Losing customers has always been a scary idea for a business. Without paying customers, you don’t even have a business.
In today’s hyper-competitive, global, marketing-saturated environment, it’s harder than ever to recruit a customer.
And, as we discussed in the last article, it’s never been more expensive to lose a customer.
Lucky for you, there’s a ready-built model with the networks and knowledge needed to dramatically improve the customer experience (spoiler: it’s your customer experience team). And by keeping customers, everyone wins.
Let’s dive into a model which you’ll find surprisingly familiar.
What, Exactly, is a Bridge?
A bridge is a structure that connects two or more points. For cars on roads, it’s as easy as crossing a river.
For teams and relationships, it’s a little more complicated. The good news is that the team responsible for the customer experience is the ideal team to create bridges.
Bridges between customers and the company.
Bridges between customers and functions like Product and Engineering.
Bridges among the teams inside your company, so that Product, Marketing, Sales, Engineering, and Customer Experience finally start sharing lessons learned.
If you’re leading a Customer Experience team – which means any version of “I’m responsible for how a customer interacts with my company” – then you’re the best bridge builder possible.
Because you hear from customers daily, live inside the actual product, and feel the most pain when someone’s unhappy.
This may feel a little daunting… but let’s take a look at what happens when you don’t build bridges.
What You Lose When You Don’t Build Bridges
The quick analysis is that if you don’t connect your customers to your team and your team to each other, then no one is equipped to delight the customer. That’s a formula for failure.
Engineering starts guessing
Engineering spends even more money building, scrapping, and rebuilding products to delight customers. They work from their own ideas, market research, or the CEO’s direction.
Without real-time feedback on issues like common bugs and glitches, or the moment that forced a customer to abandon the product, Engineering is left to keep working on what they think is best.
Marketing starts guessing
Marketers spend billions of dollars every year trying to reach new customers, surveying current customers, or scrambling for 5-star reviews. They’re clearly invested.
You can build a bridge here by helping Marketing understand what customers are learning from your marketing content. It could be that Marketing is promoting a value proposition that isn’t experienced by your customers.
Sales starts guessing
Why did a prospect say “No”? Some sales teams will just shrug and move on. Others will obsess with understanding. But prospective customers are notoriously fickle about sharing their decision’s reasons because they don’t want the sales representative to resume the attack.
How else could Sales learn why people are saying “No”? By learning from customers who are considering quitting your product. Those are the customers your team speaks with every day. Even if they haven’t said they’re ready to quit, you can provide valuable feedback about the primary product complaints.
The C-Suite starts guessing
The C-Suite has a lot of good ideas, and some not-so-good ones, that fit the business’s needs but might not connect with a customer’s needs.
At the top, it’s too easy to make a well-intentioned but disruptive and expensive untested decision. Save your C-Suite by educating them on what customer life is truly like.
How to Build Bridges People Want
The customer experience team – whether you call it Customer Experience, Success, Support, Happiness, or something else – historically doesn’t have a seat at the table. But as we head into 2023, it’s critical that the Voice of the Customer is present at every discussion.
How do you build bridges that your own company might not yet be open to?
Start by asking. This is a simple but powerful tool. For lots of companies, the reason the Customer team isn’t at the table is because it’s “always been that way”. You may find that Leadership is hard-pressed to leave you out, after you’ve asked.
Or even better, they may be excited that you’ve stepped up.
If the answer is, “No”, ask for specific feedback. This is a great way to start solving the next item on the list.
Understand Their Incentives
It’s been said that, “People aren’t against you; they’re for themselves.”
That’s another way of saying that people pursue their own incentives. If that gets in the way of what you’re working on, it’s probably an accident.
By asking good questions to understand the incentives of other teams like Engineering or Sales, you take a big step towards bringing the Voice of the Customer to the most important decisions.
Sometimes, understanding an incentive is as simple as asking. Other times, you have to dig deeper or make an educated guess.
Show, Don’t Tell
You’ve done it – you’re invited to the next Product meeting. Sales, Marketing, Engineering, Product, and the C-Suite are all there.
A lot of work goes into changing anything that impacts the customer experience. Something that seems like a “quick fix” to the product might be weeks or months of work for a backlogged team. Or it means retraining the whole sales team.
Data is necessary but not sufficient. Bring data and vivid examples.
Record a customer support session with a particularly frustrated customer. Maybe they’re vocal, or have a really acute problem to fix, or this is the 10th time you’ve had to fix this for them. Make it emotional, impactful, and of course, representative of the data.
Then make an explicit connection between the vivid example and the data. It’s a powerful combination.
Be Specific and Actionable
Finally, the Voice of the Customer shouldn’t express vague notions about sweeping product changes.
Whatever you choose to share, be specific by providing actual examples from real customers.
And be actionable by bringing recommendations that, from a Customer Experience team perspective, could address the issue.
Then be open to reasonable questions, challenges, and discussion.
Building Bridges and Customer Experience
At the end of the day, the Customer Experience team is all about building bridges from the customer to the company and within the company to delight the customer. No other function is better-positioned to represent the Voice of the Customer because no other function spends so much time with customers and in the product.
By understanding your main value to the business as a bridge builder, you can lead your Customer team to sustainable success.
Today we’ve explored how building bridges with customers and inside the company can create sustainable success.
Join the Conversation
Extelli lives in the world we’re discussing here… and we would love for you to join the conversation. Check out our post about this topic on LinkedIn.