Integrated Customer Engagement: The Need of the Hour!

Integrated Customer Engagement: The Need of the Hour!

The current COVID-19 pandemic has spread waves of uncertainty across businesses and their customer base. As the crisis continues to unfold, it is paramount that B2B companies keep their customers engaged through the economic situation. How these B2B companies plan to engage their customers today, will determine the success of these enterprises tomorrow, at the dawn of a COVID-free world.

Let’s take a look at Sequoia’s Matrix on Opex Vs Revenue Loss that can help enterprises with decision making during uncertain times

This figure represents how strategy and finance teams might be working hand-in-glove with other business functions to predict how the situations will evolve and impact revenue, which thereby impacts Opex. There are several parameters to be studied and several companies will be evaluating their current investments and spends across various business projects and initiatives. These could also be analyzing projected RoI vs Alignment of these initiatives to operational and strategic objectives or zero-based budgeting.

Investopedia claims that Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB) is a method of budgeting in which all expenses must be justified for each new period. The process of zero-based budgeting starts from a “zero base,” and every function within an organization is analyzed for its needs and costs. Budgets are then built around what is needed for the upcoming period, regardless of whether each budget is higher or lower than the previous one. These, and other, evaluation approaches will result in customer organizations taking decisions towards projects and initiatives with cost-cuts, accelerating closures, or suspension till the recovery phase begins.

Regardless of which strategy is adopted, these decisions are bound to have an impact on B2B companies’ products and services revenue streams that are aligned with specific customers’ business projects and initiatives. Therefore, how a B2B company continues to engage with the customer organization will be a key differentiator in winning, losing or retaining a customer during, and after the crisis.

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, several B2B companies were on spiraling inward journeys to transform the way they engaged with customers by using data and technology to realign organization structures and acquire new skills. However, this crisis will test the progress made. A major challenge in this regard will be on how customer facing functions of sales, marketing and CX come together and align their efforts. An integrated approach through a unified lens is of utmost importance in engaging with customers across different channels and different situations.

What does the Unified Lens Entail?

For simplicity, let’s say that B2B companies generally find their customers at three stages of the life cycle:

  1. New customer acquisition or early stage customers (With Up-sell/Cross-sell potential)
  2. Prospects or customers at the late-stages of sales cycle
  3. Existing customers

The customer facing functions of Sales, Marketing and CX have operated based on their objectives, processes, incentives and have prioritized these stages differently.

The customer facing functions of Sales, Marketing and CX have operated based on their objectives, processes, incentives and have prioritized these stages differently.

  • Sales Function

    The sales function is bound to focus on prospects and clients in the late stage of the sales cycle, after which the focus shifts on new customers while existing customers form the last phase of their priority level.

  • Marketing Function

    Marketing as a function is focused on a funnel – the idea is usually to engage with a vast audience before zeroing in on the target. Hence new customers are the priority here.

  • Customer Experience Function

    Customer retention is a key element in CX operations hence it’s no surprise that existing customer accounts are most valued and the priority trickles down the funnel to the new entrants.

The Post COVID-19 Aftermath

Mitigating the pandemic with integrated customer engagement will require the sales, marketing, and Customer Experience functions of enterprises to wear a unified lens and re-prioritize their areas of focus. Inevitably, the focus first shifts to the existing customers (retention), then on the customers who are in the late-stage opportunities as these need to be secured on priority before moving their efforts to new customer acquisition.

Each of these functions can play to their respective strengths and engage collaboratively to ensure consistent customer engagement.

Using Integrated Customer Engagement Strategies

Lets take a look at the best practices or strategies for customers in various stages of the customer journey:

I. For Existing Customers

1. Maintain Communication: It’s crucial that customer interactions are maintained and that sales and customer success teams have joint interactions with customers to:

  • Listen for any changes to the customer environment and resulting decisions
  • Evaluate shift in customer’s strategy initiatives or business processes that may have a short or long-term impact on the value proposition offered by the B2B company
  • Continue to drive deployment and adoption of products and services to help ensure that these not flagged during customers’ ROI evaluation of projects and initiatives
  • Revisit current installed base of products and services and position relevant business critical offerings, if applicable, to help customers tide through this crisis
  • Continuous listening and observations to changes in customer signals such as escalations and satisfaction through customer support channels as these could have impact on revenue

2. Invest & Propagate Relevant Content: Sales enablement, digital marketing, and content marketing teams should come together to develop content contextual and relevant to the customers current scenario and highlight value proposition consistently across various digital channels of website, email, social especially recommending how customers should best manage their businesses in the current situation.

3. Enhance Digital Channels: In this phase of crisis, with more and more customers available across digital channels, the onus lies on sales enablement and digital marketing teams to enhance content, navigation, and availability of various channels that can serve as preferred routes for up-sell, cross-sell and expansion opportunities and transactions.

II. For Prospects or customers at the late-stages of sales cycle

Prioritize opportunities: besides the development of relevant content and enhancement of digital channels as mentioned above, sales operations teams along with sellers, should focus on analyzing late-stage opportunities along with pattern recognition across customer segments — including industry, type of customer, installed base, and then prioritize for nurture actions and other interventions working along with their marketing teams.

III. New customer acquisition

Focus on digital and relevant content: In the current business environment many promotional activities, programs and events have been cancelled or put on hold. Therefore, there will be an acceleration of new customers starting their journey online and digital marketing, content marketing and sales enablement teams will need to generate messaging and content that is contextualized and personalized to customers’ industry domain with recommendation on how the B2B company’s products and services will help customers best manage their businesses

In summary, B2B companies that continue to drive active customer engagement with an integrated focus across the three customer facing functions will stay relevant to the customer during this crisis and benefit during and beyond the recovery phase.

To be effective in driving active customer engagement, companies will need to take a data-driven approach and focus on customer data by improving data quality, managing data across key touchpoints in the customer journey, and automating customer insights.

Connect with our experts here to know more.

Stay safe and stay integrated!

Author: Jitendra Jethanandani

Customer engagement has always been a priority for companies, but has it become more relevant now? Listen to the podcast below!