Loyalty drives the 4 Rs: revenue, reputation, referrals and retention. But when buyers start to see companies and their sellers as interchangeable vendors who can easily be replaced, they have little reason to remain committed to one business.

Just meeting, not to mention exceeding, the modern customer’s expectations for a personalized, enhanced, omnichannel experience is getting harder. Research from Salesforce shows that 67% of buyers say that their standard for good buying experiences is higher than ever, and 51% say that most companies fall short.

When the customer experience doesn’t live up to buyer expectations, it has devastating consequences. In an online survey of 5,000 global buyers, 50% of U.S. respondents said they’d stop doing business with a company after one bad experience. This attrition has a significant impact. Our 2018-2019 Sales Performance Report showed that 70% of B2B revenue comes from existing customers. And it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than retain one, according to Forrester.

These numbers make it clear that companies that want to drive customer loyalty must follow customer experience best practices to deliver outstanding service in every interaction and to break down silos between marketing, sales and customer success.

What Outstanding Customer Service Looks Like

Customer experience is the sum of every interaction that customers have—and it comes down to how an organization’s front-line employees treat them.

What causes poor customer experiences? A lack of personal attention. When employees use scripted or canned responses, transfer calls multiple times or put customers on hold, or when consumers are forced to communicate with an automated service rather than a person, they think less of an organization. In our survey, more than 40% of global respondents found it annoying when employees talk to them about “things other than the problem I am trying to resolve,” including upselling and cross-selling.

So how can B2B businesses improve the customer experience? Think about their own experiences as consumers, then walk in their customers’ shoes through their buying journey as they create their customer experience strategy.

Our survey revealed that interpersonal skills make or break the customer experience: it’s important for employees to read customers’ emotions, express empathy, listen carefully and show customers respect. Human interactions are critical to improving customer service: most survey respondents said they prefer to communicate by phone (43%) or in person (37%). The two top positive behaviors mentioned in survey responses were apologizing and being nice.

An Integrated Approach to Customer Service

Service helps organizations differentiate themselves in a buyer’s mind. But service isn’t the responsibility of only the customer success team; an organization cannot rely on a stellar service team to optimize the entire customer journey if other teams aren’t on the same page. That means that improving the customer experience must be a cross-functional effort that follows the customer’s journey from end to end.

Cooperation is difficult when marketing, sales and customer success split themselves into silos that don’t share information. But sales organizations focused on getting holistic customer experience right improve their alignment between these teams by following these three customer experience best practices:

1. Collect, share and analyze customer data. Look at customer experience metrics from across the enterprise to study customer sentiment. Do more than just survey your customers: ask them to share their experiences at different stages of their buying path and to tell their stories in their own words.

2. Check for unintended consequences of your internal structures and processes. Your organizational structure, systems and processes may create roadblocks and frustrations for your customers. For example, is the handoff between sellers and customer success smooth, or are there steps that cause friction for customers? Do multiple salespeople call on the same customer to sell different products, and if so, do they communicate to ensure that they deliver a seamless customer experience?

3. Build a cross-functional team. It’s impossible to unify your experience unless you get representatives from sales, marketing and service in the same room. Have the team consider what the customer experience looks like in different situations and from varied perspectives, and brainstorm solutions to bridge the gaps between each team..

Improve CX to Build Customer Loyalty and Leapfrog the Competition

If you’re struggling to stand out or to align your marketing, sales and service functions, take a look at our Service Ready product suite. The holistic approach from these service methodologies shows companies how to exceed buyer expectations and create memorable interactions every time, building greater customer loyalty. You’ll also learn how to connect your organization’s processes to the buying journey, so your employees anticipate, meet and exceed your customers’ business needs.

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