You might say that a customer reference program is the secret weapon in a salesperson's arsenal.
Commonly used in enterprise B2B marketing, these programs are designed to jumpstart sales cycles. A customer reference manager typically seeks out and fulfills reference requests, which are then fed to sales and marketing for new client referrals or customer success stories and case studies.
First-person references do a great deal to influence future customer behavior and improve service. But a failure to properly manage feedback might render such references useless.
Juniper Networks, a manufacturer of enterprise networking architecture, with clients ranging from Tesla Motors to London City Airport, discovered that streamlining its reference program with Metia Enterprise Reference Manager helped improve the relationship between its sales and marketing teams.
The partnership between the two technology companies is not new, but Juniper underwent a significant platform upgrade last spring when it transitioned from the .NET 2.0 reference manager to .NET 4.0.
"Anyone who has been in the reference business can feel the pain of our colleagues who used cumbersome and complicated spreadsheets to manage their references," maintains Melissa Mertl, global customer reference program manager for Juniper Networks. "Because the process and systems were improved, the sales and marketing teams…can focus more on solutions and sales momentum than on administrative gathering of references."
With .NET 4.0, Juniper enhanced its customer reference manager experience—and was able to add 500 new customers and their references to the system.
Architecturally, operations improved as well. "We were able to reduce the number of stored procedures and database functions by about 95 percent, which, in turn, reduced the maintenance and complexity of the database," Mertl says.
Sales and marketing teams now have a streamlined user experience. An enhanced reference visualization tool allows users to sort references by region, type, or product. Team members now have an easier way to facilitate reference requests or fulfill customer-to-customer phone calls or emails.
Perhaps most indicative of Metia Enterprise's impact was employee adoption of the tool itself. Since the update, system usage has increased by about 221 percent among team members. The collaborative nature of the platform has allowed Juniper's sales team to be more "empowered," Mertl notes. On the flip side, its reference team has been able to deepen research and manage customer reference requests, bolstering the quality of those references.
Sales usage has more than doubled, Mertl says, because of the self-service nature of the system.
Juniper does not offer incentives to customers who serve as references, so the company needed to ensure that prospects did not overwhelm references with too many queries.
"The system helps to prevent customer burnout," Mertl emphasizes. "The upgraded system…has significantly reduced the risk that customers are overcontacted or contacted by multiple people for the same request."
While the crown jewel of the reference manager is its ability to internally improve Juniper's operations, the company also says it really helps provide customers with the information they need to make better business decisions.
"Metia's approach is about highlighting great customer wins—not just to drive sales, but to inform customers about their deployments and to understand how our existing customers' experiences can make their business better," Mertl says.
By using the Metia Enterprise Reference Manager System, Juniper Networks saw:
- team-member tool usage increase by about 221 percent;
- 500 new customers and their references added to the database; and
- a 95 percent decrease in stored procedures and database functions, which cut down on database maintenance.