Posts

How to Turn Customers into Advocates

Existing customers are more profitable and easier to sell to than entirely new prospects according to a study by Bain & Company. Increasing customer retention by as little as 5% increases profits by 25-95% while the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70% versus 5-20% for a new prospect. Your current customers buy more and buy quicker because they already know, like, and trust you and your product. And, if they become advocates, they will tell others and be a reference for you. Sounds great, doesn’t it! But how can a KAM turn customers into advocates?

Understand your customers

The better you Know your customers, the more strategic and effective you can be for them. Going beyond names and titles, you need to ask them about their personal and professional goals, motivations and expectations. Take time to understand the overall reporting structure in each key account, providing insights around what your day-to-day contacts are juggling in their job as well as the culture of their organization.

Dive deeper by leveraging Voice of Customer (VOC) email surveys combined with individual conversations consisting of customized questions across key account organizations. Then look at internal and external factors that may influence account success through a SWOT analysis.

While getting to know your key customers and when updating your customer knowledge, be sure to ask questions that reveal how you can become a great long-term partner to them. This is important since everybody has their own preferred way of working with business partners. By making a point to ask, you set yourself up to meet their expectations.

Some prefer to initiate contact when they need assistance, where others want partners to maintain consistent contact with them. It’s also important to learn their preferred method of communication as well as what key performance indicators against which they want to measure success. After you ask a question of your key contacts, take the time to listen carefully to their responses, ask follow-up questions, and confirm understanding before advancing to the next question. Then, it’s time to take appropriate action.

Deliver on your promises

Now that you have all this customer knowledge, it’s time to Act by creating an action plan. This is where you set goals, objectives, tactics, and tasks to deliver on the commitments you’ve made to your key accounts. Breaking down each goal into actionable steps enables you and your team to deliver value by actually doing what has been promised. Plus, it makes it easier to stay focused while tracking your progress. This is critical to the overall key account relationship.

Deliver value at every interaction

Make sure that you’re respectful of each contact’s time. Don’t schmooze. Instead, provide value in every interaction by showing them you understand their business and communicating clearly while offering insights, guidance, and new perspectives. This establishes you as a trusted partner delivering buteiness value and increasing customer retention. It also means your clients make you aware of changes and upcoming opportunities first. And they provide you with open, honest feedback quickly and continuously, enabling you to take timely steps to consistently improve customer experience.

Put your customer’s needs ahead of your own

As a Key Account Manager, you must always put your customer’s needs first. Doing so is a win-win where meeting or exceeding the goals and objectives of your key accounts means reaching your own company’s goals as well. Failing to remain focused on your customer’s goals ensures you fall short on both fronts.

Follow up on the value

It’s essential to establish specific goals and success metrics to Measure the success of your action plan by identifying which ones to use as you create each plan. Be sure to establish good baseline data at the beginning as you’re getting to know the customer. Doing so facilitates tracking your progress toward goal attainment. It makes it possible for you to quantify results when communicating internally. And allows you to clearly articulate to your clients the value you have provided. This can make all the difference when it comes to renewals by quantifying account success to stakeholders who think in terms of ROI.

In addition to clearly communicating valuable outcomes, be sure to ask customers if they received the results they were expecting and how you can improve. Always get feedback – this is essential to the future health of your accounts and enables you to keep your finger on their pulse at all times, addressing issues and making adjustments along the way.

Ask for references and advocacy

If they receive quantifiable value from you, ask your client to be a reference or to provide a testimonial. Then share these on social media. There’s no greater form of advertising than customer references, referrals, and testimonials. Make sure you take the time to ask for them once you’ve created this type of deep and trusting customer relationship.

Need help taking your Key Account Management program to this level? Kapta can help. Contact us to schedule a demo today.

Customer Insights Workshop: Tools and Best Practices

You need to know your customers. But you can’t read their minds. So how do you learn more about the people you serve?

You can always ask them. (And you should.) You can also mine insights from your own team. A customer insights workshop is an engaging way to learn what there is to know about your customers from the people in your organization who work with them all the time—and rally your team around a customer-centric approach.

Just remember 3 keys to running a great customer insights workshop:

  1. Get the right people at the table: Make sure to include customer-facing teams from across the organization, as well as leadership and marketing teams.
  2. Set the right tone: Remember, your customers are people. Consider their emotional needs as well as their functional needs.
  3. Make the most of your time together: Focus on learning from different contributors, discussing key points, and gaining alignment around customer needs so you can re-infuse your organization with a customer-centric purpose.

