With the shift to remote everything in the continuing wake of the pandemic, businesses must refocus on the essential question: what makes a customer loyal?
Many organizations continue to push for client loyalty and success by adequately adapting to meet their needs while working in remote environments. Others cling to outdated methods and flounder.
To survive in this new business reality, it is imperative that remote employees have the skills to succeed while away from their physical offices. How to do that effectively is a multifaceted process.
CRM Buyer discussed that journey with Heather Caudill, senior vice president of relationship management at AvidXchange. Her company specializes in automating invoice and payment processes for mid-market businesses. We talked about the importance of understanding the ins and outs of customer loyalty and what it takes for businesses to act on feedback to ensure continued success for both themselves and their clients.
Caudill has worked across technical support and project management. She has built a 20-year track record of success from her innate passion for delivering an exceptional experience for customers. This manifested itself in many roles throughout her more than 17-year tenure with AvidXchange.
Since joining AvidXchange in 2002, Caudill, a certified project management professional, has focused on technical support and project management with a focus on building customer loyalty.
As AvidXchange has grown from a start-up to a seasoned provider of AP automation solutions in the middle market, she has remained a constant voice for customer advocacy and led the growing customer team with empathy and authenticity.
Outside of AvidXchange, Caudill is actively involved in Pink Mentor Network, a Charlotte, N.C.-based female mentorship collective focused on growing future female executives and entrepreneurs.
CRM Buyer: How important is it that marketers understand the ins and outs of customer loyalty?
Heather Caudill: Customer loyalty sits at the crux of how businesses decide to operate, and a huge part of having a successful business is having customers that are actively using or interacting with your product. Marketers are in a unique position in that they have to understand the entire business — from the product all the way through the technology and sales cycles.
When you get down to these micro levels, you begin to understand what makes the customer tick and what excites them. You also learn what does not. From there, you are able to build strong relationships that put the customer at the center, taking in their feedback and implementing it, so they keep on coming back to you and your products and even drive referrals.
CRM Buyer: How can merchants best accomplish this?
Caudill: Feedback and insights from the customer are a goldmine. When you are able to actively implement and/or change things to meet the customer’s expectations, you are building your reputation and relationship with them. Businesses should always be looking to collect feedback and adjust their offerings to be better than what the customer is asking for.
CRM Buyer: What are the most successful approaches for getting reliable feedback from customers?
Caudill: There are a few different ways to get feedback from customers — phone calls, surveys, etc. Especially working in a B2B environment, you are going to have employees who are constantly interacting with your customers. It could be a sales representative, or customer support staff, or an account manager. With most teams working remotely for the last six months, people are craving any sort of human interaction.
Check-ins with clients are an opportune time to see how they are feeling about everything. The best feedback you are going to get is when it is coming directly from them.
CRM Buyer: How is the rapid switch to remote shopping that the pandemic caused impacting customer relations?
Caudill: The pandemic has had quite an impact on shopping. However, I think one big, often overlooked opportunity to provide better customer service in a shopping setting actually takes place on the business side of the equation. There is just so much that is outside the control of any business operator right now, including a major upheaval in losing access to physical real estate in an office or brick-and-mortar store, which in many cases causes roadblocks for shipping and payments.
To best serve the customer, it’s important that businesses start digitizing their processes to ensure business continuity amid uncertain times. That way, products can still be shipped, vendors can still be paid, and payments can still be received. The result is no disruption to the customer experience.
It is really about nailing how you are going to interact with your customer, as those relationships are more vital now than ever. Having the ability to be nimble, understand the customer’s desires, and make easy adjustments to meet those desires will ultimately lead them to engage on a long-term basis.
CRM Buyer: How is customer loyalty being challenged in today’s shifting marketplace?
Caudill: What customers want and need is changing with the lifestyle and business changes that the pandemic has brought on. With that, they are inevitably looking at different places to fulfill those needs. This, in a way, challenges loyalty because customers may decide to look elsewhere if a brand is no longer aligned with what they want.
Now more than ever, businesses need to balance their growth mindset with their retention mindset by focusing on customer advocacy. When they are able to listen and take care of existing customers, they will inevitably be able to apply that same type of feedback to engage new prospects.
CRM Buyer: Is it more difficult or less challenging to provide clear communication — and why?
Caudill: Communication is of the utmost importance at this time, especially as many businesses continue to operate in a remote or hybrid work environment. I think that depending on the industry in which you are working, there is some level of variance as to whether the communication is more or less challenging. That said, it is important to be proactive and keep dialogue transparent, accurate, and consistent.
By creating a centralized communications team that can move quickly in evolving situations and engage with customers in real time, businesses are able to help to build trust and confidence between themselves and the customer. The same rings true internally in ensuring employees receive up-to-date information on any changes that could potentially affect the way they work.
CRM Buyer: Why is scaling so critical for creating a great customer experience?
Caudill: The onset of the pandemic meant that businesses had to reevaluate how they were going to operate in the same capacity they once did in the office, but remotely. At the same time, it brought the opportunity for businesses to turn to technology to help them work smarter and more efficiently. As businesses begin to explore technology as a means to grow, service providers need to be prepared to pivot to meet the needs and expectations that accompany an influx of new customers.
When businesses are in a position where they can scale, they really need to hone in on their current customer base to see what is working and what is not and use those insights to bolster their scaling strategy. Great customer experience is the difference between a happy patron and a loyal advocate. That is a distinction that impacts customer satisfaction, can reduce turnover, and increase revenue.
CRM Buyer: How is this achieved in today’s pandemic climate?
Caudill: It is the responsibility of the businesses to ensure that the platforms they are using not only meet and exceed the expectations of current clients but prospective clients as well. They have to be smart when looking at what parts of their business are going to scale well in this climate. They really have to pinpoint the demands of today’s customer, not the customer from six months ago, and take feedback and direction from customers as their path forward.
CRM Buyer: What is customer advocacy?
Customer advocacy is the voice that internal stakeholders bring to the table on behalf of their customers. We are now experiencing a digital world, which means how businesses advocate for clients has changed.
There are different things that customers need during this time and different ways that businesses are going about making those adjustments to ensure the customer stays happy.
Customers are the reason businesses stay in motion. The business provides a solution that alleviates a customer’s pain point, and the customer continues to utilize that good or service. For this cycle to continue, there needs to be a consistent cadence of customer advocacy and input to keep the product and the results it delivers up to par. It is critical for a business to take in that feedback, adapt, and then be able to provide the customers with the experience they want and need.
CRM Buyer: How does this concept differ from or integrate with customer relations management?
Caudill: Customer advocacy and customer relationship management need to work hand in hand to really get to the core of providing a great customer experience. Businesses today have an obligation to their customers to listen to their feedback and make changes that are going to boost their brand and keep their customers happy.
At the same time, businesses need to be able to manage these relationships in a way that provides both themselves and the customer a benefit. There are always going to be clients that are more difficult than others. Being able to provide ideas and solutions that meet the needs of each customer individually, and advocate for them, is what ultimately helps build strong relationships and in turn, gives the customers the great experience they are looking for.