Customer Experience, Three Big Myths That Keep You From Being Customer Centric
Everyone, it seems, has jumped on the customer [insert favorite objective here] bandwagon. Articles, studies and best practices abound, each heralding the financial benefits of aligning your organization outward to how customers go about their daily lives.

Even Mark Hurd, Oracle’s President, has been evangelizing the need for companies to make the transition. Not, he claims, because Oracle owns RightNow and Eloqua and wants you to buy these solutions, but because it’s the right thing to do. It’s no longer a matter of revenue growth, but one of survival.

A recent IBM study found that 76 percent of executives aspire to know their customers better. Another study found that 93 percent of B2B executives say that improving that experience is one of their top three things to do by 2015. Yet one study by CEI cites less than 40 percent and another study by Temkin Group cites less than 10 percent of companies are actually doing something to transform their organizations to be more customer-driven.

If the customer is the lynchpin of survival, why aren't more companies doing something about it?

In my company's work with B2B Fortune 1000 executives, we keep running into three myths that have executives taking the foot off the gas pedal when it comes to customer experience. These cause management teams to hesitate and put a big dose of "scary" into the whole discussion.

Let’s debunk each of the myths.

1. We Need Leads, Not Transformation

The B2B C-suite is obsessed with marketing leads. They need sales to have more "at-bats" and that translates into more leads from marketing, not on how happy past prospects were in dealing with the seller or how consistent their experiences were across the various vendor teams they dealt with.

The reality is that by the time a prospect raises their hand and is classified as a marketing lead, they’ve already thoroughly checked out the vendor, their products, reputation and, from our research, have already done a short list.

No amount of marketing is going to change that. If the vendor doesn’t know what the buyer has done and their context before they raised their hand, it’s a crap-shoot whether that prospect is truly a lead. Improving lead volume, velocity and quality only results when sellers adequately understand their buyers’ journeys and have aligned their demand generation waterfall, digital-physical-social interactions and sales methodology to the buyers’ journey. That’s not a big transformative initiative; it’s a common sense change to stay competitive.

2. We Know Our Customers’ Journey

Companies will point to sales and existing customer advocacy programs as proof positive that they already know the journeys their buyers go on. For it is sales’ job to discover the buyers’ journey as part of their qualification process. Voice of the Customer, Voice of the Employee, Customer Advisory Boards, Customer Acquisition Costs and Net Promoter Score programs fill in the gaps needed to plot the buyers’ journey.

The reality is these programs provide glimpses into the journey from an inside-out perspective. While valuable for their intended use, they were never designed to deliver a detailed action-by-action map through the lens of the persona-buyer of the lifecycle journey buyers take from trigger event through repurchase.

Teams that believe they can plot their buyers’ journey by cobbling together data from these programs are kidding themselves. The result misses 90 percent of what buyers do before they ever touched the vendor’s website; tollgates and content maps by step/channel are unknown and experience expectations are determined based on biased, antidotal data. Sales, meanwhile, is discovering the data, but they're focus is on if there is a real need, budget and what it will take to close the deal before quarter's end.

The only way to really understand the customers’ journey is through "the lens of the persona-buyer" and that means you have to talk to your customers, face-to-face. You just might be surprised how open and eager your customers are to having this discussion without extracting a "price" for their involvement in terms of a deeper discount on the next purchase or free stuff like training.

3. We Need Fast Answers

The third myth is that customer experience research and strategy takes months and months before actionable results are obtained. A funny thing happens to words like “research,” “methodology” and “transformation.” They go through a subconscious translation in the brain and come out as "takes a long time," "complicated," "expensive," "academic" and "not actionable."  Conditioned by Google, anything that sounds remotely like it will take longer than a few days is often outright rejected. The reality? Customer experience initiatives should never require a "leap of faith" or be lengthy projects. Companies don’t have time for that while customers continuously evolve their expectations.

Companies can develop comprehensive customer journey maps in 30 to 45 days, begin to implement high impact, bite-sized changes to how business is conducted and realize results within one to two quarters. Is that too long? Not compared to how long it takes most organizations to plan and execute tactical initiatives.

The key to rapidly evolving into a customer-obsessed organization is to follow a proven blueprint for implementing bite-sized changes in rapid succession. That requires a proven set of tools and experienced guides who know how to balance achieving short-term results with long-term transformation across the three dimensions of culture, process and technology. Done correctly, you should see the impact of the first bite-size customer experience changes within 30 days. 

The reality is that customers want to be more intimately involved in their vendors’ business. They want a voice in the vendor’s strategy, product roadmap, culture and innovation. According to the IBM study cited earlier, 54 percent of outperforming companies collaborate extensively with their customers and involve them in strategic decision-making about the business. The fear of giving up control, rationalizing lots of conflicting feedback and being accountable to customers by proactively closing the loop is at the root of these three myths.

Reach out to your customer and invite them in; you will be surprised at how eager and appreciative they will be -- and they’ll buy more in the process.

Title image courtesy of  Melkor3D (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more by Christine, see her The Road to Customer Experience is Not Thru Net Promoter Score