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Welcome to the Customer Engagement Economy

The Customer Engagement Economy is here—and it’s here to stay. That means it’s not enough to win new business. Customer needs are changing, and the only way to meet them is to dive into customer relationships, adding value in increasingly bespoke ways.

Today’s customers demand that you:

  1. Understand their business
  2. Make them more competitive
  3. Deliver on your promises
  4. Make them a hero

As anyone who works in Key Account Management knows, that’s no small feat. And if you’re still relying on your CRM to get you there, you won’t have the support you need. Why? Because CRMs weren’t built for the Engagement Economy.

Read more to learn why the stakes are higher than ever, why CRMs are structurally unable to rise to the occasion, and how purpose-built KAM technology can help.

Harder to engage. Easy to lose.

If you think your key accounts are safe from churn, think again. In the Engagement Economy, ever-growing customer demands lead to ever more vulnerable customer relationships. Consider these sobering stats:

  • Only 31% of companies believe their suppliers understand their needs
  • Only 47% of customers believe their vendors deliver on promises
  • 71% of companies are indifferent towards or disengaged from their vendors

So who are the companies who are delivering on their promises and building real engagement? And what are they doing well? They’re driving growth and retention through deep understanding of their clients’ needs, clear and actionable plans, and tangible results. They’re moving beyond transactional relationships to more engaged, more strategic work.

Transactional vs Relational

CRM tools reinforce a transactional approach to customer relationships: Sales, billing, issue resolution, etc. All those transactions collect data, but very little of it actually helps you understand your customers better—much less make them more competitive and more successful. In short, transactions aren’t enough to build engagement. For that, you need relationships—and tools designed to help support them.

Relationships can never be fully automated the way many transactions can—but they can be accelerated by purpose-built technology. The right KAM platform prompts behaviors that build engagement: frequent, value-added client communication; strong, strategic account planning; and metrics tracking against key performance indicators (KPIs).

Intention and Infrastructure

Building customer engagement takes a unified approach: People, process, and technology. Leadership must commit to a customer-centric culture, and prioritize organic growth through exceptional client delivery. The right technology enables success for everyone in the organization by establishing and facilitating a clear customer engagement process: Know your customers. Act on their behalf. Measure your impact.

Your Customer Engagement Roadmap

Kapta is more than a tech platform—it’s a customer engagement roadmap, helping KAMs establish a clear framework for doing business in the Engagement Economy. Kapta gives teams a compass to follow, a clear structure for goal-oriented account planning, and an automated, visual approach to metrics tracking.

The result? When motivated teams are using our tech, they are able to:

  • Understand their customers’ business.
  • Deliver insights that make customers more competitive.
  • Deliver on their promises.
  • Make customers heroes—to their internal leadership and to the people they serve.

Sound familiar? These are exactly the things customers demand in the Engagement Economy. So while CRMs weren’t built for today’s customers, you’re not on your own. Purpose-built KAM software can help you drive success for yourself, your organization, and, most importantly, for your customers.

To learn more about how Kapta can help you excel in the Engagement Economy, schedule your demo today.

Winners and Losers in the Customer Engagement Economy

As we’ve written before, the Customer Engagement Economy is here to stay. That means your customers are demanding more than ever, and simple transactions won’t be enough—you need to build long-term engagement to drive profitable, resilient growth.

Companies who drive retention and organic growth through a deep understanding of their clients, clear action plans, and tangible results will be winners in this economy. Companies who can’t make the pivot will flounder.

In this post we’ll take a closer look at the Engagement Economy, asking who wins—and who loses—in the new B2B ecosystem.

Shifting Customer Demand

Today’s customers are harder to engage and easier to lose than ever. They are bombarded by personalized messages and services every time they look at their phone. They have a world of resources at their fingertips. Every day, someone offers them a new product or service.

In part because of their experience as consumers in the digital age, they have come to expect increasingly bespoke solutions from their B2B providers. Today’s customers demand their vendors:

  1. Understand their business.
  2. Make them more competitive.
  3. Deliver on promises.
  4. Make them look like heroes.

It’s a high-pressure world for B2B providers, and most don’t rise to the task. How do we know? Because 71% of companies are indifferent towards or disengaged from their vendors.

