3 Things That Drive Efficiency in Customer Experience

Customer experience has been heralded as a new differentiator in the CGS 2019 BPO Look Ahead Report. The results of the report point out that CEOs should focus on improving the overall customer experience in order to boost brand visibility and customer efficiency in 2019. Firms that measure and improve customer experience are on the rise. While that shouldn’t be a surprise, it is for many leaders. For many, customer experience are tactics that help improve customer acquisition and encourage repeat purchases. By viewing customer experience so narrowly companies are missing the operational efficiencies that come from aligning customers’ expectations with business workflows and company culture. There are over 30 areas where efficiencies can be gained. They range from product roadmaps, field service/maintenance, employee onboarding, and channel/alliances to technology ecosystems and agile outsourcing. It’s a mindset, a business discipline and a strategy. How much you can gain is limited only by how well your organization can embrace change and by how deeply you understand customers’ expectations. The place to start is by developing that deep understanding with journey mapping.  Done correctly each “map” will clearly tell you what and how interactions should be handled: By technology such as chatbots; by an employee in-person, by phone or email; or by a third party such as a BPO partner.

#1 DISCOVERING WHAT CUSTOMERS DO AND WHAT THEY WANT

Journey maps document the details of the steps, decisions, content sought, emotions and expectations that customers’ persona engage in during the relationship lifecycle. Each map includes all digital, physical and social actions taken with any brand engaged with, not just your company. To gain the level of actionable detail needed to identify cost efficiencies, the best approach is outside-in and qualitative journey mapping at the market persona level. Approach journey mapping by first identifying which target markets are strategic to your future growth. Define each market in terms of geography, demographics, and buyer personas/roles. Agree on what overall journey model methodology your company will adopt so each journey map(s) utilizes a common set of definitions, techniques and structure. The resulting maps should be fine-grained documentation of every action taken throughout the relationship lifecycle. It should take approximately 30 to 45 days to journey map each market.

#2 FINDING THE COSTLY GAPS

Journey mapping reveals where misalignments are between customer interaction expectations – physical, digital, content, etc. – and business processes.  Some misalignments are annoyances, others are severe enough to drive churn. One of my SaaS software clients had multiple teams involved in onboarding new users with frequent interactions. Once users were trained, customer communications shifted to generic emails sent once or twice a year by a customer success representative, not always from the same person. Customers wanted the exact opposite; they wanted to interact with the same team members for the life of the contract. They also wanted quarterly phone calls on how to use the software more effectively and monthly emails that were personalized to their industry and use case. In response, the company reorganized it onboarding, implementation, customer support and renewal sales teams and streamline processes to align with the customer journey maps and expectations. The result was reduced churn, increased product usage and customer satisfaction. Identify the misalignments by conducting gap analyses of current workflows compared to the aggregated journey maps. Aggregation of journey maps identifies common experiences and actions across market segments. By conducting gap analysis at each stage of the lifecycle, efficiency opportunities become very clear.

#3 EFFICIENCY PATH TO PROFITABLE CUSTOMERS

In working with over a hundred companies in North America and Europe I’ve found that a majority of customer experience cost efficiencies fall in one of four categories:
  • Data integration and integrity - the right employees and partners have access to the data they need.
  • Streamline workflows to align with journeys- to overcome organizational silos, political ‘turfs’, inefficient technology and eliminate out-of-date, habitual tasks.
  • Employee empowerment - enable employees and BPO partners to connect the dots between each of their roles and specific customer interaction expectations.
  • Scale tasks – use smart AI technology to automate routine, repetitive and replicable activities to deliver consistent experiences.
Begin by prioritizing efficiency opportunities into short, medium and long term based on the severity of misalignment and cost benefit. One key to success is to rationalize all the efficiency opportunities within an overarching customer experience strategy and plan. This creates an end-to-end contextual customer experience map that empowers employees and partners to deliver consistent experiences. Use journey maps when making decisions regarding business processes, workflow, IT systems, SLAs, employee training, etc. It becomes the foundation for competitive advantage.   Next, conduct a cost analysis on the alternatives to meet customer expectations – new technology, outsource to a BPO provider, reorganize staff, training, etc. This enables you to track the cost savings, productivity increases and customer metrics. A successful discrete manufacturer client of mine believed their customers wanted more product collateral.  After journey mapping their markets, they were surprised to learn that over 80 percent of their existing content wasn’t used. While the company enjoyed strong brand loyalty, the gap analysis showed customers wanted a comprehensive digital experience focused on solving specific regulatory and compliance issues. Customers were looking for a personalized experience that proactively informed them of upcoming relevant OSHA, FDA, EPA, etc. regulations, product recommendations and compliance best practices. Customer co-creation sessions were used to overhaul the company’s digital experience and define the needed technology ecosystem. During one co-creation session, the company discovered that customers were willing to pay a premium for the new experience. Process efficiencies and customer experience go hand-in-hand. By simplifying workflows, creating a solid process and anchoring customers to aggregated journey maps, organizations become leaner and more agile.  Differentiate your brand based on desired customer experiences. The added benefit is that as customer expectations change, and they do every year, keeping your organization aligned becomes easy and straightforward.  Actively involve your customers and BPO partners in this transformation – you’ll see greater results, faster – with less push-back.  For more information on how companies are engaging with and evolving relationships with BPO providers, read the full report here. First published in CGS Blog - https://www.cgsinc.com/blog/3-things-that-drive-efficiency-in-customer-experience  

