Most business-to-business (B2B) organisations talk about being customer centric. Some go further and say they have a deeply embedded culture of listening and adapting to their customers' needs.
These statements are easy to make but very hard to live every day in an organisation when there are many competing priorities, messages and a lot of people.
Insync is passionate about helping organisations enhance their performance - building a customer centric culture is crucial to that. Insync's extensive research shows that listening and adapting to customers' needs is one of the business habits that differentiates high performance organisations from low performance ones.
Accordingly, there's a significant return on investment that can be gained from genuinely creating a customer centric culture in a business-to-business setting. Here's how:
Your employees won't look after your customers unless you look after your employees. You won't have a happy customer on one end of the phone if you have a disengaged employee on the other end. It's that simple.
Not enough leaders realise that they won't be successful in building a truly customer centric culture if they're failing to support and empower their employees.
A highly engaged workforce will genuinely care about your customer focused initiatives.
The next step in your journey to customer centricity is to define value from the customer's perspective with a Customer Value Proposition. Your customer's view of the world needs to become the driving force of everything you do and how you do it.
Defining and delivering a strong CVP will enable your organisation to deliver a customer experience that meets their needs and adds value, resulting in high levels of loyalty and advocacy. It will also give potential customers a compelling reason to choose your products, services and solutions over others, thus creating a real competitive advantage.
It's important to understand and map the customer journey to ensure your organisation is clear on where your customers' main potential pain points are, where value is added to their business and where there are opportunities to provide even greater value. The customer journey needs to be understood for the different market segments you're pursuing. Encourage your staff to get to know the businesses you're working for.
For example many organisations service lower spend customers using repeatable systems and processes whereas higher spend customers are more likely to desire increased customisation. High spend customers often require a high touch service. The customer experience in all areas, including with an organisation's systems and its people, needs to achieve the desired outcome.
The big banks have this figured out well - they have good online banking systems for thousands of everyday small businesses yet also have private banks with a highly personalised and multifaceted face-face service for higher paying customers.
Most organisations have an annual plan to listen to their customers by using some sort of customer survey, by holding customer focus groups or the like. Post service reviews are also often carried out with accounts to better understand their feedback.
However, fiercely competitive organisations are now gaining instant feedback from their customers. They are learning from their Business-to-Consumer (B2C) counterparts that are often way ahead in this field.
High performance B2B organisations are embedding a customer advocacy monitor into the way they interact with their customers. Their customers are asked important but brief questions about their experience at key points on their journey and that feedback is reported in real time. Insync and others provide customer advocacy technology that includes a self-serve portal from which surveys to clients can be launched.
But in some ways the technology is the easy part. Ensuring employee acceptance and take up of the new technology and the related systems required to act on improvement initiatives can be the harder part. In our work with clients we find that implementing change management can be their biggest challenge and that's often where we're required to provide a lot of guidance over many months.
Key customer outcomes need to be made visible, regardless of whether annual customer surveys or ongoing customer advocacy monitors are used. The Net Promoter Score (NPS)* has become a well recognised and common measure of customer loyalty and advocacy. Many organisations have an ongoing NPS measure of their products/services and of their people. They also set a budget for both and measure and report against such on a regular basis.
A professional services firm we work with incentivises managers based on their customer metrics and includes the results in their departmental and organisation-wide scorecards.
Organisations that use Insync's or an alternative customer advocacy monitor are able to see customer measures including trends in real time. Measures over time may be shown by location/region, product or service and even by sales person. Customer advocacy monitors can also be developed in multiple languages and the results can be consolidated across regions. Customers' written comments to questions can also be themed and displayed in word clouds with hyperlinks to the relevant customer comments.
The way an organisation handles customer feedback, and in particular negative feedback, has a significant bearing on its success. A customer who has a negative experience can be turned into an advocate if the negative experience is dealt with well and in a timely way. Encourage your CEO to regularly pick up the phone and call a difficult client. Don't be afraid of admitting mistakes and proactively doing all you can to make it up to the client.
Obviously, if a customer's negative experience is handled poorly or not dealt with at all the customer's negative perception will be magnified. Depending upon the severity of the customer's concern this can result in the loss of a customer and ongoing negative word of mouth in your chosen sector.
While individual customer follow up is important it is also necessary to address the systemic issues relating to specific products/services, locations and/or individuals. This is much easier to do when all customer feedback is held within one customer advocacy portal.
By following these tips for embedding business-to-business customer advocacy, organisations are far more likely to delight customers and achieve high performance.
* Net Promoter Score and NPS are registered trademarks of Bain and Company, Satmetrix Systems and Fred Reicheld