Many CMOs today agree that customer experience is the new battlefield in business. In fact, 89 percent of companies now expect to compete mostly on the basis of the experience they provide customers. If you’re a business executive, you need to figure out how to enable customer-facing teams—everyone from marketing to sales to customer support—to provide a consistent experience.
At Vision Critical, one of the things we’ve done to be truly customer-centric is establish a customer experience enablement practice. Melissa Madian, a marketing and sales veteran in the technology space, is leading the charge.
We asked her to give us her views on the value of customer experience enablement and a sneak peek into an upcoming online learning platform for Vision Critical customers.
The customer experience enablement practice is so new that many companies don’t have it yet. Could you give an overview of what this role entails?
My team enables our revenue-generating and customer-facing teams with the processes, tools and training they need to help close business faster and deliver a superior customer experience.
Customer experience enablement is built to nurture life-long customers. We put that lens on everything we do, making sure that the people who interact with our customers provide an experience that’s consistent, unified and positive.
Sounds great. Could you describe some of the tasks and projects your team handles?
Our day-to-day tasks focus on a couple of facets of the business. First, we consider the gaps in the knowledge people need to succeed in their roles. Whether you’re working in sales or customer success, we ensure you have the information required to help customers succeed. In sales, for instance, that might include things like positioning and best practices.
Second, we look at behaviors. We empower people with internal processes that’ll help them work more efficiently without compromising customer experience. If someone’s new to the Vision Critical sales organization and has no idea what we’re selling or how to sell it, then my team works with that person to quickly get him or her up to speed.
On the customer success side, we help our people boost the value they provide our customers. We’re thinking of ways to encourage customers to do more with us, use our software more effectively and expand the use of our platform in other parts of their business like marketing and product development.
How does customer experience enablement differ from sales enablement?
Sales enablement is one half of customer experience enablement. If your company is focused on enabling sales teams, that’s great. But there’s a whole customer journey that happens post-sale that’s arguably more important.
At Vision Critical, for instance, because we sell software, we want to make sure we’re retaining our customers and supporting and nurturing them. Their end-to-end experience—from the instance when they’re considering becoming a customer, all the way through the sales cycle and eventually when they become customers—needs to be seamless. Customer experience enablement holistically looks at a buyer’s entire journey.
In the past, you’ve written about the importance of storytelling in sales. What role does storytelling have in the customer journey?
Whether you’re writing a customer story or presenting to a prospect, the customer has to be at the center of your story. Unfortunately, a common mistake companies make is making the story about them: this is how we’re great and our product is the hero. That approach is a serious detriment to the customer—they can see right through it.
"Whether you’re writing a customer story or presenting to a prospect, the customer has to be at the center of your story."
The hero of the story is not your product. The story should showcase how the customer succeeded once we gave him or her the tools (our product) to conquer a problem.
Our approach to storytelling at Vision Critical, for instance, is to showcase the success of our customers. Vision Critical’s success is a function of our customers’ success. Customers come to us because they identified a need to better engage with their own customers. They use the Vision Critical platform, and a result, they become the ‘hero’ in their company because they give stakeholders and decision makers valuable intelligence.
How do you use customer intelligence to empower customer-facing teams to improve the experience?
We regularly reach out to Connected Wisdom, our own insight community of Vision Critical customers. For instance, a few months ago, we had idea for an online learning experience for our customers. We engaged our insight community and asked, ‘would that be something interesting to you?’ and ‘is this something you want?’. We even asked for ideas of what we should name this resource. I’ll be talking more about this online learning experience, the Vision Critical Academy, at the Customer Intelligence Summit this month.
"Thanks to our own insight community, we’re not guessing what customers need."
We engage our customer community frequently. We have many ideas on how to improve our customers’ experience with us, and we use our community to validate our hunches. Thanks to our own insight community, we’re not guessing what customers need.
What are the top challenges companies face in providing an amazing end-to-end customer experience?
Many teams and departments interact with your customers. In many companies, however, these departments are not tied together and they don’t communicate with each other.
As a prospective customer, I might go through one experience with the marketing team and experience something completely different with sales. This is typical in many companies, but it’s also a problem because there’s no unifying thread that shows the customer is dealing with one organization.
Customer intelligence can help fix disjointed customer experiences by identifying inconsistencies in the journey and pinpointing potential solutions. You can ask your customers, ‘what was your experience pre-sale?,’ and later can explore what challenges customers may have had post-sale. Continuous engagement allows you to improve and iterate.
At the Customer Intelligence Summit, you’ll be talking about the Vision Critical Academy. What benefits does this new learning experience provide current Vision Critical customers?
The Vision Critical Academy is a collaborative environment designed to cultivate visionaries. As a Vision Critical customer or partner, you can access all materials related to training, best practices and thought leadership at the Vision Critical Academy.
The Vision Critical Academy is a collaborative environment designed to cultivate visionaries.
We considered the wide range of needs of our customers. The academy is organized in different paths. If you’re new to customer intelligence, there’s a guided learning path for you. But if you’re more experienced and have been using insight communities for a few years, we also have more advanced tracks to help you step up your game.
Vision Critical Academy courses are searchable and available on-demand. For example, if you want to brush up on your market research skills, you can do a quick search and find content from industry experts. Instructor-led training will be available soon.
Our goal is to provide a one-stop shop for customers to get trained and to collaborate with other customer intelligence pros. We have smart customers, and this learning platform brings them in one place. Vision Critical Academy brings the same learning vibe and experience from our Customer Intelligence Summit to an accessible online platform available anytime.
Learn more about the Vision Critical Academy
Interested to hear more about this initiative? Join Melissa and 400-plus marketing, customer experience and innovation pros at the 2016 Customer Intelligence Summit.
In addition to learning about the Vision Critical Academy, you’ll get best practices on how to use customer feedback and a first peek into enhancements coming to Sparq, Vision Critical’s customer intelligence software. Save your spot and register today.