In this new economy, some B2B companies will thrive. And some won’t. Let’s take a closer look at the difference.

Success: What does it take?

Companies who succeed in the Engagement Economy are able to rise to the challenge of increasingly personalized demand, building retention and growth through strategic account management.

They know their customers. They act powerfully on their behalf, creating and tracking against clear, actionable account plans. And they measure results, so they have the insights they need to course-correct towards demonstrable, tangible results.

Because of how well they know their customers, winners in the Engagement Economy have an accurate, real-time understanding of the health of their accounts, which makes their own planning and projection processes more reliable.

So how do they get there? It takes intention and infrastructure.

  • Intention means senior leadership supports a customer-centric culture at every level and facet of the organization
  • Infrastructure means providing clear process and purpose-built technology to support people in their customer engagement efforts

In order to work, KAM technology has to be purpose-built and process-driven, designed with the specific needs of client relationship managers in mind. Just like KAM itself, KAM technology can’t be overly tactical—it has to be strategic. We’ll talk more about that below.

The new Engagement Economy challenges companies to think beyond their pipeline, asking how they can drive shared success; growing when and because their customers do.

Failure: What’s missing?

Companies who don’t succeed in the Engagement Economy are, simply put, the companies who aren’t able to pivot. That means:

  • They don’t recognize the shift in customer demand.
  • They don’t adapt their process accordingly.
  • They use outdated technology to support their efforts.

Some companies are still using a mashup of powerpoint, excel, email, and other tools to make account plans. But powerpoint decks only ever end up in one place: archived in a server somewhere. Static tools can’t connect to customer data—they don’t provide real-time tracking against customer goals, which means they don’t give you a sense of your real-life impact. Not to mention, they don’t give you a sense of real-time account health and customer engagement.

But it’s not enough simply to move to a more sophisticated platform. CRMs, though popular among sales teams, are designed for transactional relationships—not customer engagement. Interfacing with clients on a transactional level is the kiss of death for key account managers. If you only provide capacity, you’re very easy to replace; if you are a strategic partner, you’re indispensable.

That level of engagement is what your process and tools should be geared to develop. CRMs might generate leads, but they don’t help you do the deep dive.

While a failure to adapt your tech stack for the new B2B landscape is a critical issue, the more important thing is what it reflects: A deep adherence to the status quo. This, more than anything, is what companies need to overcome if they want to succeed in a rapidly changing customer environment.

Conclusion

The Engagement Economy is here to stay. To be successful, B2B providers need the intention and infrastructure to build customer engagement. To learn more about how Kapta can help you win in today’s B2B environment, schedule your demo today.

Why Customer Engagement is Everything Right Now

Customer engagement is always important, which is why we write about it all the time. And while a recession doesn’t increase the importance of customer engagement, it certainly underscores it.

In an economic boom, companies have some customer engagement cushion, meaning: even customers who aren’t completely engaged will keep paying the bills when things are good. But when times get tough, and budgets get cut, only companies with strong customer engagement will keep their accounts, protect their revenue, and possibly even find ways to grow.

In this post we’ll look at indicators and benefits of customer engagement, and hopefully convince you there’s never been a better time to double down on your existing relationships.

Defining Customer Engagement

Customer engagement deals with the emotional connection between your customer and your company and therefore looks different across different industries. For example, a retail brand is not going to define or measure customer engagement the same way a creative services consulting firm might. However, sifting through the many definitions of customer engagement will highlight 3 common, crucial elements:

  1. Customer engagement is rooted in ongoing, 2-way communication between a customer and your company
  2. Customer engagement creates a dynamic relationship that leads to real resilience
  3. Customer engagement can be measured against stated goals

At Kapta, when we distill and simplify those key elements, we say: Customer engagement is a resilient, strategic partnership in which both parties succeed.

At the end of the day, customer engagement is better demonstrated than defined. So let’s take a look at practical indicators of customer engagement.

Indicators of Customer Engagement

One way we help our own customers understand the strength of their customer engagement is by asking a short list of questions, each designed as an indicator of customer engagement.

