Who is your customer now? Salesforce VP and Author Karen Mangia on meeting the evolving needs of customers

March 26, 2021

As Vice President of Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce, Karen Mangia works with global businesses on developing new ways of creating success through better customer engagement. Mangia is also the author of Listen UP! How to Tune Into Customers and Turn Down the Noise, a book filled with actionable suggestions for strengthening customer relationships. We chatted with Mangia recently about a topic she knows well -- how B2B marketers and businesses can create better customer experiences (CX) at this moment of rapid change.

How have you seen customer experience evolve since COVID-19 began?

Mangia: Most business organizations had digital transformation on their agenda before the pandemic, but COVID has accelerated all those plans. Customers have changed how they want to engage, and the pandemic has exposed gaps in the digital transformation strategies of businesses in how they connect with and serve customers. Businesses are now working to close those gaps, to meet customers where they are right now.

There are so many ways customers can engage today through digital channels. But when everyone is forced to simultaneously interact through digital platforms versus having a choice to go digital, organizations discover aspects of those digital experiences that they haven't fully optimized yet. We’ve all heard about people who don't like doing Zoom visits with the doctor or Zoom work meetings, they want to go in person instead. That’s because these forced digital experiences haven’t yet been fully optimized.  

I’ll give an example from my own experience. I used to speak a lot at live conferences. Now those conferences are virtual and I feel like I've seen every possible virtual event platform that you could imagine. I had this very powerful experience a few months back when I was doing a big keynote. I entered the platform before my keynote was scheduled and it had a fireplace where you could see other people gathering virtually. Those small shifts in being able to see people can make a big difference in how we perceive the experience of interacting in a digital world. It got me thinking, why do I feel so good on this particular event platform versus some of the other ones? The small improvements matter.

How have customer preferences changed around channels?

Mangia: It’s digital-first now. So many customer service organizations have pivoted to more automation as a tool to help scale engagement and prevent staff burnout. When businesses can optimize and digitize some of these journeys for customer support and engagement, they take the burden off support staff and help customers too. Automation and self-service tools make it so much easier for customers to find the information and support they need when they need it. The tools keep getting better over time as interactions increase.

How do the digital tools/apps now make it easier to get data that businesses can leverage to improve CX?

Mangia: Data might not give us all the answers, but it can give us clues about what questions to investigate, where we should get more curious about our CX. I just did some CX research with a colleague and we interviewed Chief Customer Officers and Chief Experience Officers about what was in their tech portfolio. These senior executives reported that the insights they’re getting about customers are not moving at the speed of need and the speed of relevance. They just can't wait for a survey to get deployed and someone to analyze it and give them some trends to consider. That’s too slow.

Surprisingly, what the research showed was that one great source of information that actually does move at the speed of need, is feedback from unhappy customers. So one of the companies we interviewed started a practice whereby their executive team would contact some of these unhappy customers in order to collect feedback. It requires putting aside some of your “brand ego” and listening for where the friction is in the unhappy customer’s journey.

What are some other ways B2B marketers can “hear” the voice of customers?

Mangia: It starts with stepping back and asking who is your customer right now. Since the pandemic, customers have shifted and businesses need to understand the use cases that matter most to their customers. What’s motivating them to make that purchasing decision? We need to propagate that understanding of customers across the entire organization so that anyone who markets or sells to a customer has access to relevant information. 

It might also mean, in the context of ABM, pausing to make sure that we have the correct account prioritization for our ABM strategy. Maybe we need to resegment our accounts. Asking “who is our customer now” means evaluating whether we have the right segmentation model in place or if we need to adjust it. When it comes to customers, you have to constantly seek to understand, learn, and adjust, making micro moves that yield results and figuring out how to scale lessons learned.

Yesterday's playbook isn’t going to guarantee tomorrow's success. We have to look in the direction of what outcomes we're trying to deliver for today's customer. You have to think in terms of how you can enable the customer journey, how can you build a steady drip of content culminating in a series of micro engagements that lead to a better CX. That’s more interactive than yesterday’s playbook.

What final advice would you offer to B2B marketers who want to better “hear” and respond to the voice of their customer?

Mangia: We need to start asking better questions, to have more expansive customer conversations to get a richer context. I'll give you an example. I hear many organizations I work with asking customers, “how could we make this easy?” Then they build some 5-year, $5 million roadmap. Meanwhile, what the customer cares about may have shifted. The better question is how could we make this easier than it is right now? Because easier might mean investing 5 days with 5 people and a small budget. Customers feel more satisfied and are more loyal when progress happens a little bit at a time. That more manageable focus also helps businesses pay more attention to the evolving needs of their customers, and those needs seem to be evolving faster today than ever.

Interested in improving your CX? We can help, please reach out to us today. 

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