It has long been thought that part of delivering a world-class customer experience is ensuring customer success. B2B organizations are making large investments in their customer support while simultaneously building out customer success functions. The prevailing thought is if we can help our customers be successful, this will lead to a good experience, which leads to retention and the opportunity for cross-sell, and upsell opportunities, with the outcome being corporate growth.
But what if the prevailing thought was wrong? What if all of the effort spent in ensuring success for our clients on how to better utilize our products and services did very little in terms of generating more revenue or increasing the likelihood of them renewing or purchasing more? What is the way firms are trying to sell to their “successful customers” is actually having a negative effect?
For B2B brands that are looking to gain a competitive advantage by delivering customer experience, they need to focus less on the success of their customers and begin to focus on how they can help their customers improve, according to research from CEB, now Gartner.
Here are a few of the findings from the research and what it means for B2B organizations:
Success Does Not Necessarily Breed Success
One of the ways that brands seek to make their clients more successful is by introducing more products. I speak to many sales people that tell me if they just had more “tools in their bag” they would be more successful in hitting their number and their clients would see more value in their investments.
According to the research conducted by CEB, now Gartner, the average B2B organization has seen a 2.3x growth in their product portfolio over the last three years with 76% of these organizations using their existing sales channels to sell these new products into their customer base.
However, the proof is in the execution, which is lacking, as 51% of organizations report being unsuccessful in executing on new product sales with existing sales channels.
If you build it, it does not mean they will come. In fact research into B2B customer’s shows that Product Success & Service and Aggressive Selling has no impact on corporate growth. In terms of retention, aggressive selling actually has a 62% negative impact.
B2B organizations need to re-think how they ensure customer success starting with their internal organization. While account management is a key role, the amount of responsibility they have does not enable them to effectively focus solely on their customers. While it is easy to think this is a skill set issue, what may be affecting the ability to deliver customer improvement, may be the internal organizational construct.
It’s Not About Product Success; It’s About The Business Improvement
It is understandable that if an organization sells a product, they want to ensure their customers get the most value from that purchase. However, that is where most companies start and stop.
What B2B customers are truly looking for from their vendors is help in improving their business. CEB, now Gartner, details customer improvement as follows:
Provide customers with a unique, critical view on improving their business
Lay out a vision for improving the customers business
Outline the ROI for the commercial relationship
Rarely do B2B buyers purchase a product or service for a tactical problem. The investments are made to help drive business growth and profitability. Therefore it is necessary for B2B vendors to demonstrate how their offerings will enable their customers to meet their growth objectives.
When business, not product, improvement is the focus the likelihood of account growth moves up by 48% while the likelihood of retention increases to astounding 94%!
Don’t Invite The Competition
When asked if during repurchase or renewal if their company gave serious consideration to the competition of the incumbent vendor, 52% of respondents from the CEB, now Gartner survey stated “yes.” While it is easy to think that established relationships, excellent product and best-in-class customer service and success will secure a long-term relationship, the research would prove otherwise.
The only action that will decrease the likelihood (by 32%) of customers looking at the completion is customer improvement.
B2B brands need to re-think the approach to customer success as while it may maintain the status quo, it will not lead to corporate growth. Ensuring that account teams can advise on how their products serve a greater business need, demonstrating business acumen will not only spur growth in accounts, it will secure a longer relationship and be a focal point for delivering customer experience.
While this may mean reconfiguring sales and account teams for many B2B organizations, it is an investment that should be made to meet their own growth goals and continue to delight their customers.