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Exceed customer expectations

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By Jennifer Tomlinson
Creating long lasting relationships

Microsoft continually delivers ongoing research projects to improve marketing skills for our community of partners. They allow us to identify best practices that will help marketers make smarter choices and cultivate ROI.

Microsoft worked with the International Data Corporation (IDC) to create the e-book, Next-Gen Partner Marketing: How to Meet Higher Customer Expectations and Win Their Trust. In it, we explore how marketers are using changing customer expectations to create longer lasting, more profitable relationships.

Hierarchy of Customer Expectations

A big challenge today is customer-centricity. Customers have higher and more personal expectations for brands, and impressing them requires a shift away from volume and towards value. IDC’s Hierarchy of Customer Expectations helps marketers rethink their approach to customer relationships with five levels of customer needs.

  1. Consent: “Give me a reason to tell you about myself.” Build and maintain trusted relationships with transparent data stewardship.
  2. Personalization: “Communicate on my terms.” Make every interaction relevant to each customer.
    3. Recommended actions: “Anticipate my needs.” Guide customers through a journey of progressive learning.
  3.  Continuity of service: “Know my whole relationship with you.” Connect interactions across customer-facing functions.
  4.  Mentor marketing: “Improve my personal/professional life.” Invest in the future challenges, decisions, and life/career path of each individual.

Customer data ownership

Thinking about marketing in terms of customer expectations means turning data ownership and ethics into a human matter.

This year, the marketing industry crossed a threshold. Customers want transparency in the business relationship and consent is now a key part of the marketing process. Opt-in used to be a moment for marketers to add a name to their database until the recipient opted-out. Instead of thinking about opt-in as a singular moment of permission, modern marketers are thinking of consent as a continuous process in which increasingly valuable content is used to get increasingly valuable information.

Customer strategies

The study contains dozens of examples of how innovative Microsoft partners are using these new ideas to go to market. Here are three strategies to help you differentiate your brand:

1. Retune your company to customer centricity
To please your customers, your brand should gradually reorient around their experiences and expectations. Over time, they’ll start preferring you as their source of information and destination for their hard-earned money.

To make this work, brands must watch for both engagement and disengagement.

“We use several technologies that look at lead scoring and user journey scoring. We’re using artificial intelligence and machine learning to understand a user’s journey and set them off on a different journey based on behaviors. We’re continually educating our customers, and learning from where they’ve disengaged with our content.”

-Microsoft partner RedPixie

2. Teach a single customer how to love you
If you can build a mutually rewarding relationship with a single customer, you can do it for a crowd. Start small, pick one of your best clients, and build an experience just for them. Learn from the experience, hone it, and apply that learning to other scenarios.

When you pay attention to one customer, it’s as if you’re teaching them how to get the most out of your product and service.

“Turn your content into a curriculum and guide your customers through it based on their individual needs and goals. Along with the many tactical examples in our research, these practices will advance your marketing to new levels of effectiveness and engagement.”

– Gerry Murray

3. Give value in the way customers want
Many small businesses are afraid to annoy customers and view marketing activities as potential intrusions. But if you’re providing real value, you can’t be annoying.

When engaging customers, focus on creating interactions that meet them where they are. Use the channels they’re using, align with their orders of preference, and speak how they speak.

“The channels we use on social are Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and in some cases, Instagram, because the small-business owners that we’re dealing with nowadays are getting younger, and have been more exposed to that social channel. We don’t invest equally in all four. LinkedIn would be the best, followed by Facebook, followed by Twitter, followed by Instagram.”

– Microsoft partner Big Red Cloud

As customer-centricity evolves, brands can learn from each other. The data we’ve collected from partners like you is an educational resource to help all partners match and surpass customers’ rising expectations.

” Microsoft partners should know that they are just as capable of innovative marketing as their larger competitors, perhaps even more so. Today, customers expect more than just plain old marketing, so partners need to go beyond lead generation or branding. Marketers should learn to leverage their position at the center of their customer’s universe and enable every customer to learn from the collective experiences of others like them. Treat customers’ data like it was your own, protect it, and use it for their benefit. ”

– Gerry Murray, IDC Research Director


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