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What would you ask your best customer if you could sit down to have a coffee with her?

If your aim is to improve the relationship, your best bet would be to talk about her experience with your company and to ask her what's working and what's holding the relationship back.

The customer experience is critical: More than half of customers are ready to switch to a competitor after a single negative experience. But, on the flip side, companies that focus on providing a positive, personalized customer experience report profits that are 60% higher than those who don't.

So, the effort you put into the customer experience can make or break your brand in the eyes of your customers.

The Start/Stop/Keep Technique

The key to showing your customers you're committed to the relationship is to embrace their feedback, especially if it's negative, and take specific actions to improve the experience.

One of the best ways to ensure you have meaningful conversations with your customers is to deploy the start/stop/keep technique by asking...

  1. What new behavior your business should start
  2. What practices you should stop
  3. What activities you should keep

We've all experienced the magic of the start/stop/keep approach in one form or another, whether in personal or work relationships. It works because it implicitly acknowledges two central truths: Feedback is key for a successful relationship, and so is acting on the feedback you receive.

That's why the start/stop/keep technique can be such a natural starting point for customer engagement, improving communication and transforming customers' relationships with your brand.

How Start/Stop/Keep Builds Responsiveness Into Your Business DNA

Most B2B businesses keep track of customer sentiment with surveys.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys, which ask whether customers would recommend the company to a friend or colleague, are especially popular; almost two-thirds of Fortune 1000 companies using this method. Other customer satisfaction surveys ask customers to rate their experience. These types of surveys can provide extremely valuable insight, so if you're currently deploying them, keep it up.

Consider a survey created using a start/stop/keep design, which will help you build responsiveness into your B2B team's DNA as you engage your customers.

You need responsiveness as a core value now more than ever: 72% of customers want immediate service. We are in a period of exponential growth and change for B2B companies, and your survey data can help you navigate challenges and capitalize on hidden opportunities.

The good news is that emerging technology, including generative AI, is providing tools to help B2B teams thrive in this environment. But it will take a concerted effort to make sure responsiveness is a core value at every point of interaction, and that starts with ensuring you reach as many customers as you can.

Casting the widest net possible means having the start/stop/keep conversation with customers across all channels, including chat, text, call, email and voice-first devices. B2B customers expect omnichannel options to make a purchase and communicate with brands. With real-time data powering automated messaging technology, B2B organizations can reach customers where they are, carrying on the conversation across multiple platforms.

Such a strategy requires integrated data and the ability to capture opt-ins for communication and opt-outs when a service is no longer needed. The system should also be capable of identifying customer preferences for outreach, including the platforms they prefer. B2B organizations that have these assets in place are ready to have the start/stop/keep conversation with customers at scale.

The organizations that thrive in the future will be those that are flexible and receptive to feedback at every touchpoint with customers, soliciting feedback on what customers like, what they dislike, and what they'd like to see more of in the future. That's how brands stay relevant in a dynamic, ever-evolving marketplace.

Action and Speed Are Critical

As a memorable marketing campaign once put it, life comes at you fast. That's true in our personal lives and in B2B marketing: Product demand and ideal customer profiles can change more quickly than ever, and sometimes dramatically in a short period.

It's imperative that you have a customer engagement strategy capable of receiving feedback at a rapid pace so you can understand how customer needs are changing, and then adjust your approach to keep up as their expectations evolve. It's critical that data be fully integrated and refreshed in real time so you always have the latest information at your fingertips.

With a start/stop/keep approach, you'll get more specific data than what organizations typically receive from NPS outreach and customer satisfaction surveys, and that will give you an edge in retaining your best customers.

Feedback is a gift, even if it's negative. The feedback you receive may not always be easy to hear—sometimes customers will tell you they don't value a program or feature you've invested in with the best intentions.

But knowing what your customers are thinking and taking quick action to respond to their preferences is how you generate loyalty, and that's the greatest gift you can receive from your customers.

So, as you think through your customer engagement strategy, consider the start/stop/keep approach to deepen customer relationships.

More Resources on Customer Feedback and Engagement

How to Use Voice of the Customer in B2B to Improve CX and Increase Engagement

Why Your Customer Experience Metrics Are Lying to You

Why VoC and CX Can't Be One Size Fits All

How to Capitalize on Customer Feedback: Three Loyalty-Boosting Steps

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Start/Stop/Keep: A Better Customer Engagement Strategy

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image of Tara Kelly

Tara Kelly is the founder, president, and CEO of SPLICE Software, a customer engagement company that specializes in using big data, small data, and artificial intelligence to create messages that drive customer engagement and the desired call to action.

LinkedIn: Tara Kelly