Hello and welcome to Marketing magazine’s B2B blog.
The purpose of this blog will be to provide service providers and suppliers in business (B2B) markets with practical information and tips that will enable them to effectively understand and respond to customer requirements.
All industries are now facing increased competition from both local and international providers as well as more demanding customers. B2B markets also possess additional unique characteristics and challenges. These include:
- Complexity of deals, processes, technologies and solutions involved,
- high dollar value and high risks associated with B2B transactions,
- business customers’ demands for value based solutions, and
- the relationships and collaboration that exists between suppliers and customers.
The success of all organisations will be contingent on their ability to be truly responsive to customer requirements.
Becoming a truly customer-centric and responsive organisation means that service providers and suppliers must have an ongoing, data-driven systematic process that enables them to make decisions and take action. Therefore, my first set of blogs will be based on a theme:
Creating an action-oriented, customer-centric organisation.
An effective means to create such an organisation is what I refer to as the ‘value based action oriented approach’. This approach is comprised of four steps:
- Gather and analyse,
- execute and manage, and
This approach is applicable and used by not only ‘traditional’ B2B type industries such as technology and manufacturing, but also service oriented industries such as professional services.
Organisations that have successfully used this approach have experienced numerous benefits including:
- Increased sales,
- increased share of customer spend (often referred to as share of wallet),
- improved customer retention, and
- better customer relationships.
Throughout this initial blog series, I will discuss each of the four steps of the ‘value based action oriented approach’ including prerequisites, as well as some common obstacles and how they may be overcome.
We will begin by examining step one: gather and analyse.
The first step towards becoming customer centric and responsive is that you need to understand your customers. In order to gain an in-depth understanding of your customers, two types of customer feedback should be gathered:
- Ongoing feedback: feedback obtained in response to specific customer experiences such as a customer issue or complaint. These can be sourced from your call centres, customer service departments, as well as from your website and social media.
- Pulse monitoring: a systematic series of planned, direct engagement with customers and stakeholders. Being a customer responsive organisation will require that your organization has a large amount of detailed feedback which will help your company determine not just what needs to be done but also howit is to be achieved as well as the key issues and considerations involved. Therefore, your pulse monitoring should be a robust customer feedback program which include:
- Relationship surveys in which customers evaluate their overall relationship with your company as well as customer experience surveys in which customers evaluate their experiences around specific processes or functions, and
- In-depth customer feedback obtained through planned customer discussions such as customer visits, focus groups and customised research studies.
To really understand your customers, however, you must combine customer feedback (i.e. What they think of you) with how customers actually behave. Therefore you must integrate the customer feedback with behavioural data including sales data, campaign data and operations data. Analysing both the customer feedback and behavioural data will enable you to get a comprehensive view of your customers and understand their key customer requirements and value drivers. You may also want to consider breaking down the analysis by groupings of customers such as by sales region or customer segment, industry or practice area if its appropriate for your business.
In my next entry, I will discuss how you determine which needs you will address and the steps you need to take to address them.
Until next time,
Michael – your B2B Customer Guy!