Forget about price: How to drive sales through great customer experience
iscounts and promotions may boost numbers in the short term, but they aren’t sustainable in the long term. Titilayo Adewumi, regional sales director for West Africa at SAP, suggests that the most important thing a company can do to increase sales is create great customer experience.
Titilayo leads the SAP sales team in West Africa, covering English-speaking countries in the region. She has spent most of her career in sales, in industries as diverse as fast food, banking, healthcare, retail and technology, and in both Canada and Nigeria.
For her and her team, the customer’s experience is always top of mind. “At SAP, we’re deliberate about customer experience and satisfaction,” she says. The sales team works extensively with the company’s customer success office to make sure SAP’s clients are always satisfied.
But what is excellent customer experience and why is it important? “Customer experience is the perception my customers have regarding my brand, product or service,” says Titilayo. “You may have a great brand and product or service, but the interaction with the customer might be perceived negatively.”
Create a customer journey
Companies that focus on their customer experience generally create a customer journey, mapping out how customers interact with their brand from the first phone call or social media post through to making repeat purchases. This makes it easy for anyone in an organization to understand where they influence the customer’s experience, and how they can play an active role in making sure it is a good one.
“In the African business environment, we’re starting to realize how important this journey is for the customer,” Titilayo says. “We’re seeing the correlation between revenue and customer experience, and we’re closing the experience gap for the end customer.”
We’re selling to human beings. People buy from people they trust.
Close the experience gap
The experience gap is the difference between how a customer interacts with and feels about an organization’s brand, and how the organization believes the customer interacts with and feels about the brand.
To close this gap, Titilayo starts by creating a great experience for her internal customers – employees and stakeholders within an organization who require assistance from another individual or department to do their job. For Titilayo, this is the SAP team members she works alongside. She spends time getting to know them and understanding what motivates them.
She says that startups and founders can build ways to understand what motivates employees as early as the recruiting process. “At the end of the day, internal customers are the face and the voice of your brand,” she says. “If they’re not happy, it’s hard to translate that to external customers.”
Listen to your customers
Titilayo trains her team to be empathetic listeners and to build strong personal relationships by putting themselves in their prospective customer’s shoes. “We’re selling to human beings,” she says. “People buy from people they trust.”
This is especially important when business isn’t going as planned, such as during the COVID-19 crisis. But when a team is equipped with the tools to actively listen, it is better prepared to provide solutions to the real problems its customers are facing.
Titilayo believes that founders and business leaders should challenge the belief that price is the most important factor for customers.
“A lot of entrepreneurs starting businesses are only focused on closing the sale, and they leave out the customer journey,” Titilayo says. “Price is no longer the distinguishing factor for customers – experience is.”
Shift your focus from revenue to customer experience
Founders and managers should shift their company’s focus from revenue to customer experience.
As a sales leader, Titilayo builds this consideration into her team’s quarterly KPIs and individual performance reviews.
She suggests that founders and other leaders build close-knit relationships with their internal customers, and show their appreciation accordingly. “A good experience means more referrals for you as a business, it means satisfied and happy internal and external customers, and they are the cheapest and easiest marketers,” she says.
Use technology to gain insight
Titilayo is mindful that running a business in Africa is filled with unique challenges – from infrastructure, to HR, to regulations and beyond. She suggests that startups use technology alongside watching and actively listening to their customers, which she says will help improve processes and provide insight into the problems customers are facing.
Tools such as Qualtrics, an experience-management platform that was acquired by SAP in 2019, can do just this. “Ensuring that you as a business can differentiate your brand by providing a good customer experience should be your strategy and priority,” she says.
Price is no longer the distinguishing factor for customers – experience is.
Titilayo’s top tips to create customer experience:
Be intentional in your approach to customer experience. Founders should have this as part of their core – you can’t start two or three years down the line. You have to understand your customer’s preferences in order to create the perfect service for them.
Engage in active listening. Understand what customers are saying about your brand, put processes in place to turn that feedback into actionable insights and try to do so almost in real time.
Shape and optimize experiences. Personalizing the customer experience improves retention and loyalty, and more importantly builds trust with your customers.
Keep your employees happy. Happy employees mean your customers have a better interaction with your brand. Employees are the heart, core and voice of your business and they drive how fast you can close the experience gap.
[ Read also: ‘What does it really mean to win as a startup today?’ ]
Written by Alexandra Connerty.
Repackaged by Hazel Boydell.
All photos by Joseph Elliott for Startup Guide.