Did you know that 64% of consumers have found customer experience to be more important than price when it comes to buying? And 74% of people will switch brands if the purchasing process is too difficult? Additionally, more than 70% of B2B buyers fully define their needs before even engaging a vendor, almost half of which have already identified specific solutions before reaching out?
These stats may not surprise you. They are reflective of the fact that, as technology has evolved, so too, have the habits of buyers. The advent of the internet gave us access to all the information we could want. This change in online landscape has cultivated new buyer habits due simply to the ease at which we can access information. As time progressed, search engines emerged and have grown to be extremely sophisticated. Soon after we realized how to use this to our advantage as consumers. Add social media, online reviews and ratings for products and services into the mix, and it becomes clear: consumers have been entirely enabled to educate themselves before making a purchasing decision.
But how does this relate to the way you think about your marketing, sales, and customer service teams? Many would be tempted to describe them as 3 distinct roles.
Marketing is in charge of brand and appearances.
Sales is in charge of relationship building.
Customer service is in charge of maintaining those relationships.
But if these three functions are operating in silos, you may be hindering your growth and damaging your brand.
The fact is whether a user is seeking a product or service, researching their options, making recommendations, or are looking for an outlet to warn others about a previous poor experience they have had, they have one destination: ONLINE. As a result, the boundaries between marketing, sales, and customer service have blurred.
Make it Work in Your Favor
To be effective in today’s marketplace, you must adjust your strategy. Your whole organization will need to circle their wagons and align with the way your prospects behave as they embark on their journey with your brand. This means you have to know how your prospects:
The Buyer Journey
There are 3 stages a prospect goes through before sending business your way.
First they must become aware that they have a problem or a need. Next, they will consider the various offerings that will meet this need. Finally, they’ll make a decision.
Here’s how it works: Once the buyer is aware that they have a need, they will begin researching. This may mean they enter a Google search to collect information relating to a specific problem and begin to scope out and identify potential solutions that could help them. Maybe they narrow it down based on certain criteria and hone in on a few top options. They may watch product demos on YouTube and begin making comparisons as they take inventory of their options. They’ll evaluate who’s selling, what are they selling, determine whose product or services are best, and seek out intel via testimonials, ratings and/or reviews of a company, product or service. They’ll ask friends and family for advice and, eventually, they will make a decision.
Your potential customer will scour the internet for information as it relates to their problem or need, but it’s your responsibility to ensure the content they find is helpful and establishes credibility. That means generating content that will aid in their research and allow them to educate themselves about how your offering can help them through each of the aforementioned stages.
At each of these steps, a prospect is seeking a certain type of information. But this is where it gets interesting. Be it content through a blog, user-generated reviews and ratings, or even just your level of accessibility when they pick up the phone to call you –to make this new ‘eco-system’ work in your favor you must have buy in from everyone:
The marketing team as they craft relevant and helpful messaging
The sales team who should make themselves accessible and maintain an attitude of helpfulness over salesyness.
The customer support team and their influence on the reviews and ratings your current customers are already leaving online.
If you can provide helpful content, prove your track record through positive reviews/social proof and are available and responsive to your prospects when they have questions, they will begin to establish trust in your brand, and build confidence that you will be qualified to meet their needs.
With One Sale Comes Great Responsibility
By the time your prospect is ready to buy, they have already made it through the buyer journey. If they’ve gotten this far, your attempts to connect with them have been successful. Closing the sale, however, is just the beginning. After they’ve become your customer, their interaction with you has merely just begun and true success is yet to be determined.
It is consistently recognized that the cost of attracting new customers is 5 times more expensive than the cost to retain an existing customer. Just as attracting the customer in the first place required participation from marketing, sales, AND customer service teams, so does your ability to retain these customers.
"In the world of Internet Customer Service, it's important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away." - DA Warner, J.P Morgan Chase & Co
While the buyer journey considers the steps that take place pre-purchase, we cannot end our analysis there. Once you have attracted a customer, sales, customer service, and marketing must constantly revolve around the customer and provide value through delightful experiences, because if they don’t, this can deter current customers from referring friends or doing business with you again.
This concept is represented really well in Hubspot’s flywheel model. The flywheel is a wheel that stores rotational energy. According to this model, your business can leverage the momentum of happy customers to drive referrals and repeat business. It’s this momentum that will keep your business “spinning.”
For customer service, this means picking up the phone when they call, responding to support chats swiftly, and maintaining a friendly and helpful attitude. The interactions that customer service has with current customers can fuel or hinder the ability for a sales team to pick up a referral later. Their success will play a large role in fueling the tone of the online reviews your customers are leaving.
For marketing, this means making sure your customers are able to find the content and tools they need as it relates to your products or services, setting correct expectations about products or services in the content they craft, and delivering highly relevant messaging.
For sales, this means keeping your radar up to solutions that will meet the needs of their customers. And so on and so on.
Your Customers Can Be Transformed into Evangelists for Your Brand
The happiness of your customers is so vital because their experiences will either fuel or hamper future business. As we said earlier, whether a user is seeking a product or service, researching their options, or are unhappy with their experience after the fact, they have one destination: ONLINE.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” - Warren Buffet
It can be a big challenge to align your sales, marketing and customer service teams, but if you embrace this approach, the payoff will be well worth it. Happy customers who rave about you, both online and offline, will drive business your way. Unhappy customers will also spread the word about their poor experiences, slowing the flow of new prospects into your sales funnel. Your customers are your most valuable asset; changing your view on what makes up a positive customer experience will help ensure they have a reason to work in your favor.
For more information related to cutivating a stellar customer experience, the concept of inbound marketing, or tips for retaining your customers, please take a look at some of our other resources:
Marketing: Could it Be Your New Differentiator?
Customer Friction & the Flywheel: Delighting Your Customer
7 Ways to Protect Your Most Prized Asset
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