  1. Do your customers reach out to you? Engaged customers will reach out anytime they face an issue or opportunity. If you find you are always the one initiating contact, you may need to work on customer engagement.
  2. Do you understand your customer’s big picture business goals? Understanding what your customer is trying to achieve at the company level—not just with the individual product or service you provide—means you’ve asked the right questions, and earned enough trust to get the right answers. That’s how you graduate from vendor to strategic partner, strengthening your position and delivering great work.
  3. Is your customer engaging with vendors who offer similar or complementary products and services? Even if they aren’t actively looking to replace you in your specific capacity, this is a bad sign. It indicates they aren’t aware of everything you could be doing for them, or that you haven’t demonstrated enough value to get the attention of other teams or functions in the organization. Which means you’re missing opportunities for organic growth and leaving yourself open to competitive threats.
  4. Do your growth goals reflect what’s possible for key accounts? In a customer engagement model, your own growth goals should reflect what’s reasonable in the context of your customers, rather than imposing your company’s own goals onto customers who may or may not be able to support them. When you’re truly engaged with your customer, you have a detailed sense of how much room they have to grow with your suite of products and services, and you can plan your own growth accordingly.
  5. Are you experiencing high customer churn? This is a no-brainer. If you’re losing customers left and right, they aren’t engaged with you. Of course, by the time this is happening, it’s pretty late in the game.

In summary, the questions we ask are designed to give you a sense of the strength of your customer engagement. If your client is reaching out to you regularly; if they call you when they’re facing an issue or opportunity; if they share with you the bigger context for what they’re doing; if you are confident in their satisfaction and your future with them, and if you’ve built your own sales goals accordingly, then you are doing customer engagement right.

Benefits of Customer Engagement

Let’s take those indicators and spell out the benefits of customer engagement in a recession. First, we’ll state the cold, hard facts: It’s a bad time to pursue new business. Cold calls are always a little awkward—they’re especially painful now. Even pursuing new opportunities with existing customers is a delicate proposition during a major crisis.

Here’s how real customer engagement helps you through a recession.

  1. Your customers reach out to you. Your customers are facing unprecedented challenges. If, time and time again, you’ve shown them that you’re here to help, they will actively seek your help navigating this crisis.
  2. You understand your customer’s big picture business goals. The more you already know about your client’s organization, structure, objectives, strengths, weaknesses, and more, the more you understand how this recession has affected them, and how they may need to change course. Armed with this insight, you can adjust your conversations accordingly, and ensure you’re a contributing strategic ally, rather than a tone-deaf vendor who’s really only adding stress to a stressful situation.
  3. Your customer engages with you across multiple teams and functions. The more you’re horizontally embedded in your client’s organizations, the less you need to worry about direct competitive threats. Recessions are a risky time for bidding wars—competitors might be willing to slash their prices to make their numbers. But if you’re deeply embedded in your client’s organization, the effort it would take to switch horses midstream won’t be worth even the most aggressive price gouging.
  4. Your growth goals reflect what’s possible for key accounts. The more your own growth goals were already grounded in what your customers could support, the less blindsided you’ll be by the recession. Sure, it might not be your biggest year. But if you were starting from a reasonable projection, rather than an inflated one, you’ll be much closer to your forecast and much better equipped to plan around the dip.
  5. Your customers stick with you. This is a no-brainer. If your customers were always on the brink of churn, they’ve probably already left—or they’re about to, as the recession continues. If your relationships are strong, they have a much better chance of weathering the storm.

Building Customer Engagement

So how do you get there? At Kapta, we believe customer engagement is the end product of a customer-first culture and process, executed by a dedicated team of account or client service professionals.

Let’s pick that apart for just a second. First, you need intention: A company-wide culture and a set of internal processes that puts customers first. This has to happen at the company level, because it has to be reflected in every function at your organization. It affects who you hire, how you train, how you measure performance, what products and services you offer, how you plan for growth, and more. The companies with the highest level of customer engagement are those that prioritize their customers, full stop.

A recession is in some ways the perfect time to make cultural shifts. But if that’s too daunting a task for right now, start by focusing all your energy on existing accounts—understanding how the crisis has affected them, and how you can help them get through.

You also need infrastructure: both people and technology. Customer engagement demands team of professionals dedicated to building and strengthening client relationships. If you’re not in a position to hire, start by ensuring your existing teams understand the importance of building customer engagement.