In this post, we’ll dive deeper into best practices—as well as exercises and output—for running a great customer insights workshop.

Best Practices

1) Get the right people at the table.

The goal is to turn customer insights into a customer-centric strategy (whether that’s marketing, operations, or account planning), but that doesn’t mean you only need one group in the room. It’s critical to have people there who interact directly with customers all the time. This is especially true in large organizations, where operational silos tend to diminish the customer voice in certain circles. So ask yourself: Who interacts directly with customers? Key account managers (or client service leaders) are important participants, as are customer service/success teams if you have them.

2) Set the right tone.

Before you dive into “who are my customers and what do they want?,” it’s important to make sure you’re thinking about them not just as clients, but as human beings. Too often, we conflate professionalism with a loss of personhood—but your customers don’t check their humanity at the office door. So don’t just consider their functional needs; dive deeper into their emotional needs. For example, they will always need their B2B partners to deliver timely, accurate, value-added work. But what else? They probably also need to look good to their leadership and colleagues. They need to feel like somebody sympathizes with their day-to-day frustrations. In short, they need what all humans need: They need to feel heard, seen, valued, and successful.

3) Make the most of your time together.

The highest and best use of a workshop like this is two-fold: (a) to learn about your customers from the people who interact with them everyday; and (b) to re-invigorate disparate teams around a shared purpose: Customer centricity in everything you do. Make sure everyone has a chance to participate. Pursue and facilitate discussion. But don’t try to wordsmith now; let people know you can take the output and turn it into recommendations on the backend.

Tools

Here are a few ways to frame questions in order to get ideas flowing:

  • Day in the life: What does your customer’s day-to-day job look like? What are they responsible for? Who reports to them, and who is their boss? This is a great warm up since it tends to be pretty easy to answer.
  • Goals: What are they trying to achieve, both personally and professionally? What is their organization trying to achieve? How does their daily work life contribute to the bigger picture goals around them?
  • Gains and pains: When working with a B2B partner, what makes them look good? What makes their life easier? In contrast, what drives them nuts? What are the dealbreakers?
  • Value add: Once you’ve painted a portrait of your customer—their job, their goals, their gains and pains—ask yourself how you as an organization are set up to deliver on a customer-centric promise. How do you:
    • Save time, money, or effort?
    • Do something they’re looking for?
    • Help them sleep at night?
    • Fulfill their aspirations?

Output

Once you’ve completed the workshop, it’s time to turn your insights into action. What did you learn about your customers? How can you better address both their immediate functional needs and their long-term goals and aspirations?

The best way to upsell your customers is to proactively raise new ideas grounded in a comprehensive understanding of who they are. When your ideas are relevant and resonant, you create a platform to introduce innovation—and bigger deals.

Conclusion

We are strong advocates for regular VOC work, i.e checking directly with your customers to stay current on their needs, expectations, and satisfaction. But people don’t always vocalize their aspirations. They might not say out loud, “you need to make me look good to my colleagues.” So in addition to VOC work, mining customer insights from the people in your organization who know the customers best is a great way to unearth deeper needs, bigger strategic goals, and hidden pain points. Armed with this insight, you can make an action plan to grow the business in a truly customer-centric way. To see how Kapta can add structure and support to this process, schedule a personal demo today.

How Are You Communicating with Customers?

Good client relationships demand consistent, intentional communication. These take many forms: Calls, emails, in-person meetings. Half-hour status check-ins or annual, offsite strategy meetings. Despite the wide range of customer communication that takes place over the course of a partnership, there are still questions you can ask yourself almost every time to ensure your efforts are worth it—for you and your client. The key here is that it’s less about how much you communicate with your customers, and more about how much value you add when you do.

There’s no way to overstate the importance of customer communication—it strengthens the relationship, builds engagement, and ensures you’re up to date on their challenges and goals, so you can provide proactive, productive client service. However, the obvious benefits of clear client communication are balanced by the simple truth that time is precious, and nobody wants to be stuck in a pointless meeting or bombarded by unnecessary emails. The questions below help ensure efficient and effective communication, so you and your clients are both getting the most every encounter.

Question 1: Are you providing context?

