Prioritizing Customer Collaboration
Customer collaboration is a powerful tool for all companies, but especially for B2B organizations. It helps suppliers grow and retain their customer base by increasing customer satisfaction. Right now, collaboration is most often used to improve internal processes and efficiencies, but it holds incredible power for improving customer satisfaction.
What is customer collaboration?
At its core, customer collaboration is about two (or more) organizations working together to achieve a common goal. It allows customers to play a vital role in the path to success, which ultimately leads to happier, more loyal customers.
B2B companies should leverage collaborative customer relationship management to offer customers transparency into where they are on their journey with suppliers. True customer collaboration means that the organization and client work together to create and measure goals, action plans, and performance metrics in order to ensure success. At every stage of the process, both the buyer and supplier can view these key elements in one shared location.
Collaborative customer relationship management is a layer of the broader customer management tech stack. This standalone technology “layer” includes all digital touchpoints that connect the organization with its clients. The customer collaboration meaning is to create a seamless unified experience for the customer while ensuring they receive maximum value from the partnership. The following must be included in the customer collaboration layer:
- Project management
- Data sharing
- Asset management
- Training and education
- Shared success planning
- Communication and Feedback
- Customer Content
- Support & Services
- Business Reviews
While creating a plan is a crucial part of customer collaboration, this methodology prioritizes responding to a change over following a plan. Collaboration ensures that the supplier understands the customer’s changing needs and the two parties can work together to update their shared plan of action. Adapting to change builds trust and a strong relationship with the buyer while delivering the most possible value. This is just one of the many ways customer collaboration in customer service will help boost customer satisfaction and retention.
Throughout this article, we’ll dive deeper into the concept of customer collaboration, its benefits, the strategy behind it, and the tools that can help facilitate it.
Benefits Of Customer Collaboration
Prioritizing customer collaboration is critical for maintaining long-lasting, healthy customer relationships. There are several key benefits of customer collaboration including:
- Increase in trust between parties: Customer collaboration management boosts the trust between two parties. Those who describe complete trust with an organization are more likely to report that collaboration was successful.
- Continuous alignment of goals and objectives: One of the top benefits of customer collaboration is the continuous alignment of goals and objectives. This ensures value creation and delivery and ensures provable business impact.
- Better view into renewal rates: Customer collaboration ensures insight into renewal rates. Businesses can quickly identify which customers are likely to churn. The accurate view of renewal rates further helps businesses know where and how they must improve the customer experience. For this reason, companies must prioritize customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
- Expansion opportunities: Working together through customer collaboration opens up many important opportunities for expansion. Clients can directly articulate the features, services, and most importantly, value they want to see, which the business can then leverage for expansion. Businesses gain a clear understanding of what their customers want and why. Ultimately, this allows them to create new products to fill gaps in the market and to sell more products/services to existing customers who express relevant interest.
Customer Collaboration Strategy
A sound customer collaboration strategy is essential for a successful B2B business, but implementing a strategy requires careful planning. Here are the key steps for how to prioritize and operationalize customer collaboration within an organization:
Shared Space for Documenting Goals and Objectives
First and foremost, organizations need a clear customer relationship management process. The customer collaboration strategy begins with a shared space for documenting goals and objectives. Within a shared space, all parties should be able to see the agreed-upon goals. This ensures everyone is on the same page, which prevents confusion or misalignment. Furthermore, a shared space for objectives provides transparency and a sense of unity to keep the buyer and supplier connected.
Mutual Action Plans
Mutual Action plans are a huge part of agile collaboration practices. The MAP is a shared step-by-step strategy that explains how each organization will meet an objective together. The MAP should help the buying organization overcome a challenge while earning the selling organization a customer. Mutual action plans are key for the customer relationship management process, and help ensure actionable customer collaboration.
Performance Metrics to Track Progress
Effective, adaptable collaboration practices are based on performance metrics. Both suppliers and their buyers should monitor performance metrics based on the goals and objectives agreed upon at the start of the relationship. The specific metrics used to facilitate collaboration depend on the desired business outcomes. Both parties should collaborate to determine the most relevant performance metrics.
For example, a buyer working with a marketing agency might be looking to attract new customers. Based on this desired outcome, they may have more fine-tuned objectives like increasing website traffic and conversions. Based on those goals, performance metrics to track could include the number of monthly website visitors, the website conversion rate, and the number of qualified leads.
