When you work with large accounts, your customers can have a dozen or more regular contacts with different parts of your organization. Each of these interactions has the potential to make or break the long-term relationship you worked so hard to create. Even one mishandled interaction can derail the relationship, sometimes irrevocably. Of course, you can’t micromanage these interactions and still focus on making your numbers.
Your Team is only as Strong as Its Weakest Link
Top-performing sales organizations ensure that everyone in the organization who comes in contact with customers is trained to maximize the customer experience. Here are some real-world examples that illustrate the impact of training on results:
One of the companies we worked with sold a highly technical product supported by teams of engineers. To complicate matters, they had grown extensively through acquisition. And, let’s face it. Engineers aren’t always “people people.”
After a review of the customer experience, this organization decided they needed to not just improve the customer experience, but also make it more consistent across divisions. Three months after sending a pilot group of engineers through a series of targeted training courses, their customer satisfaction had improved by 33%.
Inside Sales and Support
Working the phone lines is a tough job. You never know what kinds of problems you’ll be asked to resolve – or what kind of day the person calling is having. Inside sales reps and support staff need to stay positive and be on top of their game at all times.
This was particularly challenging for one of our customers. They had gone through a major restructuring and lost many of their most experienced support staff to a larger organization in the process. To complicate matters, 50% of the staff that remained worked from home. Needless to say, the team lacked the collective knowledge of how to handle the tough cases that comes from experience.
This organization structured an innovative series of onsite and online courses, including refresher courses, on maximizing the customer experience. As a result, service quality scores increased from 88% to 95% and first-call resolution from 29% to 52%.
In this final example, the customer sold very complex equipment through sales teams from multiple divisions representing diverse product lines. By ensuring everyone had the same customer experience training, the organization was able to create a common language for collaboration. Furthermore, the training reoriented the sales teams so they focused not just on the products they sold, but also on the collective customer experience.
This company used the Net Promoter Scores (NPS) to ensure customer satisfaction measurements were standardized across groups. Their fundamental success metric was to move neutral customers to promoters. Within six months, their data showed a significant increase in the level of promoters from 47% to 64% and a corresponding reduction in the neutrals from 28% to 18%. Further validating the data, their control group (whose representatives had received no training) saw no statistically significant improvement.
Making the Case for Customer Experience Training
The good news is that you probably won’t need to convince executive management that the customer experience is important to long-term success. Companies have long understood that customer satisfaction drives business and that it’s far cheaper to keep a customer than to acquire a new one.
Convincing management that formal training is needed can be a little more challenging. Even those organizations that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars sending their staff through product and sales methodology training often see formal customer experience training as an unnecessary expense. Instead, they put a few posters on the wall about teamwork and putting customers first…and then they wonder why metrics don’t improve.
Here are 3 tips that we’ve found helpful for making the case for customer experience training:
#1 Data is key. CFOs want hard metrics before they allocate budget. Leverage data points like the ones I shared above.
#2 Start small if you need to. You may have noticed that two of the three organizations focused on a pilot group of employees to prove the concept.
#3 Be SMART about your metrics. You may not be as scientifically minded as the last organization, but you need to remember the old adage: anecdotes aren’t data. Use the S.M.A.R.T. method for setting and collecting data:
Specific – Make sure you set metrics that are specific and that everyone understands their definition and purpose.
Measurable – Set metrics based on data you can actually collect.
Achievable – Reaching for the stars is great, but when making a business case, achievable metrics are vital.
Relevant – If the metric doesn’t translate into long-term sales success, don’t bother.
Timely – Make sure you leave enough time between your pilot program and assessment to give behavioral changes time to have an impact.
If your success depends on long-term customer relationships, leaving customers in the hands of employees who haven’t been trained to maximize the customer experience is risky. In the end, you’ll spend valuable selling time trying to put out fires and win back customers – time you could spend bringing in new business. Maximizing the customer’s experience in every interaction is vitally important in today’s complex B2B sales environments.