We’ve all been there: Halfway through a meeting, we catch ourselves wondering, “Why are we here?” When that happens, the best case scenario is we disengage a little bit—look at our phones, check email, or otherwise start “multitasking,” which is to say, not focusing on the task at hand. The worst case scenario is that we are actively frustrated because someone is wasting our time.

Here’s how you prevent that kind of disengagement and/or frustration with clients: Start every meeting with a statement of purpose. Whether it’s a 30-minute call or a 3-day workshop, make it clear from the outset what you’re there to accomplish. Ideally, the agenda or objective goes out ahead of time, so people arrive at the meeting engaged and ready to work towards the goal.

Question #2: Are you overwhelming your client with information?

As the famous French philosopher Blaise Pascal said, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” Brevity is challenging. It takes confidence and preparation. And it forces you to think carefully about what’s really important—not to you, but to your customer. (More on that later.)

Confidence is key in client communications. When you’re not 100% sure of the quality of your work, it’s tempting to try to make up for it in quantity. Rest assured, nobody wants this. Time is precious, and people know when you’re wasting theirs. Use your preparation to be confident in your presentation, and use your confidence to be brief. Rather than coming across as “thin,” you’ll come across as efficient. People appreciate this.

It can also be tempting to show your customer how much work went into the presentation, as a way of saying “Look! We’re good at this, and we’re worth every penny!” Resist this temptation. Stick to bottom-line, actionable content that relates directly to the stated objective of the meeting. (Tip: If you’re working in slide format, don’t be afraid to use an Appendix. It’s a great way to capture information that’s not directly relevant to the task at hand, but could be useful down the line.)

Question 3: Are you spending more time talking about you than you are talking about them?

This is a tough question to ask, because the truth is, we’re all guilty of this to some degree. It’s a very human mistake, and one that companies make in their communications all the time, whether it’s nonpersonal (website, marketing) or personal (client communication).

Here’s why it’s understandable: You work hard, day in and day out, to do what you do. Your work matters to you, and it should—caring about your work is how you make your work good. But the cold hard truth is: It doesn’t matter to other people in the same way. Your customers don’t need to hear everything that went into your recommendation. They just need the recommendation. If they have questions about how you got there, they’ll ask.

When you’re preparing a client presentation, ask yourself: Is everything here directly related to their goals? Does it speak to their needs and concerns? Is it interesting to them? If the answer is no, delete or move to an appendix. Frame your communications around what your customers need, not what you need, and you’ll create a situation where they’re always happy to talk to you.

Question #4: Are you clarifying what their goals are?

Of course, it’s not just about how you talk to your customers—it’s also about how you listen. If you’ve done the work up front to make sure you’re keeping your communication efficient and customer-focused, you’ll create opportunities for your clients to share their feedback, input, and goals.

When they do share their goals, take note. And make sure you take the time to really understand what they’re trying to accomplish, so you can make a plan to help. This means asking probing questions that get to the heart of where the goal is coming from: Are they just repeating something they heard from higher up? Or have they really thought through the goal and how they might make it happen?

When you understand your customer’s goals, you have an opportunity to grow the relationship by helping them meet those goals. Take the goal back to your team and work through an Action Plan, breaking the goal into manageable objectives, actions, and tasks. The next time you meet with your customer, you’ll have a plan to present.

And of course, make sure every client communication ends with a summary of next steps. This gives people a clear sense of what you need from them to keep things moving, and opens the door for ongoing engagement and communication.

Keeping Track of Client Contact

The best way to keep a client relationship running smoothly is to ensure consistent, intentional, valuable communication. That means you don’t let your clients go too long without hearing from you, nor do you bombard them with repetitive, unnecessary contact.

When there are lots of you running an account, it can be hard to keep track of who’s reached out to whom, and how recently. Sure, you may be CC’d on emails, but what if you get 300 emails a day? Kapta carefully tracks client contact, and raising the flag when it’s been too long since someone heard from you or your team. Kapta also stores contact reports and key takeaways from client conversations, so your whole team has access to the latest feedback and input from clients—and you don’t reach out twice for information they’ve already sent.

Kapta also stores Voice of Customer information, as well as detailed Action Plans, so it’s easy to keep track of what’s important to your clients, and build your communication accordingly.

To more more about how Kapta helps you create effective, relevant, high-value client communication, click here.