RevOps Is the Life Jacket If You’re Drowning in MarTech

Marketing and Sales have spent the past two decades investing in mountains of technology to drive more revenue, faster.  This has fueled the MarTech category explosion and financial bonanzas for vendor unicorns and those acquired at heady valuations. Yet Marketing and Sales remains grossly inefficient. There are several reasons for this including that technology has reinforced, not torn down, organizational and data silos.  MarTech categories overlap resulting in redundant functionality yet leave significant gaps. The result is a complex patchwork of capabilities leaving the core objective – faster, sticker, more predictable revenue – elusive. Add to that the pervasive mismatch between positioning and actual capabilities, especially in the name of ‘customer experience’. And then there is the persistent data integrity problem that plagues just about every company. Also Read: What’s Going to Keep CMOs Awake at Night in 2019 We’re in this situation because we’ve been approaching efficiency gains from the bottom-up. Things will not change until we start addressing the problem from the top-down. No amount of feature/process level fiddling and hyper-automation will yield what we seek. The missing link is the codification of context setting strategic plans that guide investment, business process design, automation, and metrics. The good news is a handful of vendors are introducing solutions that capture the bigger picture in a framework that provides context for the rest of the Martech stack. One of the most critical strategies in an organization is the annual go-to-market plan. It is the agreed upon growth plan of how, where, when and who is accountable for what.  Every organization develops one. Go-to-Market plans are defined at a high-level and supported by functional plans including sales compensation, marketing plans, etc.  The challenge is sticking to the plan and reporting against it.  Too often teams forget the details of the plan. Countless cycles are spent on figuring what was agreed to and who didn’t do what instead of evolving the plan based on insights gained from cross-functional metrics and analyses. Also Read: Make Your Marketing Great One company, LeanData, is actively addressing this need and created a new market category – RevOps.  SiriusDecisions defines Revenue Operations as an emerging go-to-market paradigm ‘bringing the operational work of sales, marketing and customer success together under one roof’. “Companies have all these tools to achieve revenue and coordinate activities but aren’t orchestrating all the touches,” said Karen Steele, CMO of LeanData. “RevOps unites finance, business operations, sales and marketing ops functions through one platform to plan, execute and measure revenue activities, specifically Go To Market.” As a serial CMO, it always made sense to combine Marketing and Sales Ops. The insights were more meaningful and I want happy to give that function to Finance. Having it report into Sales or Marketing tainted the analyses’ credibility; Finance’s neutrality and comprehensive view of the organization’s performance strengthened the Ops team’s impact.  It made my day to hear from Steele that customer RevOps teams are starting to report into COO or CROs and, in LeanData’s case, to the CFO. Revenue Ops solution sits within an organization’s CRM and fixes a key weakness preventing greater unity between sales and marketing ops – inaccurate and fragmented silos of data across the Martech stack enabling customer touch points to be rationalized, optimized and personalized. RevOps won’t magically fix poorly designed processes. It will, however, put sunshine on them so they are addressed. Efficiencies are gained from actionable insights into revenue cycles ‘line of sight’, customer journey alignment, organizational productivity, and ROI analysis based on organization-wide data. LeanData’s approach underpins and aligns the Go-To-Market strategy. The fact they already have mastered consolidating, enhancing and maintaining data from multiple disparate source makes RevOps a logical next step.  Welcome to the ‘Needle Move Club’, LeanData, and redefining Martech’s future. First published in MarTech Advisors