And set them up for success with a purpose-driven process and platform to support customer engagement. CRM and sales tools cannot do this for you. Neither can an ad-hoc collection of various communication, presentation, project management, and billing tools. We’ve written in detail before about how sales differs from Key Account Management, and why you need purpose-built tools for each. We’ll simply recap here that CRM tools are excellent for generating new leads or managing a high volume of low-touch customers, but they don’t provide the framework and visibility you need to build an ongoing, highly strategic relationship with any given, high-value client.

Kapta: Your Customer Engagement Platform

Hopefully by now the benefits of Customer Engagement are pretty clear. Customer Engagement creates lasting, loyal, strategic partnerships that help protect your existing revenue—and even drive growth—in a recession. Customer Engagement also helps position you as an indispensable strategic partner, vs a pesky salesperson trying to save themselves in a difficult time.

Kapta can help you get there. If you want to start light, download our KAM To Go framework to ground yourself in Our KAM Process. Then get in touch to see how we can help you double down on your existing revenue—and weather this storm with your clients.

Understanding Customer Engagement: What Does it Mean for You?

When we talk about Kapta, we talk about a tool and a process designed to build customer engagement.

So what do we mean by “customer engagement?” It’s a term that pops up all over the place these days, and it means different things to different people. So let’s take a closer look at how we define, demonstrate, and achieve customer engagement, and how doing so compares to other roles, such as Customer Success or sales.

Defining Customer Engagement

A brief internet search will show you that people define customer engagement all sorts of ways. This is understandable. Customer engagement is hard to define in absolutes, since it deals with the emotional connection between your customer and your company or brand, and looks slightly different in different industries. (For example, a retail brand is not going to define or measure customer engagement the same way a creative services consulting firm might.)

However, if you sift through many definitions out there, you’ll find 3 common, crucial elements:

  1. Customer engagement is rooted in ongoing, 2-way communication between a customer and your company
  2. Customer engagement creates a dynamic relationship that leads to lasting loyalty;
  3. Customer engagement can be measured against stated goals

At Kapta, when we distill and simplify those key elements, we say: Customer engagement is an ongoing, strategic relationship in which both parties succeed.

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of that statement—it actually contains quite a bit of information. You can’t have an ongoing relationship without consistent, 2-way communication, in which your customers talk to you as much or more than you talk at them. Your relationship can’t be strategic if you’re more focused on selling what you offer than listening to what they need. And you can’t share success if you’re not dedicated to helping your customers achieve their business goals, and growing alongside them.

At the end of the day, something as nuanced and important as customer engagement is better demonstrated than defined. So let’s step away from theory for a minute, and give you a sense of what customer engagement looks like in practice.

Demonstrating Customer Engagement

One way we help our own customers understand the strength of their customer engagement is by asking a short list of questions, each designed as an indicator of customer engagement.

  • Do your customers reach out to you? Engaged customers will initiate conversations with you, reaching out whenever they face an issue or opportunity, rather than waiting for you to call. If you find you are always the one initiating contact, you may need to work on customer engagement.
  • Do you understand your customer’s big picture business goals? Understanding what your customer is ultimately trying to achieve means you’ve asked the right questions, and earned enough trust to get the right answers. And that means you’re more than just a vendor—you’re a comprehensive strategic partner. If you don’t have a clear idea of what your customer is trying to accomplish—not only as it relates to your products and services, but also beyond—you need to work on customer engagement.
  • Is your customer engaging with vendors who offer similar or complementary products and services? Even if they aren’t actively looking to replace you in your specific capacity, this is a bad sign. It indicates at the very least they aren’t aware of everything you could be doing for them. You’re missing opportunities for organic growth, leaving money on the table, and leaving yourself open to competitive threats.
  • Do your growth goals reflect what’s possible for key accounts? This is an interesting one. In a customer engagement model, your own growth goals should reflect what’s reasonable in the context of your customers, rather than imposing your company’s own goals onto customers who may or may not be able to support them. When you’re truly engaged with your customer, you have a detailed sense of how much room they have to grow with your suite of products and services, and you can ground your growth goals accordingly.
  • Are you experiencing high customer churn? This is a no-brainer. If you’re losing customers left and right, they aren’t engaged with you. Of course, by the time this is happening, it’s pretty late in the game.

