There are only three ways to make money: sell more products, increase your prices, or cut costs.
The easiest action may seem to be to increase prices, but if you don’t deliver additional value for the higher prices then it won’t be long before customers start to look around for alternative suppliers.
So what about cutting costs? A cost-cutting strategy is only temporary as it cannot be sustained in the long term.
That therefore leaves only one possible growth strategy and that is to sell more products, which is easier said than done. If it was just a question of hiring a new sales rep or spending money on advertising and watching the new flow of business, everybody would do it.
Access to new customers in new territories is indeed why office-supplies chain Office Depot Inc. and Alibaba’s international wholesale marketplace Alibaba.com have inked a ‘strategic collaboration’. However, research shows that the most important factor driving long-term growth is great Customer Experience.
Market research company Forrester, for instance, found that customer experience leaders grow revenue at a rate of 17 percent compound growth – considerably faster than the customer experience laggards. Meanwhile, consulting group Accenture estimates that the business costs of poor Customer Experience is as much as $1.6 trillion from US customers who switch their service to a different brand or service provider.
There can be no doubt about it then: exceptional Customer Experience is critical to growth.
But what is a great Customer Experience? It isn’t just having the product delivered on time in full. It isn’t receiving a product that works as promised. This is a good experience but the customer is simply receiving what they expect.
Great Customer Experience is something which pleases the customer so much it may never be forgotten. A customer that is short of product and needs an urgent delivery will remember for a long time a supplier who pulls out the stops to solve the problem. It’s why a customer that has been struggling with a technical issue that is quickly solved by the supplier will almost certainly repay with loyalty. A supplier whose deliveries never fail, whose products never disappoint, who is always available to deal with enquiries and does so promptly, will be thought to offer a great Customer Experience.
Great CX is built on emotions, and small companies tend to know this. They will often work nights and weekends to solve a customer’s problem. They will bend over backwards to be nice to customers. They will deal with them promptly and efficiently. They know that without customers they cannot pay the rent. Small companies understand the importance of engaging emotionally with customers and offering great Customer Experience.
There is then, something that can be termed, the ‘corporate curse’. When companies grow, especially business-to-business companies, they can lose this emotional attachment. Large B2B companies need processes to ensure that their products are made efficiently. Departments are set up to run production, finance, sales, marketing and HR. These departments may be superbly managed but they can also become silos, working independently of each other, viewing customer requests as inconvenient disruptions to their efficiency. When customer satisfaction levels are measured amongst the customers of these large B2B suppliers, the results are almost always mediocre.
A number of key Customer Experience pillars are required to escape this trap. These include total commitment to Customer Experience by the leadership; an avoidance of silo mentality, with everyone within the B2B supplier that can solve the problem taking ownership of it, and being quick and easy to deal with. This is vital, as Amazon well knows.
But beware: the things that please and excite today soon become standard. Providing great Customer Experience requires suppliers to constantly be thinking of different and better ways of serving their customers. It’s why Amazon and many other retailers seek to offer ever faster and more convenient delivery options and locations.
The only long-term way to make more money is to deliver exceptional CX. Alibaba and Office Depot, along with their very many competitors, need to remember this.