What CMOs Should Tell Board Members (and What Boards Should Be Asking)

Marketers have an opportunity to proactively help board of directors understand marketing — but most are missing out. I’ve sat in many board meetings over the past few years where the CMO presented slides full of detailed metrics on conversion, reach, mindshare and more without putting the information, which is essentially Greek to most of the board, into context. Marketers, in short, need to speak board member's language. Christopher Faust, a life-long SaaS-industry CMO, pointed out that marketers typically present “beautiful charts but don’t answer the most important question of whether the sales and marketing team is adding pipeline at the pace needed to meet future total forecasts.” Ken Klein, who sits on several boards, said board members lack the expertise to ask the right questions of marketing. Their backgrounds are typically in sales, finance or company founders. “Few of my peers come up through marketing and therefore don’t understand that marketing’s results is an early indicator of the company’s future performance,” he shared. “Boards really only care about one thing — are we going to meet our number and do we have the coverage to get there. Marketing's role should be to help simplify metric reporting to answer that question and prove marketing's ROI,” said Faust. Part of the problem, he continued, is that marketing and sales present different pipelines and revenue forecasts. This creates confusion for the board and friction between the teams. “The metric of marketing contribution to sales is important, but meeting sales targets is most important. It doesn’t matter if marketing’s revenue contribution is 50 percent or 100 percent, if the pipeline and conversions are too low to meet targets, those numbers are meaningless,” said Faust.

What Marketers Should Be Presenting to the Board

When I attend board meetings, I look for specific insights from marketing which put their efforts in context:
  • Total pipeline forecast for next three quarters and actuals for the past three quarters.
  • Line of sight conversion for the buyer journey funnel — trigger event through purchase and renewal — by major market segments/buyers.
  • Marketing/Sales spend analysis and how it could be optimized to improve revenue, customer alignment and reputation.
  • QoQ and YoY changes in customer/SaaS cohort, buyer (lost/never considered), and influencer behavior patterns and marketing and sales’ joint action plan.
  • Market landscape changes, with a particular focus on disruptive risks from tangential/orthogonal markets.
CMOs can provide deeper context by presenting pipeline sources and the plan to achieve a quantified target growth rate. Faust is a big fan of presenting comparisons of forecasts to actual results for the past few years as they help clarify trends and provide context. He and I firmly believe that with any variance greater than 10 percent, positive or negative, marketing executives should partner with sales and customer success professionals to explain why. Related Article: The 4 Factors Defining Marketing's Future

What Boards Should Ask CMOs

There is no one-size-fits-all list of questions that boards should ask the CMO. The questions differ based on the maturity stage of the company.

Early-Stage Companies

Start-ups and early stage companies are in a unique situation: They are often pre-revenue and trying to figure out the right go-to-market model. Bruce Cleveland, founding partner at Wildcat Venture Partners and author of "Traversing the Traction Gap," said that for very early stage companies, “Boards should be focused on asking the team about what I call 'market engineering' tasks. These are tasks that must be completed such as 'minimum viable category' (category creation or redefinition), developing a thought leadership talk track about how you are going to transform the world, and what the initial sales talk track is, all while the company is still working on reaching MVP (minimum viable product).” For companies that have achieved MVT, minimum viable traction, board-level marketing discussions should focus on high-level metrics. Cleveland stressed, “The focus should be on trends such as: CLTV (customer lifetime value), CAC (customer acquisition costs), NPS (net promoter score) and DAUs (daily active users).”  He echoed Faust’s point that marketing’s macro metrics should tell the board if things are on track or not. Based on his experience, Cleveland argued that “Marketing be responsible for helping to forecast what the revenue will be in the next quarter; Sales should own the current quarter.”  Marketing should use lead conversions and other data to help the board and management team forecast future revenue. Most companies aren’t there yet. Related Article: How to Deliver Credible Marketing Pipeline Forecasts

