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Make Customer Engagement Your Competitive Edge

Make Customer Engagement Your Competitive Edge

by Stephanie Barrymore

Story Highlights

  • It's not enough to have satisfied customers
  • Develop employees who drive customer engagement
  • Use data to build a customer-centric culture

Your customers are taking their digital transformation strategies seriously, and they are looking for partners who know their business, bring them new ideas and make those ideas work for them. Most technology companies are aware that their customers want something different. The question is, are you delivering?

Trends in the channel are causing disruptions that will dictate the future. Mergers and acquisitions, tariffs, inventory challenges, and the rapid introduction of new technologies are putting pressure on go-to-market strategies and business models -- and requiring leaders to answer the question, "How are we adding value for our customers today, and will that be the same tomorrow?"

As companies look at their client-facing teams, they need to strongly consider the talent of those teams in the context of what their customers need and want.

Use Talent to Solve for Engagement, not Just Satisfaction

At Gallup, we have found that most organizations don't understand the difference between satisfaction and engagement. Gallup defines engagement as a customer's rational, emotional and psychological attachment to a brand, company or product. Satisfaction moves some metrics, but it only solves for rational objectives and does not reach emotional attachment. Companies that solve for engagement move the needle on productivity, revenue, customer ratings and share of wallet two to three times more than if they only solve for satisfaction. But according to Gallup's B2B report, only 29% of B2B customers are fully engaged and 71% are at risk of leaving for a competitor.

Gallup has found that a crucial part of driving customer engagement is creating customer impact. Customer impact provides a meaningful change in a customer's organization or business model that significantly improves the bottom line. It is the single greatest driver in generating growth.

In a recent study, Gallup found that companies that deliver the highest levels of customer impact have 72% more fully engaged customers.

Do you have the right talent to drive customer engagement and customer impact, or are your people only creating satisfaction? Gallup research shows that there is a different, specific type of talent -- your star employees -- who can deliver customer impact and engagement versus simply driving satisfaction. Compared with their less talented peers, highly talented "business builders" are three times more likely to build large businesses and to grow them significantly, four times more likely to exceed profit goals, and five times more likely to exceed sales goals. It's critical to revisit your customer-facing talent and ensure that they are developing the right skills to connect with customers and have the right data to deliver on customer expectations.

Do you have the right talent to drive customer engagement and customer impact, or are your people only creating satisfaction?

Modernize Your Approach to a Customer-Centric Culture

The most successful, customer-driven organizations look at customer analytics, talent, growth and development, and sustainment holistically when planning and designing their customer engagement strategies and programs. Companies that fail to deliver on the goals and objectives of their engagement initiatives often rely on their own data to create their strategies, hire the talent they believe they need, and use off-the-shelf, third-party programs to develop their talent.

When the leaders of these different initiatives and teams are not aligned and are problem-solving in silos instead of collaborating, sustainment and growth objectives remain unchanged.


Taking a collaborative approach to building a customer-centric culture requires involving all leaders responsible for strategy, sales, customer experience, customer service, talent and development. But that can feel overwhelming.

Gallup recommends starting with a phase zero project, which involves bringing in a third party who can develop the right questions to conduct a quantitative and qualitative study of your best customers and your best talent. Learning what your customers really want and uncovering best practices and opportunities can help reveal what success looks like. Combining these insights with your existing company data is a great place to start in building a customer-centric culture. These findings will help inform your next steps and strategies.

Ask Your Customers

Customers of technology companies are concerned about which partner to choose for their digital transformation strategies. Historically, salespeople have had to be knowledgeable about the products and services they sold -- but today, customers are demanding more of a trusted adviser relationship to help them create the best strategy for their business and determine the outcomes that matter most to them.

Gallup has found that most companies rely on their customer-facing teams to provide information about their customers. This can be a problem, because sales professionals may take credit for things they do not necessarily deserve credit for and may blame others when things go wrong. Moreover, the information gathered from customer-facing teams is biased since customers are cognizant of the fact that negative feedback can affect the relationship. This adds to the problem, since most companies use this information to make major decisions around strategy, hiring talent and development programs.

Today, customers are demanding more of a trusted adviser relationship to help them create the best strategy for their business and determine the outcomes that matter most to them.

By bringing in a third party to ask the right questions of your customers, you can uncover the key drivers that are critical to customer engagement and find out what your customers really want in their relationships with your sales and account teams. These data are key to informing your talent strategies and your approach to growing and developing those teams.

According to Gallup research, 40% of B2B customers who are very satisfied with their account manager are fully engaged. This figure drops to 13% if they are not very satisfied. The only way for technology companies to thrive is to deliver customer impact to all of the ecosystems they serve. Customer experience programs and strategies should be based on trusted data, insights and analytics, and carried out by the right talent -- employees who can influence people, act on the data and deliver outcomes.

Learn how to create a competitive advantage by putting your customers at the center of everything you do:


Stephanie Barrymore is Head of Commercial Excellence in the Technology Practice at Gallup.

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