We've all heard that the customer is in charge: They're calling the shots and managing their own destiny. The role of vendors has been relegated to a supporting and enabling one. It’s all about the customer and the only thing that matters is their perspective.
CEOs and management teams agree on these points on an intellectual level, but emotionally, the new reality is a hard one to swallow. In the good old days Sales was the key to customer’s success. Having that level of influence is hard to let go of.
Yesteryear’s motto of “helping is selling” is even more applicable today. The “helping” just takes on different forms and the relationship between the buyer and seller is even more co-dependent today than it was back then. It just happens in different channels.
Vendors Keep Hitting the Same Targets
Today’s buyer has a simple request -- “understand me from my vantage point.” Vendors need to understand that buyer needs evolve rapidly over the relationship lifecycle. Buyers look at their vendor relationships holistically. Unfortunately, vendors stubbornly continue to look at their customer relationships from the vantage of a point in time.
Buyers continually evaluate vendors based on their needs, how well past interactions met expectations, how aligned vendor’s values and processes are to the buyer’s, and how they feel about vendor solutions. The vendor evaluates the customer based on how much business they closed this quarter or year. One view is holistic while the other is short-term revenue focused.
It should be of no surprise then that the current customer experience "best" practice of optimizing a few, key customer interactions does not move the needle for the long term. By "finding and fixing" a handful of interactions that are typically isolated to digital experiences, customer acquisition and call center support, vendors are engaging in an adult-version of the "whac-a-mole" game. Every "fixed" interaction results in another, different broken one rearing its head in a never-ending cycle. No wonder so many organizations have a jaded view of today’s customer engagement movement. It hasn’t yielded on the promise of loyalty and revenue growth.
Look for the Total Relationship
The culprit is not the concept, nor buyer fickleness, but rather the vendor’s perspective. The "find and fix" approach to customer engagement reinforces the organizational silos that vendors are claiming to tear down. While the approach fits more easily into how organizations operate, it robs the vendor of a holistic view of the customer’s desired -- albeit evolving -- perspective of the relationship. And it does little to deepen trust and alignment between the customer and vendor: two cornerstones of customer-led organizations.
Vendors striving to become customer-led spend an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to figure out what the engagement expectations of customers are. No one wants to resort to guessing, the stakes are too high.