Prioritising B2B customer needs
Hello again, everyone!
In my first blog entry, I gave you an overview of the ‘value based action oriented approach’ which is a systematic, four-step, data-driven process to enable B2B organisations to make decisions and take actions in response to customer needs. I also discussed in detail step one: gather and analyse.
In this entry I will examine step two: Prioritise
After analysing both your customer feedback obtained through various means such as focus groups, depth interviews, surveys, call centres and social media as well as behavioural data such as sales data and operations data, you will have a detailed (and also likely a lengthy) list of your customers’ requirements and preferences regarding the products, services, programs, interactions and customer experience that they seek.
As suppliers and service providers you cannot, nor should you try to, satisfy all of your customers’ needs!
There are two key reasons as to why you should not do so:
First, your organization may not possess the resources and/or the capabilities to meet some of your customers’ requirements. Attempting to do so will likely result in your customers having a poor customer experience and not having their expectations met. This may result not only in your customers going to another provider but also creating negative word of mouth regarding your organisation and its offerings.
Word of mouth recommendations and referrals are a critical component of the B2B buying decision process. (Studies conducted have indicated that over 60% of B2B buyers will consult a peer before making a buying decision.) The power and influence of word of mouth is also now magnified exponentially due to the increasing use of social media. Therefore, such negative word of mouth can have catastrophic effects on your company’s brand as it is spread to potentially thousands of people worldwide.
The second reason why you should not attempt to satisfy all customer requirements that have been identified is that it may not make commercial sense to do so. Satisfying some customer requirements may require that your company incur significant costs (either as an initial investment and/or ongoing operating costs) that may not be offset by gains in incremental revenues and profits. After all, that is ultimately what all companies are in business for!
Assessing customer needs
To determine which customer needs should be addressed, a series of criteria should be developed to assess and prioritise customer needs. These criteria should be developed with cross-functional input. By cross functional input, I am referring to input from key departments that will likely need to be involved in addressing customer needs. Hence departments that should be consulted regarding the needs assessment criteria include products, sales, operations, engineering, customer service, marketing as well as client delivery and industry/practice areas in a professional services context.
The criteria that are developed must be mandated and endorsed by the senior leadership team as the primary means which the organisation will use to determine which customer needs will be addressed. This endorsement is also critical to ensure that identified customer requirements are actually addressed.
Possible criteria that should be used to assess identified customer needs include:
- Alignment with your company’s strategic objectives,
- financial impact (e.g. required investment, revenues and profitability),
- customer criteria:
- number of and which customers to be impacted,
- likely customer response,
- risk involved, and
- your company’s capabilities.
This assessment of customer needs may be completed by a specific team such as your marketing or strategy or alternatively by a centralised cross-functional team. The frequency that this will occur will depend on several factors such as the feasibility of your company to conduct such assessments as well as nature of your industry and the speed in which it operates.
In my next entry, I will discuss how to turn customer needs into actionable projects.
Until next time,
Michael – your B2B Customer Guy!