Just do it – responding to business customers’ needs
Hello again, Everyone!
In my previous two posts, I have been discussing how organisations should gather, analyse and prioritise their business customers’ needs. In this entry, I will be talking about how you actually take action and respond to these needs. This is where the ‘rubber hits the road’. Unfortunately, however, it is also where many organisations fail.
In order to respond to those customer needs that have been prioritised, there are eight requirements that must be satisfied. These include:
Senior leadership endorsement
Your senior leadership team must agree and endorse that the customer needs identified are indeed the ones the organisation will address. Such endorsement is critical to help ensure that the initiatives identified obtain the necessary focus, resources and commitment needed for their successful completion.
Specific projects or programs of work should be designed to address each of the identified customer needs.
Each project or program of work should specify:
- Goals to be achieved,
- deliverables or output that customers will actually receive, and
- target customers or customer groups.
In some cases, a defined initiative may initially involve conducting additional research or analysis to gain a better understanding of issues such as execution requirements, feasibility and financial impacts.
Executing the projects or programs of work in most cases will require the assistance and input of various functional areas. Hence the project teams will need to be cross-functional with all the key areas represented.
Defined measures of success
As part of defining the specific initiatives to address specific customer needs, your organisation must also define what metrics will be used to determine their success. The measures used should also tie back to key organisational objectives. Some examples include customer perception scores, share of customer spend, customer retention and lifetime customer value.
It is important that you have defined metrics as they serve a number of key purposes such as:
- Providing an indication as to whether or not customer needs are being met and hence may be an indicator that initiatives may need to be revisited, and
- providing proof to senior management that such initiatives are indeed both meeting customer as well as the organisation’s requirements. This is critical in helping to maintain management’s commitment to and championing of customer-centric initiatives. In instances where only ‘pilot’ initiatives are being undertaken, such metrics are often vital to gaining senior management’s endorsement to rollout more customer-centric initiatives.
Integration into planning processes
To help ensure that customer needs are indeed actioned upon, the initiatives identified should be incorporated into your organisation’s business, customer and account plans. Doing so increases the likelihood that the initiatives are given the necessary visibility and attention as the execution of these plans are often a key performance measure.
Business unit champions
All business units and functional areas across the organisation need to have designated champions. These champions are selected by and have the support of senior management. The champion’s role is to ensure that their respective business units and functional areas are supporting and contributing to these customer centric initiatives as required. They will also report back to senior management on any issues and developments that may impact the projects.
Sharing of information
Successfully executing these customer-driven initiatives will require that the customer insights obtained are shared among the project teams and appropriate business units in the organisation. This will enable them to review and utilise the customer insights first hand to gain the necessary level of detail required in order to create the deliverables they are responsible for (such as programs, processes, products, systems and services) to meet customer requirements.
To facilitate the ease of information transfer across the organisation, it is recommended that your organisation develop a customer insights knowledge management system. It can be centrally managed and serve as a central repository for all of the customer insights that the business can use. Such systems need not be expensive to implement and can be customised to meet the needs of your organisation.
It is imperative that your organisation regularly communicates with its business customers and advises them as to what it both will and will not do in terms of their requirements and preferences.
Organisations often repeatedly ask customers what they want. However many do not explicitly advise their customers as to which needs they will not meet. Failure to do so can damage your relationship with your customers and result in negative word of mouth about your company and even possibly loss of customers.
By analysing customer needs and meeting the above requirements, B2B organisations worldwide have been able to successfully satisfy customer requirements while also driving business performance. One only needs to look at the likes of Adobe, Ceridian, Black and Veatch to see the impact of operating as truly customer-responsive organisations.
With continued increasing competition, uncertain and tough economic conditions and more demanding and savvy customers, adopting such strategic data driven approaches to business will be critical to the survival and success of your organisation.
Until next time!
Michael – Your B2B Customer Guy!