Dale Weideman

Here is a surprising statistic about what drives loyalty in B2B customer relationships: the purchase experience explains 53% of customer loyalty, almost three times as much as product and service delivery (19%), and six times as much as value-to-price ratio (9%).  “Customer loyalty” here is defined as being willing to continue buying, buy even more going forward, and advocate on behalf of the supplier across the organization.
I just saw this data in a recently published book, The Challenger Sale, by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson.  It’s based on research involving over 5,000 business buyers.  What buyers crave most during the purchase experience, according to the book are unique insights, education on new issues and outcomes, help avoiding land-mines, and assistance generating widespread support for new purchases across their organizations.
The book is about sales, but the insight applies to customer experience because the purchase process is a key part of the customer journey.  I was in enterprise sales for eight years.  During that time, I learned how leveraging customer feedback in the sales process can can be a powerful way to improve the experience my customers had with our brand. This in turn builds loyalty and drives sales.
Think about the typical meeting with a current customer: the account manager makes some small talk, covers recent corporate developments, discusses open items from recent requests, and starts pitching the latest new products.  This doesn’t bring real insights or help generate widespread support.   Integrate customer feedback and use the insights to engage in a strategic discussion, and you can completely change the dynamic.  Now, after the usual pleasantries, the salesperson reviews with the customer a summary of feedback from multiple different contacts at the company, and opens a dialog about how to build on the positives and address the challenges.  This demonstrates listening – always a loyalty driver – and provides the basis for an insightful and educational discussion that customers crave.  When sales people do this, they elevate the discussion, build a more strategic relationship and improve the purchase experience.
HP is a great example.  A few years ago, sales leadership in the Technology Solutions Group business saw they were increasingly being viewed as a commodity provider.  They wanted to be seen as a strategic partner.  So they developed a “Relationship Assessment Process” to capture customer feedback and use it in their customer engagement process.  HP found that the account managers who used feedback to improve customer interactions were able to grow their business twice as fast as others who didn’t.   Customers were 15% more likely to view HP as a strategic partner, and the process identified new opportunities that boosted HP’s sales funnel by over 100%. The sales team, though initially skeptical, was won over by the results.
But don’t take my word for it—or HP’s. Get a small group of sales teams to pilot the approach.   Capture the feedback and give them access. Once you prove the value, expand across the sales team. You’ll help your sales team more consistently over-deliver on their number, and you’ll win loyalty and growth from your customers.
Photo credit: LASZLO ILYES