Successful business-to-business (B2B) organizations understand that winning a customer is only the beginning of a healthy rapport. In order to keep customers happy and spending, B2Bs need to nurture existing relationships. Failing to do so results in customer churn, and since it costs five times as much money to capture a new customer than keep an existing one, organizations will do themselves well if they optimize the longevity of their present clientele.

By strategically targeting milestones, B2B organizations can retain customers and even boost the amount of spending per customer. Of course, touching each and every customer takes a lot of time and dedication which is why so many organizations leverage automated tools and solutions to lighten the load.

Below we will examine what high-performing organizations are doing to optimize the customer lifecycle, the digital approach as it currently stands, and what technology can be adopted to improve digital outreach.

 

What High-Performing Organizations Are Doing

According to SiriusDecisions, a prominent research and advisory firm focused on global B2B, high-performing organizations take a strategic view of the customer lifecycle, considering the goals and needs of the company and its customers. This includes mapping the customer journey per relevant customer profiles, personas and categories.

Categorization includes:

  • Customer/account segmentation includes region, industry or vertical, size of the organization and more.
  • Customer personas include roles within the organization, their goals and pain points, demographics and the like.
  • Customer lifecycle phases are helpful for determining where a customer sits in a lifecycle and matching that to common occurrences such as drop off, increased spending, budgetary evaluation and more.
  • Customer feedback and insights which include regular check-ins to ensure that customers are happy with your offerings or where things could be improved.

Customers inevitably fall into various buckets within these categories. By properly identifying where customers sit, B2B organizations can anticipate potential issues and opportunities.

For example, your organization might recognize that customers end their engagements after three years of using your services. To prevent drop off, your customer service manager connects with customers at the two-year mark and subsequently every three months to ask about potential pain points of using your service, as well as inform the customer about improvements and potentially helpful features that match their needs. The goal is to stymie any issues that may cause the customer to second guess their relationship with your company while also opening opportunities for up-selling.

While a certain level of customer churn is inescapable, research finds that a mere five percent increase in customer retention can lead to an increase in profits of between 25% and 95%.

 

Digital Approach: The Current State

To gather this information in a cost- and time-effective way, many B2B organizations employ automated or digital solutions. A common example of the digital approach might include a one-to-five star customer satisfaction poll delivered via email within two weeks of purchase. If a customer shares a poor rating, a customer service representative may reach out via a support call to remedy the situation; which is an example of a non-digital approach.

According to SiriusDecisons, B2B organizations can be divided into three major categories:

  • “Digital First” organizations rely primarily on digital interactions to manage customer engagement and lifecycle. This technique is especially powerful for businesses with fairly standard, simple or self-service offerings. Digital First is cost-effective, easy to scale, and requires very little oversight. However, this method may not be a fit for organizations that offer complex or customized offerings.
  • “Digital Support” organizations rely primarily on sales, marketing and customer engagement teams to ensure customers are appeased or ready to increase spending. Automated digital tools only support efforts initiated and managed by these teams. While this method is well suited for organizations that offer complex or customized offerings, it is toucher to scale and requires a great deal of oversight.
  • “Digital Hybrid,” as the name implies, combines Digital First and Digital Support per an organization’s needs.

It is vital that B2B organizations match these digital strategies to their offerings and their customer personas. This is all the truer if there are differing services or products marketed to different roles within a customer’s business. The goal is to create a cohesive Digital Journey Map to optimize customer engagements and retain a healthy revenue stream.

Still, digital touches generated by marketing automation, Salesforce automation, customer success management or case management tools, and other more traditional systems are not very personal. And in a marketplace of ideas where customers are inundated with marketing messages, an impersonal email or text message is immediately filtered out and ignored.

While digital customer success management tools have their place and can scale continuously, it is not a complete solution in itself. To truly unlock the power of automated customer engagement, a solution needs to be personable, scalable, and relatable. The solution is an Intelligent Virtual Assistant.

 

The New Digital Approach: Intelligent Virtual Assistants

Intelligent Virtual Assistants, powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Generation (NPG), engage customers in personalized, two-way conversations at scale. In this way, Intelligent Virtual Assistants like Conversica fall into the Digital Hybrid model as defined by SiriusDecisions. AI Assistants operate like a person and provide a personal touch to their interactions with customers. As a result, customer engagement rates are much higher.

AI Assistants can be used to drive customer health, collect customer feedback, and upsell/cross-sell customers on additional features or upgrades.

This is a radical diversion from existing customer engagement models in which top-value customers are given the most attention, while mid-value and low-value are largely managed by impersonal tech tools.

An AI Assistant modifies this model by delivering a personal touch across every customer, then hands off “hand-raisers” to appropriate team members based on customers’ asks. In this way, B2B businesses do better to retain more customers throughout the customer pool without straining time or other resources.

Intelligent Virtual Assistants are the only digital solution that asks existing customers if they are interested in talking to a customer service representative and elevating hand-raisers when they are conversation-ready. Suffice to say, AI Assistants should be important touchpoints in your digital journey map.

Want to learn more? Download the SiriusDecisions Research brief “Three Steps to Determine the Right Digital Approach to Customer Engagement.”

Visit the Conversica Sales AI Assistant page and the Customer Success AI Assistant web page to learn more about how you can add these AI Assistants as digital touch points to the pre- and post-purchase segments of your customer journey.