In a recent blog post, I commented on how important it is to understand how things change when prospects become customers, and how critical it is to attend to customers during that early stage when they are onboarded and organizations begin to deliver on the promises that they made during the buyer’s journey. So, now let’s take a look into what we are doing with customers – and what they want us to do – as they move past that initial lifecycle stage and really begin to become part of the family.
At SiriusDecisions, we recently completed a comprehensive study of more than 450 B2B customers, – specifically, executives and users – focused on understanding what types of content and interactions B2B customers are using, and what they wish they had but don’t receive today. In other words, what are organizations missing? Because we know that customer wants and needs vary as they move through the customer lifecycle, we anchored our study on the four phases of our customer lifecycle framework – deliver/initiate, develop/participate, retain/actualize and grow/advocate.
Historically, organizations have been in the habit of tossing products over the proverbial fence and counting on customers to fend for themselves. It’s encouraging to see that those days are (albeit slowly) coming to an end. As a SiriusDecisions analyst, I see many organizations putting a lot of great focus on properly onboarding customers and making that good first impression, which is great progress. Sadly, however, that’s often the point where organizations step back and congratulate themselves, and then wonder why customers drop off the radar or aren’t giving great satisfaction or Net Promoter Scores.
Certainly, the findings from the SiriusDecisions Customer Experience Study indicate that organizations have some work to do in order to provide both executives and users with the types of interactions and content they find most useful as they move past onboarding and into the “meaty” part of the customer lifecycle. In order to do a good job of onboarding, organizations should have already researched, documented and shared the key customer roles involved in the post-sale lifecycle. So, take that knowledge to the next level and begin to think about engagement with a capital “E.”
For the develop/participate phase, it was clear that even for organizations that are doing a decent job with onboarding, there’s some room to improve in the next stage. The good news is that the biggest gaps are fairly easy to fix. The first is content for executives. Execs don’t want the same information as end users, so make sure your content strategy and customer role definition includes insights into the right things for execs, like community content and interactions with account managers, as they gain experience with your products and services. For users, self-service is king. Make sure your post-sales support resources, both technical and training-oriented, are easy to discover and consume. Also don’t forget that executives and users alike look to their peers to engage, so make sure you are out there in the world beyond your Web site, where your customers will go whether you’re there or not. And, be sure you fully understand the places your customers go for that third-party influence – and get there first.
So, I’ll ask the same questions I asked in my first blog post about the findings of the SiriusDecisions customer experience study. Have you taken the time and made the effort to truly understand your customers and their post-sale roles? If not, you’re missing a great opportunity to engage in ways that really matter to your customers – and just shooting in the dark when it comes to where you spend your precious budget and resources.