All businesses know that it is not advantageous to view the world purely from their own perspective. CEOs are deeply focused on improving ways to create meaningful customer connections that will build sustainable relationships. Yet, in our discussions with customers we hear frustration with account teams that are more focused on pitching products, before understanding the customer’s business needs.
Recently, an account manager told me that I didn’t understand the pressures that they are under to meet quota, that they don’t have time to have quality discussions. While this pressure is real, the business cannot afford to lose existing customers to competitors. Below are tips to help build a broader understanding of the customer’s needs and create a customer-first approach.
Assess customer engagement at the account level.
Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a great, high-level measure of engagement and should be used to help companies understand the overall engagement trends, but NPS does not identify the root problems. Time and again we hear customers ‘recommend’ and then cancel contracts. Why is this happening? Perhaps the client likes their account manager, so provides a good score, but is deeply dissatisfied with the service or product. The only way to understand the “why” behind survey results is to use a neutral third party to conduct discussions that will uncover core challenges.
Quantitative and qualitative measurements are required.
It is important to build a holistic approach to understanding customer relationships and engagement. While NPS and other quantitative measure help to shape an overall view of customer engagement, a truly holistic view can only be achieved through qualitative discussions and analysis. Companies should conduct client health checks using qualitative interviews as a regular part of doing business. If you don’t have the budget to spend on an outside reviewer, use an internal resource who is comfortable asking open-ended questions and won’t move into defensive or sales mode.
Qualitative results as an account management tool.
With the qualitative surveys complete, account managers should use this as a tool to sit and have an open discussion with the client. Conversations can help unfold a plan for the year: areas of improvement, strategies to build, investments to continue and discontinue. The account team will have a much broader discussion with this qualitative tool in hand, ensuring that this discussion puts the customer’s needs first and the vendor’s ideas second.
In the absence of a broader dialogue, companies risk hanging their future relationship with one client or sales representative’s version of the truth. Learning directly from clients helps to uncover areas of strong performance in the account as well as areas for future improvement.