In summary, the questions we ask are designed to give you a sense of the strength of your customer engagement. If your client is reaching out to you regularly; if they call you when they’re facing an issue or opportunity; if they share with you the bigger context for what they’re doing; if you are confident in their satisfaction and your future with them, and if you’ve built your own sales goals accordingly, then you are doing customer engagement right.

Achieving Customer Engagement

So how do you get there? At Kapta, we believe customer engagement is the end product of a customer-first culture and process, executed by a dedicated team of account or client service professionals.

Let’s pick that apart for just a second. First, you need a company-wide culture and a set of internal processes that puts customers first. This has to happen at the company level, because it has to be reflected in every function at your organization. It affects who you hire, how you train, how you measure performance, what products and services you offer, how you plan for growth, and more. The companies with the highest level of customer engagement are those that prioritize their customers, full stop.

Second, you need a team of professionals dedicated to building and strengthening client relationships. Traditionally, this has been called account management, key account management, or client services. There are different titles here, and different potential department names, one thing is key: This is distinct from the sales team, or at least a distinct group within the sales team. Because yes, client services professionals drive revenue, but their focus isn’t generating new leads or chasing quotas—it’s partnering with high-value customers to foster lasting, loyal relationships that can’t help but drive revenue over the long term.

And finally, you need a purpose-driven process and tools to support customer engagement. CRM and sales tools cannot do this for you. Neither can customer success tools. And neither can an ad-hoc collection of various communication, presentation, project management, and billing tools. To understand which tools you need, let’s look at some key differences between customer engagement, customer success, and sales.

Customer Engagement vs Customer Success

Let’s start with some areas of overlap between customer engagement, as we define and use the term, and customer success. In both instances, customers need to feel successful with your products/services/company. They need to use your products and services to their full (or close to full) capacity, and they need to see real value from the time they invest in you.

Now, let’s talk about some of the differences:

  • Scale: Customer Success tends to apply to companies who are largely product focused, and who rely on a large number of low touch customers. Customer engagement is about developing strong relationships with a smaller number of high-value accounts.
  • Measurement: Customer Success is measured largely by recurring subscriptions, whereas Customer Engagement is more nuanced—in addition to renewing contracts and increasing SOW, customer engagement takes into consideration the overall strength of the relationship.
  • Tools: Customer Success is heavily data-driven, mining customer’s data to measure their use of any given product, particularly SaaS products. Customer Engagement, though it certainly involves strategic use of metrics and data, requires tools that provide a comprehensive view of customer relationships beyond what numbers alone can provide.

Customer Engagement vs Sales

Again, let’s start with similarities. Customer Engagement and Sales are both about driving revenue through the products and services your company offers. The main difference here is how, and where the team’s focus lies.

In sales, the goal is to generate new leads, driving revenue by increasing the customer base. The goal may also be to upsell or cross-sell a large number of existing customers. In contrast, Customer Engagement drives revenue through organic growth, gradually increasing the scope and longevity of existing, strategic, high-value clients. We’ve written in detail before about how sales differs from Key Account Management, and why you need purpose-built tools for each. We’ll simply recap here that CRM tools are excellent for generating new leads or managing a high volume of low-touch customers, but they don’t provide the framework and visibility you need to build an ongoing, highly strategic relationship with any given, high-value client.

Conclusion: Benefits of Customer Engagement

Hopefully by now the benefits of Customer Engagement are pretty clear. Customer Engagement creates lasting, loyal, strategic partnerships that not only help secure your existing revenue from a key account, but also provide a platform for growth. Engaged, satisfied customers are more likely to invest in premium products and services, and more likely to continue to work with you when things go wrong (as they sometimes will).

Customer Engagement also helps reduce the risk and cost of customer churn. Customers today are easier to lose than ever before, and companies who win will be the ones who make customer engagement a priority.

To learn more about how Kapta can help you build real customer engagement, schedule a demo today. And if you have thoughts on what customer engagement means to you, get in touch and let us know.

The Software is Just the Start: How to Kick your B2B Customer Engagement into High Gear

B2B customer engagement is complex. Unlike in B2C industries, B2B customer engagement involves more people representing each company. You and your team are likely to interact with multiple people or teams rather than just one person. This means you’ll want a solid, well-rounded strategy to help you make consistent progress.

