As CX leaders work to create industry-leading B2B experiences for customers and other stakeholders, it’s helpful to understand — and make comparisons to — industry trends. Are you playing catch-up? How can you accelerate your efforts? What does the future look like for your company, your customers, and your partners -- and how can you shape it?
The Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) has explored in detail what B2B companies need to do to enable digital transformation at scale. TSIA’s research shows that what customers want most is an easy path to value. To provide this, CX leaders need to create simple, connected, consistent, and intelligent experiences that drive value for customers. At the same time, we can’t lose sight of the business's need to use CX as a lever to generate profitable growth for their organizations.
At Cisco Systems, we, too, are aiming to simplify customer value realization. These four CX principles have guided us on our journey:
1. Identify and remove friction points
Today’s CX leaders should be obsessed with eliminating friction in the customer experience, wherever it can be found across the entire pre- and post-sale lifecycle. No matter how phenomenal an organization’s programs, platforms, and products may be, if we make it hard for customers to reach the value they seek, we risk alienating customers. In a particularly apt illustration of the concept, TSIA suggests companies shift away from forcing customers to navigate a complex maze toward giving them a straightforward path.
How to identify these friction points? Talk with customers. Seek their feedback regularly across every stage of the customer lifecycle – from communication preferences to support, digital resources, billing, and more. While this advice sounds cliché, in reality, it isn’t happening enough. Let’s get back to basics: understanding our customers so that we can identify and remove roadblocks to their success is at the core of our work as CX professionals.
2. Build for scale
Whether your organization today has 100 or 100,000 customers, scale should be baked into everything you do. Modern digital tools can help you drive scale, and they are necessary for orchestrating effective customer experiences. In fact, implementing CX at scale is nearly impossible without a modern technology stack. Here are a few strategies we use:
- A digital experience platform that allows disparate teams to unify the customer experience across all products and services and across all motions.
- Applying data science and AI to derive customer insights at scale and recommend actions that guide customers through all stages of the lifecycle, using a combination of digital and human touches.
- A website experience rooted in simplicity that supports SaaS capabilities such as “try and buy;” provides self-serve digital resources to reduce customer support issues; and uses purchasing data, telemetry, customer contact info and web behavior to personalize customers’ online engagement and accelerate their path to value.
3. End to end
We have a saying within our organization: “there are no solo wins.” That means that programs and platforms may be wonderful on their own, but if they are disconnected from other major pieces of the customer experience, then it degrades the very customer experience it was meant to improve. CX must lead the drive to connect siloed programs, data, platforms, and teams to create a simpler, more unified customer experience so that companies can go to market based on customer needs rather than its internal org chart.
4. Include partners
At Cisco, we go to market in collaboration with tens of thousands of global partners that sell our solutions and support our mutual customers. These partners provide extraordinary value to our customers. Because they own the customer relationship, we need them to fully align with all three of the above guiding principles. Without partner alignment, our customers encounter friction, our ability to scale CX is limited, and our customer experiences become disconnected.
It takes a massive effort to bring partners along on your CX journey, but failing to include them is a surefire way to alienate both them and your customers. You’ll need to invest in the right people, platforms, and technology to successfully scale CX together with partners so that they can achieve profitable growth. It’s a win-win.
Creating an easy path to customer value is an evolution and a learning process. Together with other CX leaders around the world, we are all breaking new ground as we shape a more customer-focused future. Every step forward is a step in the right direction.
Andrew Carothers, CCXP, is a senior Customer Experience leader and founding member of Cisco's CX function. He has helped build the company’s digital approach to increasing customer adoption and retention, improving renewal rates, and driving growth. Carothers is a founding member of the US Customer Experience Award Steering Committee and a four-time International Customer Experience award winner. He co-authored The Publicity Handbook (McGraw Hill), a Fortune Book Club selection.