Special Feature

Chief customer officers define four strategies to connect with customers in the next normal

Research shows that in order for businesses to connect with their customers, they must focus on outcomes, a new set of customer health metrics, improved service agility and opportunities to co-create value.

Companies must consistently demonstrate relevance to earn the right to future business. To earn trust, companies must be able to deliver value at the speed of need. By delivering value at the moment of truth, companies can earn trust and connect with stakeholders in a meaningful and long-lasting way. The shift in customer expectations is more about positive outcomes.

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In the first part of the series, new research revealed four Customer Experience plays to run now based on their findings:

  1. Go narrow and deep. Instead of trying to be all things to all people, focus.   Who can you serve best? 
  2. Invest in new buyers and influencers. There are more decision-makers and influencers in every deal, many of whom are new to the new conversation. Who is your customer now?
  3. Simplify and centralize customer insights. Employees must know where to go to discover insights and resources to help them build rapport and relevance with today's buyers and influencers. How many Voice of the Customer (VOC) repositories does your organization have?  
  4. Redefine Customer Success. Customer success is now defined as Customer Success (CS) = (Customer Outcomes (CO) /Customer Experience (CX)) + Employee Experience (EX), where outcomes are weighted more heavily than experiences.

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Improving the customer experience is about opportunities to co-create value. 

The new research from Salesforce revealed four additional plays to deepen customer connections and realize results:

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     Experiences Must lead To Outcomes. Experiences without outcomes are like activities without results. As resources like budget and headcount and headcount are increasingly constrained, outcomes guide the alignment between investment and results. Results that matter from the customers' point of view. Experience executives reveal outcomes now supersede experience as the key driver of customer loyalty.  

    Progressive leaders look to outcomes as a catalyst for cultural change and as a universal tool to break down organizational silos. The shift to outcomes drives the adoption of new metrics, measures, and methods that create a clearer alignment between employee effort and customer loyalty.  

    "We've made a shift to outcome-based offerings for customers," one SVP of Global Customer Support Services described. "We were already moving down the path from selling support services based on time to selling based on outcomes. The pandemic has been a catalyst to accelerate that transformation. It's forcing us to be more holistic and to collaborate with the customer in ways we haven't before. For the first time, we're starting to co-own outcome metrics with other departments." 

  2.  Refresh customer health metrics. The shift to outcomes as a more accurate, actionable measure of customer relationship health is leading many organizations to choose Time to Value (TTV) and their preeminent Customer Experience metric. Accelerating TTV without compromising the customers' experience is top of mind for Experience

    Executives who are often on the receiving end of unrealistic expectations set during the pre-sales cycle yet are tasked with providing support and retention on tight budgets post-implementation. "As we evolved our definition of who our customer is now, we realized our metrics needed to evolve in tandem," one manufacturing senior executive explained. "We wanted to look in the direction of impact from the customers' point of view. That's why we asked our customers what we call the impact question:  What would you credit us for improving your businesses?" "The answer helped us design metrics that sit at the intersection of company success and customer success," she concluded.

  3. Build organizational agility. Moving at the speed of outcomes is reshaping the organizational structure. Experience Executives no longer rely on the traditional pyramid hierarchy. A new organizational structure is taking shape:  small, highly adaptive, cross-functional teams tasked with delivering a single outcome or a series of outcomes to a single customer.   The transformation is gradual, and many organizations report, the shift may take several years to realize. One strategy to reshape how you operate is to design your new workflow around a critical customer experience. One Experience Executive started with the perfect order. "Every customer expects orders to be fulfilled perfectly and seamlessly," she explained. "When you're looking for friction and major dissatisfiers, start there. We discovered the perfect order was a tipping point. Because it illustrated how each function needed to operate differently to realize the perfect order every time from the customers' point of view."

  4. Embrace Co-Creation. Co-creation is a transcendent business skill. Organizations are investing to teach their employees this valuable business skill in the service of breaking down internal silos and inviting an inclusive approach to designing customer outcomes.

    "Customers are in desperate need of information to help them make better decisions," one Experience Executive described. "Co-creating those business-critical insights is a more strategic approach to set the direction for our relationship and to create and deliver the new product and service offerings that will help them succeed." Co-creation also builds a bridge to move from expectations to agreements.

In the final part of our series, the research will detail strategies to transform your metrics and measurements. Discover additional insights, strategies, and actions you can take using the slide deck here.

What are you discovering about how to transform your customers' experience? We invite you to join us on Twitter @valaafshar@karenmangia, and @msweezey.


This article was co-authored by Karen Mangia, vice president, Customer and Market Insights, at Salesforce, and Mathew Sweezey, director of Market Strategy, at Salesforce.

Karen Mangia is vice president, Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce. Her work focuses on strategies for personal and professional success, and she regularly works with executives, managers, and future leaders at companies of all sizes globally. She launched two new books in 2020: Listen Up! How to Tune In To Customers, And Turn Down the Noise and Working From Home:  Making the New Normal Work For You  - both from Wiley. She has been featured in Forbes and regularly writes for Thrive Global and ZDNet. Committed to diversity and inclusion, she serves on her company's Racial Equality and Justice Task Force. She is a TEDx speaker and the author of Success With Less, a book that chronicles her own personal journey through a life-threatening health crisis. Her high-impact keynotes help organizations to access the future of work via innovative insights around the voice of the customer.

Mathew Sweezey is Director of Market Strategy at Salesforce. His work focuses on the future of marketing, and what brands must do to stay relevant to consumers amidst the continuously shifting landscape. His latest book The Context Marketing Revolution was published by Harvard Business Press in 2020 and has become an Amazon Best Seller. His work is often featured in leading publications such as The Economist, Forbes, AdAge, The Observer, and Brand Quarterly.