Customer Collaboration Platform
A customer collaboration platform is vital for facilitating customer collaboration and avoiding silos. 54% of organizations report managing customer experience operations in costly silos. Organizations will benefit immensely from using customer collaboration software and virtual collaboration tools to streamline and simplify the process. Customer collaboration tools give suppliers and their buyers the ability to:
- Collaborate at every stage of the customer lifecycle.
- Organize around goals, action items, and insights.
- Align around processes
- Reduce the need for outdated systems and paper-based records.
- Automate customer status and milestone updates.
- Save time with a streamlined solution.
- Manage all communication in one place.
- Ensure everyone has visibility into progress.
- View planned work ahead of time.
- Improve trust and transparency
- Streamline communication with a shared system of record.
Many view the Cisco customer collaboration platform as a standard when comparing various customer relationship management tools. But in order to facilitate true customer collaboration, we need a network architecture, not B2B SaaS, that centers on value. It’s time for the next generation of business technology.
MetaCX’s Value Network is the first network of its kind to facilitate the flow of value across the entire enterprise value chain, linking vendors, customers, partners, and teams in a shared system of record for value creation.
Within the network, a supplier and buyer are able to come together to manage the value expected from their relationship. That is but one connection in a network of thousands, linking businesses across the world in an effort to prioritize value.
Our goal is to transform the definition and management of “value” across the enterprise value stream. Using our customer collaboration platform, two or more organizations can define and collaborate on desired business outcomes in a co-owned digital space. Helpful features within the MetaCX customer collaboration platform virtualization include:
- Bridges: Invite anyone in your business ecosystem to a co-owned, digital space to collaborate on the desired business outcomes, milestones, metrics, and action plans necessary to unlock the full potential of the relationship.
- Mutual Action Plans: Construct step-by-step action plans aligned to the short and long term goals of each ecosystem partnership.
- Shared Outcomes: Document and track the key deliverables by which you and your partners—vendors, customers, or peers—can define value and measure success.
- Outcome Templates: Produce outcome templates tailored to specific use cases and personas to simplify and scale the prioritization of value in B2B relationships.
- Performance Metrics: Surface key insight from any digital endpoint to assess the health and progress of the business relationship.
- Commenting: Collaborate with other members in a bridge by commenting on bridge elements and tagging anyone who would be a valuable contributor.
- Multidirectional Data: Gather data from up to four companies directly in MetaCX to more accurately track the progression of value and measure outcome performance.
- Teams and Company Profiles: Put a face to a name by crafting team profiles for each party in the bridge. View the company details of the entire business in one simple location.
- CXLayer: The best web development collaboration tools integrate with your existing network, and MetaCX is no different. Integrate our customer collaboration software with your digital experience or SaaS application.
Customer Collaboration Manager
Many enterprise organizations have crafted a new role to handle customer collaboration. A customer collaboration manager works directly with clients on the collaboration plan. Besides being able to work through common customer collaboration examples, further needs for this role include:
- Leadership experience
- Analytical thinking
- Excellent communication skills
- Results-driven and focused on KPIs.
The specific tasks of a customer collaboration manager vary depending on the organization’s industry and needs. As a whole, customer collaboration examples include forecasting performance for customers, ensuring value delivery through the product and/or service, delivering helpful customer service, and building long-lasting relationships.
Overall, the customer collaboration manager must be able to effectively utilize the customer collaboration platform. Their ultimate goal is to ensure smooth, helpful collaboration amongst all parties involved. Furthermore, a customer collaboration platform certificate may be a requirement for this role, as it ensures the candidate has the right skills and experience to be successful.
A person in this role must be great at building relationships and trust with customers. However, they must also be results-driven, able to monitor performance indicators, and use the data to improve the customer experience and relationship.
While agile principles are commonly used for software, many organizations are implementing the agile manifesto and agile collaboration tools in many areas of the organization to ensure efficiency. Agile project management breaks a project down into iterations to ensure adaptability and efficiency. Teams can adjust as they progress through iterations while delivering benefits along the way. Customer collaboration can be directly applied to agile principles and agile manifesto values.
Three out of four agile manifesto values directly apply to customer collaboration including:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools. Interacting fosters a collaborative approach that allows organizations to better understand and address their customer’s needs.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. A more collaborative approach provides benefits for the organization and its clients. It’s all about ensuring customer satisfaction at every stage of the partnership and delivering high-priority services.
- Responding to change over following a plan. Planning is part of all collaborative projects, but the focus should be on adaptability. The agile approach and customer collaboration require organizations to respond to changes
Customer collaboration follows many of the same values as agile manifesto values. Collaborating with customers provides insight into their challenges and needs. By better understanding the customer, organizations can make swift changes to products and services to better serve their target market.