How to Get Stellar Customer Feedback through a Voice of Customer Process

One of the cornerstones of key account management is Voice of the Customer — insightful feedback directly from the customer that reveals their experiences and expectations, helps predict their loyalty, and even informs how products and services can be improved. But how do you deal with people who are unenthusiastic about surveys, and what if you can’t always reach the right people?

 

At KAMCon 2018, Waypoint Group principal Steve Bernstein outlined a detailed framework to effectively capture the voice of the customer using methods that target the most relevant and viable participants, help to eliminate blind spots, and ensure more trustworthy information.

 

What gets in the way?

At some point, everyone in key account management has encountered the difficulties with getting good customer feedback. You know these well:

  • Lack of engagement: customers are often less than attentive, excited, and responsive
  • Lack of alignment: everyone is rowing in different directions — in your organization and the customer’s
  • Reactivity: instead of being able to proactively ask for feedback, you can only ask for it in reactive mode when something is wrong or there’s a crisis
  • Organizational friction: changing up how you get feedback doesn’t work when there’s a mentality of “We’ve always done it this way”
  • The wrong audience: it’s easy to get stuck talking to people at a tactical level when you really need to talk to the buyers and decision-makers
  • Accountability problems: it’s hard to know who really owns customer outcomes and results
  • Lack of visibility: not being able to see across teams or even fully within the account makes it difficult to know what to ask and how to follow up
  • Loss of an executive sponsor: reorganization means you have to start over with someone else, losing the rapport you’ve built up and momentum

 

These difficulties matter because they impact efficiency, effectiveness, and most of all the truth. Without honest, concrete information from the right people, everything gets based upon opinion. The assumption then is, “No one’s opinion is better than my own,” which creates conflict and leads to tunnel vision.

 

A framework for better customer feedback

To increase engagement and get better answers to surveys and questionnaires, you need to utilize a better Voice of Customer plan:

 

  1. Start with the who

Notice how we didn’t say customer? That’s because it’s really hard to define customer. When you ask who the customer is, you get a bunch of different answers. Instead, talk about contacts, accounts, personas, and roles.

 

Then ask: who have I been getting feedback from up until now? And if people aren’t giving feedback, what does it mean? Maybe they don’t know what’s in it for them and they see no reason to participate.

 

Action item: Vet your contact list. Get to the people who influence product retention and expansion. That way you’re not blasting a survey to every contact when it may be totally irrelevant to many of them.

 

  1. Develop the right questions

Asking for the moon may be tempting while you’ve got someone’s attention, but what really matters in the end is whatever gives you the insight you need to provide value and drive toward the customer’s desired outcomes. If things are going well, it’s an opportunity for expansion. If things aren’t going well, then it’s because something probably needs to get fixed.

 

Action item: Ask what’s working and not working, along with what the customer expected, why they expected it, and what they actually experienced. When you focus together on the things that actually impact the business, you can offer appropriate solutions and incentives.

 

  1. Enlist the right help

A day-to-day contact or customer champion knows their own organization. They know who the power users are and how to reach them to get the depth and breadth of feedback you need.

 

Action item: Delegate recruiting to the champion. Have them forward an email to other users asking them to participate. These users are more likely to respond to a request from someone they know and trust within their organization than to a vendor.

 

  1. Worry less about convenience

Asking for feedback over the phone may seem easier, but it results in two things: 1) It puts people on the spot, making it less likely they’ll give real and honest answers, and 2) It limits who you can share feedback with in your organization.

 

Action item: Set up your survey or questionnaire for written responses. The quality of answers will be higher and more informative. And you can share the feedback more easily with other teams and stakeholders in your organization.

 

  1. Follow up

Sending out a survey isn’t a one-and-done process. Not only do you need to make sure all the people who agreed to participate actually do so, you also need to be prepared for any answer you get. Amazing feedback? Great, now what? Or what if the feedback is negative? What will you offer and how will you help?

 

Action item: Form a coalition. Get a member of each team — product, customer success, support — and share with them the representative customer feedback. Then ask what they’d like to do with it. With their input, develop a plan that incorporates the feedback into something valid and tangible for your key accounts that actually satisfies and follows up on the “What’s in it for me?” question.

 

Care about the truth, not response rates

While getting a wide range of responses is certainly ideal, what’s even more important is the truth. That’s why it’s detrimental to an organization if the type of feedback received is tied to performance management or compensation.

 

Being serious about helping customers succeed means that positive and negative feedback has to be welcome and actionable, and that achieving desired outcomes is the ultimate goal.