Growth-Stage Companies

Growth stage companies are all about scale. Management and the board are focused on quarter over quarter growth in market share, profitability, revenue and customer retention. The sales cycle should be repeatable and predictable, as is the competitive landscape. The marketing mix is more diverse and should be driven by customer experience expectations. The company may be privately-held or be publicly traded. The composition of the board frequently includes independent board members and/or industry experts. Gayle Crowell, a serial public and private board director, recommends that CMOs focus on four areas when talking to their boards: 1. Overall marketing investment and structure: Venture capitalists and private equity investors need to understand, at a glance, where that money is going.
  • What kind of return (in terms of revenue generated) do you expect for each area of spend?
  • What are your most effective marketing channels, why and does the data support your findings?
  • Do we have the right marketing structure, skills and talent to overachieve on our growth plan?
2. Growth and leverage: If a company plans to increase their growth by X percent next year, the board wants to know what additional investments are needed to achieve that result.
  • On a scale of 1-10, how confident are you that the additional results would be achievable?
  • What kind of leverage should be expected from additional investments as the business scales?
  • How can we double the results without doubling the marketing investment?
3. Marketing and sales productivity:
  • What is marketing doing to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the sales organization?
  • What are marketing’s goals in this area and how should success of your initiatives be measured?
  • Specifically, what can marketing do to significantly increase the conversion rate in middle to late stage of the sales process?
4. Marketing strategy: 
  • Is the company positioned in right place (product/market/price) to successfully compete?
  • What are the top three causes of wins and losses? Specifically, where would you invest to drive more wins or fewer losses?
  • What are specific ways the company can create new revenue streams? (Pricing, services, new distribution channels, new markets, etc.)

Late-Stage Growth and Mature Companies

Mature stage companies are well-established in their industry, with clearly defined competitors and product/service substitutions. Their challenges are focused on maintaining a culture of innovation, year over year growth, organizational productivity and customer loyalty. At this stage, the board is a true governance body. Their interest is in the marketing strategy, not in number of leads, marketing and sales spend statistics, etc. The board assumes those things are being effectively managed by the CMO and CEO. Directors are interested in the big picture strategy and how that affects the outcome. Most CMO presentations at this stage are just not high level enough. They don’t connect the dots of what they do and say with the bottom line. Agnieszka Winkler, is a serial board member for private and public companies including SuperCuts, RenoAir, The Cheesecake Factory and Ascension Healthcare Network among others. Her marketing background makes her the "go to" board member to determine if the company’s efforts are on the mark. Her advice to board members is to get comfortable asking probing questions. Only by "peeling the onion" can the board understand how effectively marketing is setting strategy that will increase its brand value, reputation and revenue growth. Winkler suggests three areas of focus: 1. Market share: This implies that marketers know their total available market, competitors, what their revenue breakdown is and how much they are investing in marketing.
  • Are your marketing strategies adequately increasing market share or should you shift focus to grow total available market?
  • What are the triggers to sell different offerings into your existing markets to maintain/grow market share and revenue?
2. Competition: This is an increasingly important area with the answers literally changing throughout the year. Recall how Apple’s iPhone redefined not just the mobile industry but music, photography, geolocation services, banking, etc.?
  • Are your primary competitors doing the same thing as you or are they solving the market problem in different/unique ways?
3. Customer Mix: Understanding customer satisfaction levels is a critical success factor and can be an early predictor of target market softening. Equally, understanding revenue concentration helps to see how vulnerable revenue targets would be if something changed in target customer segments.
  • What percentage of your revenue is from repeat customers and from net new customers?
  • What are the customer acquisition costs?
  • Who are your strategic customers and what percent of revenue do they represent?

Share the Stories That Inspire Confidence

Board members want deeper visibility into revenue impact from marketing spends. CMOs who are accountable for delivering revenue must be able to speak in business terms that help board members and investors better understand how marketing is driving growth. Getting lost in the day to day tactics and metrics that don’t tell the bigger story of growth isn't helpful. While that might sound like CMO-bashing, it is one of the realities facing CMOs. Boards want to know with a high level of confidence that the CMO understands the levers that drive demand, can adjust accordingly and are trusted stewards of company resources.

What’s Going to Keep CMOs Awake at Night in 2019