or, perhaps you had a subpar experience at a large retailer, where it just seemed like an employee didn’t care much about you. Each of these examples illustrates the customer experience. Good, bad, or indifferent, customer experience is the sum of all the “touches” a customer has with a business. Everything from how an app “feels” to results from using the app informs the customer experience. And, customer experience is crucial, because 75% of unhappy customers who have left a business note that they did so because of sub-par customer experience.
Customer success — a meaningful metric that informs during the journey
While responsive customer support is a significant component of customer experience, customer success is the goal of any forward-minded company. Customer success is about results, not just the journey or how a business troubleshoots problems for customers. It focuses on creating an experience that results in beneficial growth for the customer. It is also highly measurable, which grounds customer satisfaction in reality. Customer experience and support play critical roles in success, but customer success goes much further beyond these concepts. With a customer success initiative, companies can identify such factors as adoption rates and utilization of a product or service. Both help shines a light on the dissatisfied customers that might simply walk away without airing complaints. With a customer success program, businesses engage with their customers and measure how much their product or service gets the job done for the customer.
Measuring it, however, can be tricky. Just as dissatisfied customers may decide to stay silent about what they don’t like, they may also not be entirely forthcoming about their success. This is why businesses need to create and deploy a system to continually measure key parameters contributing to the success of their customers such as customer sentiment, adoption rate, and other factors.
Scaling and operationalizing customer success
As a company grows, determining and ensuring customer success can get even trickier. Often, a close business relationship can become distant after a company experiences a boost in customers. This is one crucial area where customer support, customer experience, and customer success intertwine. Growth can lead to a dilution of the quality of support and experience, which can then lessen a business’s ability to measure success. Scaling customer success means making it part of the customer journey.
Automated systems to operationalize customer success, such as SmartKarrot, reduce the burden of customer success measurement. Through customer communication and features such as incentivized surveys to determine metrics such as adoption rate and net promoter score, businesses can have a real-time picture of customer success.
Ultimately, customer satisfaction is a combination of several factors, including responsive support, customer experience, and the ongoing measurement of customer success. When operationalized and optimized for scale, customer success is a business’s best way to determine if their product or service is delivering the results that customers want. Once your offering is aligned with customer goals, mutual success follows.