 

Software Isn’t Enough

You can’t rely on any one tool or action to make customer engagement happen. Excellent customer engagement comes from a combination of different inputs. Many excellent tools exist to help you, including software like Kapta, but they only work as part of a complete plan. Software alone cannot make customer engagement happen.

What else do you need to think about to improve engagement? A complete B2B customer engagement plan includes at least 4 other inputs:

1) Actions

The right software and tools will help you know when to act and what actions to take, but you still have to make it happen yourself. Customer engagement is easier when you’re actively involved with the account instead of operating with as few touches as possible.

Make your actions count. Don’t do busywork with your customers. Each touch should be effective and should have a distinct impact on the client. Too many actions without much to show for it means you’re operating very inefficiently, which could damage your relationship with the customer down the road. Use software to guide your actions and add more value to the customer.

2) Behaviors

Customer behaviors are changing. If you don’t keep up, you might be replaced by a company that will accurately meet the needs of the new customer. Your organization’s behaviors need to easily accommodate your customers and make it incredibly simple to engage with you.

Your customer-facing teams need to prioritize value. It’s not enough to just provide the product or service the customer is buying from you. Fantastic customer engagement happens when you habitually focus on going the extra mile for them. Create organizational behaviors that naturally add value to your customers.

3) Change Management

Change management isn’t just an internal practice. Any time you make changes, you will have to lead your customers through those changes as well. Some changes don’t result in a dramatic shift for the customer, while others do. Your customer engagement plan must include procedures on how to lead your customers through any organizational changes that come up.

Learn about the challenges they see from their perspective and respond accordingly. Analyze your customer interactions to understand every point at which they connect to your system, and how that’s likely to be affected by the change.

This part of your customer engagement plan can really benefit from complementary software. You can keep updated metrics, collect usage data, and get a clearer picture of how, when, and why your customers interact with your business.

4) Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool to promote customer engagement. Having an immediate benefit for customers who are actively engaging with you can keep them coming back and encourage other customers to improve their engagement. The type of reinforcement you provide depends on your industry and business environment.

 

All of these pieces work together to make a more complete customer engagement plan. You need a strategy in place that considers actions, behaviors, change management, reinforcement, and software together. Focusing too much on one component, especially the software, will leave you with an incomplete plan.

 

Define Your Business Transformation

To make the step from where you are now to better customer engagement, you need to define what that looks like in your context. What are you hoping to achieve by transforming your business?

Know what you’re looking to achieve before you make any changes to your customer engagement plan. You need to be able to measure your progress in order to know if you’re making the right changes or not. Without defining what you want first, you’re gambling that you’ll be able to reach a goal you can’t clearly identify.

As a B2B company, your success is directly tied to the success of your customers. How you engage with customers and how you encourage customer engagement should tie into mutual success for both of you.

 

 

How to Reach Your Goal

Whatever you want to accomplish through improved customer engagement, the goal is to first kick that into high gear. There’s a balance that you need to get within your own team to make it happen. You need to have the right people with the right skills exhibiting the right set of behaviors.

Sounds vague, but you’ll fill in the blanks when you know what you’re trying to accomplish. The right team of people will look different in your organization than it would in another. But, picking the right people is an essential part of getting everything else right. If you don’t have a good team working with you, your efforts to refine your process will be fruitless.

Choosing your team takes time and decisive action on your part as the team leader. Prioritize the skills you need, remembering that your team will be directly customer-facing.

Crafting behaviors in your organization requires you to know what you want to accomplish and how you want to get there. Behaviors are made by reducing your goals and the paths to those goals down into actionable steps that you do all the time. The behaviors your team exhibits should be pushing towards greater customer engagement at all times.

Once you’ve got the basics build-blocking, you can add in software to give your performance and all your efforts a boost. It’s vital to build on a pre-existing foundation instead of counting on the software to do the heavy lifting for you. Create something scalable, then scale it exponentially with software that can help you improve customer engagement.

 

Conclusion

Kapta has helped B2B companies around the world to improve customer engagement and create lasting partnerships. But, no software can solve all your problems on its own. Without your efforts to put together all the other pieces of the puzzle, it can easily fall flat.

We recommend a more thorough approach to improve customer engagement. Take time to focus on improving each part of your customer engagement plan before introducing software that will elevate your entire effort.