We all know what it is like to walk into someone else’s kitchen. We see the cupboards and the drawers but have no idea what might be lying inside. A task as simple as making coffee is hampered by our ability to find the coffee, the spoon, the cups, the sugar…it seems nothing is where it should be. However, when the owner walks into the kitchen, everything is effortless. He or she glides from one drawer to the next pulling out precisely what is needed without even a glance.

How do your customers feel when they call to place an order or log in to view your catalog? Is everything where they expect it to be and does everything operate smoothly or is it more like spending the weekend as an out of town guest? According to Gartner, more than 50 percent of businesses will implement significant changes over the next year to improve customer experience. For companies to remain competitive, they must be willing to evaluate current processes.

Identifying bottlenecks within your processes can be difficult. After all, you know your systems and products so well that evaluating the processes as an outsider is nearly impossible. However, systems that are in place to streamline the customer experience may be a stumbling block when used by actual customers. Automated phone attendants are a great example.

From the outside, it seems that a well-managed automated attendant can provide callers with simple account information quickly – even faster than a human. Yet, how many times have you ever picked up the phone with the intention of talking to a machine? Humans make phone calls to talk to other humans.

Eighty-nine percent of customers get frustrated because they need to repeat their issues to multiple representatives. – Accenture

Gain an Outsider’s Perspective

As mentioned, it is challenging to evaluate your systems from the inside. One way to gain insight into your customer’s experience is to ask. B2B customer surveys allow you to gauge the overall sentiment of your customers and quickly identify common areas of frustration or delight. The results of the survey can be used to understand what is working well, steer future improvement efforts, and to eliminate the most significant bottlenecks quickly.

Another way to identify bottlenecks is to evaluate RMA (return merchandise authorization) cases. This can help you determine areas where your sales teams could be doing a better job understanding the real need of the customer. This is especially true if you find that returns are often the result of incorrect ordering rather than product defect. Finally, evaluate delivery processes and known delivery issues to see where stumbles occur. Each time a delivery is late, costs more than expected, or arrives in an unacceptable condition it costs our customers time and money. If we cost our customers enough time and money, they will find another supplier.

Sixty-seven percent of customers mention bad experiences as a reason for churn, but only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers will complain. – thinkJar

Consider Alternative Approaches

As B2B sales and marketing teams struggle to strike a balance between serving their Baby Boomer contacts with traditional business methods and meeting the self-service, on-demand needs of Millennial buyers it is important to address the changing landscape of the sales process.

McKinsey&Company introduced the concept of the Customer Decision Journey (CDJ) more than 10 years ago as a way to understand the new ways in which customers research and buy products. The CDJ views the buying decision as a non-linear process and emphasizes the post-purchase period. In some businesses, applying the CDJ approach to sales and marketing processes has increased sales by five to 10 percent.

While the CDJ approach is not appropriate for every business, it is essential to recognize the changing landscape of sales and marketing and evaluate new approaches to sales and marketing cycles. As the contacts at each business change, the ways in which products are evaluated and purchased will also change.

Striking a Balance

Often the most difficult sale is not the one to our customers, but it is the one that we make to our shareholders on behalf of our customers. Implementing new processes, tools, and procedures that decrease customer effort often require a financial investment.

To gain the backing of the board, identify the value that will be added to the organization by implementing the change. While a new tool may cost money at the beginning, the investment is often quickly recovered when customer retention increases. In other scenarios, the ROI may be more difficult to calculate.

When a philosophical reason prompts a change in the way that customers are treated, shareholders may be hesitant to fund the transition. However, showing that the business is experiencing growth and that hard goals are met may justify the investment. The most important thing to remember is to drive alignment between shareholders and the cause. Without alignment, the gains made by investing in the change will not be valued.

Identifying customer bottlenecks and implementing changes that improve customer experience can have a significant impact on revenues. The way your customers perceive their experience is vital. According to McKinsey, 70 percent of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated and not on the product or service itself. Invest in understanding your customer’s experience and then use those learnings to shape the future improvements.

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