You've heard the saying “the customer is always right,” but it's time to take that idea a step further. 

In the subscription economy, many companies don’t begin to realize profit until their customers renew subscriptions several times over. Therefore, adopting strategies and techniques designed to increase customer success for the long haul are more critical than ever before.

You must listen to what your customers are saying, engage with them in a structured fashion, and ensure their business outcomes. The customer is always right, but it's no longer enough — you must take action. By taking a few steps, you not only prove to your customers that you understand their needs, but you also create positive, long-term — and mutually beneficial — relationships.

Are You Listening?

Only 55 percent of B2B enterprises say they understand how their customers measure success, according to a 2015 Oracle Customer Success Assessment Survey. 

This number is alarming. 

Understanding how customers measure success can alert you to emerging challenges and let you know when a customer is ready to invest more with you. 

To begin listening, many businesses rely on structured and unstructured feedback sources. 

  • Structured input: such as the perfunctory web-based survey taken to a new level to gain new insights on a product or service is not only a necessary part of any good listening program, but can also help build a complete picture of what your customers are thinking
  • Unstructured input: via focus groups, advisory boards and one-to-one customer interactions help fill out gaps in the structured data

Listening to your own organization is highly valuable as well. Taking the pulse of your employees is critical for overall success. Globally, top ranked organizations for customer service align employee input with customer input — and they do so by synchronizing and reconciling employee and customer feedback.

Are You Engaging?

Harnessing the intelligence gathered from proactive listening to engage customers in a more strategic fashion — a process that extends well past the sale of your product — builds stronger and more strategic customer relationships. 

To do this, businesses must involve many different facets of their organization and break down company silos for more holistic customer engagement. Strategic engagements are a necessary part of building a trusted advisor relationship that helps drive retention and revenue growth. 

Studies show that customer engagement correlates with higher levels of understanding about the benefits your software or services provide and how that affects their business outcomes. These customers are also more satisfied, more loyal, more likely to purchase again and more likely to advocate for your company. 

Or course, interacting with your customers also means taking to social media. Bloggers and online commenters shape opinion in our culture, influencing key players that make the buying and selling decisions. By leveraging digital channels as part of an engagement platform, businesses can marshal an army of engaged customers as advocates for their brands.

Are You Ensuring?

The ability to ensure business outcomes is the most important of the three capabilities and it is the hardest to master. No matter how well you listen to your customers, or how intimately you engage with them — if you fail to deliver meaningful business results, sooner or later customers will gravitate to providers that can.

Most B2B organizations focus exclusively on getting new customers in the door. While a laudable goal, it's not a guarantee of sustainable growth. Excellent business partners take the next step to ensure that their customers’ business objectives are met. They focus on the short- and long-term success of their customers —and establish lasting relationships in the process.

Title image Rob Bye