Customer Experience is one of the hottest topics today. What people experience while dealing with a company is what will make or break a deal. It can ruin longtime relationships, stunt growth of existing client relationships, and prevent new ones from ever happening.

I have used this term for years to describe when a company creates their own obstacles to win new (or keep existing) business. It can be anything from "our software we run our business on won't let us do that deal" to sales engagement that is so painful it leaves nothing but wreckage.

Below are 4 mid-size, well-known tech firms. I am baffled at the experience companies are delivering to prospects with the amount of visibility into the topic that is available. All of these examples sell less than $20K size platforms so the level of hurdle to engage is absurd.

Firm #1 takes you through an auto attendant of choices which gets you to a call center person that knows nothing about the product. They will grill you with a bunch of questions that have nothing to do with the business other than to "qualify" you to BANT criteria. The reason a conversation is necessary is the website has many misleading links that SAY here is where you can see a demo, a video, download this or that...but when you click on it, you have to provide 15 different data points. You then get to the video link and it says "Stream not found"...a dead link. So while on the phone, you'll then get transferred to a pre-sales rep that repeats the questions the call center rep already asked, doesn't know the product, and then tells you it can take up to 2 days to get a rep to engage. They will send you a follow up email and misspell your name they asked you to spell several times.

Firm #2 has the same menu, and you will get to a pre-sales rep faster but also asks a lot of canned BANT questions. Although there is a deal with a budget, that rep is too busy to talk. They will also ask you if you researched the website, because they don't want to waste their time with you if there isn't something in it for them. WIFM. The website shows pricing that is 4x higher than what it really costs, which if you don't ask...they don't tell.

Firm #3 spent a considerable amount of budget for a booth at one of the tech industries top conferences. They are operating in a heavily saturated space (sales and marketing enablement) and have a lot of competition. They have a well designed site that offers a 30 day trial, no need to talk to anyone (yay!) But when you sign up and go to download it, the link is broken. Support doesn't respond. A few days later someone will call you as a follow up from the show to set up an appointment, and you can tell them you downloaded a trial already and are ready to test drive it. But they want to schedule a sales appointment (because they get paid by appointments) and are unable to help you get to anyone that can fix the tech support issue. You will ask them to escalate it, but there is nothing in it for them, so they move on and you never hear from them again and buy from a competitor.

Firm #4 has a lot of turnover. They market themselves as one of the slickest services yet for revenue growth. You will try to work with them because it makes sense, the customer stories are there. They will show you a demo and share their screen and won't be able to get the software to work. Then during the demo, someone you know in the industry that is working with them sends to them an IM that the system is performing very sub par and asks what the problem is. Although a priceless moment, not a great confidence builder. But don't worry, they will call you back every 6 months to work with them again and start over, literally because they never wrote down any information from the 5 hours of conversations you had with them.

All of this (poorly) designed engagement and training is to vet out non-prospects and engage real ones. But what it's doing is vetting out real prospects as well.

Companies can't afford to lose deals from bad up front engagement...they need to make sure the experience prospects have is somewhere between "great" and "awesome." The whole experience matters. Not long ago, I heard of one firm that a VP at a F500 company that tried to work with them said they couldn't engage with a rep ever and "it was like talking to a rock." No one would call them back, F500 brand name and all.

How can companies identify if they have an Order Prevention Department?

  1. Take the journey your customer takes. Go through all the links, the phone transfers, the conversations. Do this on a regular basis so you will know if something is broken, i.e., a video is down, etc. Surface all the things customers ask so you can have answers.
  2. Make sure you aren't asking customers to repeat information over and over. This is one of the purposes of a CRM. Every time a prospect has to repeat something, especially if it is during the same sales cycle, it adds a negative flavor to the discussion.
  3. Does your business software prevent you from doing viable deals because a transaction isn't supported? Have you turned away deals? (I know this sounds ridiculous but it honestly happens, one company wouldn't take a wire transfer.)
  4. Are your prospects able to get what they need online. Prospects don't want to talk to you either if they don't have to, so put something with substance online. Not a graphic that shows the end result in a ta-da picture, or marketing-speak, but something that answers HOW. Design it based on what they generally ask.
  5. Keep some content free without the prospect having to provide data, as soon as you start asking questions it becomes annoying. The less prospects have to do that, the more positive of an experience it is. Progressive profiling is great, but earn the right first.
  6. Who is taking front line calls? If you are outsourcing, understand who your buyers are and match them on the front lines. Incentivize reps to be customer centric and escalate issues to you. If they are too low level to do that, move on.
  7. Build a culture of appreciation. It isn't about you, it's about your customer. Your company exists because of them, build a culture that fosters that vantage point. When you get bigger, it will turn into a really positive trait you are known for. I read an article recently about you can create a culture, or it will be created for you...and it won't be from positive things if you just let it morph into "whatever."

What have some of you done to make sure you don't have an Order Prevention Department?