Interview with Bas van de Kamp- Director Customer Success at Pitcher
Bas, what will be the new normal for customer-facing teams after the pandemic?
COVID-19 has just accelerated trends that already started years ago and established omnichannel interactions as the predominant path for B2B. I strongly believe that even post-pandemic, the use of and preference for digital channels will continue to grow. Face-to-face will continue to have its place in the engagement toolkit, but buyers and customers will be moving easily between face-to-face and remote sales. They will be choosing the channel according to the situation, timing and their personal preferences.
What are key drivers in the evolution of customer engagement?
Customer engagement is crucial in any industry. It has been evolving from being a necessity (reporting and address management) towards being a more strategic asset for planning, managing and evaluating engagement strategies and orchestrating their execution. Field teams will be playing an essential role in driving those engagements.
We can identify several key drivers in this evolution. For instance, the increasing digitalization of business capabilities, better analytical capabilities, the development of software as service as infrastructure, and bigger product complexity. Along with that, customer engagement technology has grown over the years from being a compliance and reporting tool to being a more sophisticated solution with a wide range of functionalities to drive the value of customer–company interaction.
What impact has the recent COVID-19 crisis had on the role of the field force?
The whole crisis and its ripple effects have forced organizations to find ways to secure the most effective way for field reps to work from home, making remote interactions feel as intimate as in-person experiences. Then there is the proliferation of channels: the pandemic is further compounding the already ongoing redefinition of a new type of rep – a more hybrid rep, who interacts with customers via phone, video, app and face-to-face.
This is confirmed by the “numbers”: McKinsey research clearly shows hybrid reps will become common over the next three years.
And how has technology impacted the development of field forces?
Seeing as the field force is essential in successfully executing any engagement strategy, companies have strived to support them. They have aggregated information into dashboards, driven the reduction of the overall complexity and optimized decision-making. Technology developments have led to improved performance, lower costs and a reduction in travel time. Today, smarter and more integrated workflow tools allow companies to respond to metrics in real-time and generate specific action steps based on the information being tracked. Technology is improving the overall customer experience. It has eliminated many of the pain points, secured an increase in sales, and a 20–40% percent increase in customer satisfaction.
So what will the new normal look like for the field force? Will there still be a need for the field force in this new normal?
The rep is and will be essential in delivering customer experience. People buy from people, and most key buying decisions will require human intervention to secure a positive outcome.
But the skill set needed is changing with time and this change has accelerated throughout the pandemic. The rep of the future will be collaborative, digitally-enabled, insight-driven and customer-centric. Field force excellence is and will remain key to securing customer engagement excellence and better business outcomes.
How can technology drive field force excellence?
Innovative technology like Pitcher is and always has been very important for customer engagement. Having the right content and the right insights at the right time makes all the difference in any customer interaction – remote or face-to-face. Being able to track the impact of an interaction, or simply being able to prepare an interaction through automation are real differentiators for achieving better engagement. Coaching, onboarding and training will complete the sales readiness for achieving excellence.