According to research by B2B International only 14% of large b2b organisations are truly customer centric where customer experience is ingrained in the company’s culture.
Furthermore consultancy firm McKinsey showed that improving customer experience from average to excellent could lead to a 30-50% increase in the likelihood to renew or repeat purchase.
Customers are more demanding of companies, average won’t do, its not just about delivering the product or service it’s about understanding the whole customer experience from contact to fulfilment and care. This means understanding the customer experience along the complete customer journey when doing business with you.
The board therefore needs to have a measure of the customer experience, as B2B International research states “This is an opportunity for b2b firms to differentiate their brands and generate higher revenues by delivering a superior customer experience.”
B2B International Research state there are a number of steps to improving customer experience, here we have added our own experience from advising clients.
1) Board level commitment
For the organisation as a whole to move to a customer centric approach requires leadership and commitment. This is not paying ‘lip service’ to customer centricity but a clear action oriented approach to ensuring excellence in the customer journey at each and every step.
2) Deliver what you promise
According to one of our clients their customer’s criteria used to be price and quality it’s now become quality manufacturing, lead time/availability and finally price. Customer needs and wants change they have emotional needs as well, buyers are risk averse, and they want an easy life, trouble and hassle free.
Make it a constant delight to do business with you; don’t let your customer down.
3) Making it easy to do business
How often when you call a company to get help do you find barriers in the way or multiple-choice menus that are organised for the company’s benefit and not that of the customer? As one customer said in a recent research study for a client “they should look at the situation from my point of view, understand my needs and wants then work backwards to organise around meeting this.”
Make it easy for a customer to buy from you, don’t make it hard
4) Being responsive
Time is money especially to a b2b customer and to your own company. Customers expect a speedy response to a query or when a problem arises that you are committed to resolve it in a timely manner. Communication is key to keeping customers happy when issues arise. Customers want to know they can believe and trust in your ability to deliver a hassle free solution.
Organise around delivering this consistently will help ensure a positive relationship, protect you from competitor offerings and can act as a differentiator.
5) Being proactive
This does not mean regular account meetings with the customer to review your overall performance. It means asking questions such as ‘what other needs do you have that we might be able to fulfil?’ and ‘Where can we improve our complete service offering that can help you?’
The buyer in an organisation is but one part of a larger decision making unit. There are also the end users of the product or service that your company supplies and their needs, wants and experiences will arguably be different than the buyer. Don’t be complacent, understand your customer and the users of your product or service, not just by business function or department.
Taking time to understand your customer in detail is an investment in your relationship with them.
It may sound simple but without customers there are no sales, no profit and no business.
Given how difficult, time consuming and costly it is to find and win new customers then the focus should be on keeping customers not giving them any reason to want to leave you.
Whilst KPI’s indicating customer satisfaction levels can be produced for the board on a regular basis, agruably the board needs to have more than a satisfaction indicator by business function. The number of customer enquiries by month, time to resolve issues, product return levels are business metrics that don’t provide context.
It may be helpful to introduce on the board agenda a ‘customer story – doing business with us, a customer perspective’ or social media reports as to the brand sentiment regarding your company, they can help give indications as to how you are viewed and early indications of issues before they become a burning fire.
Typical board papers will cover business function reports and unit financial reports. However the customer view or voice can often be overlooked or indeed not present at all.
It is arguably the most important item to have, for the future of the business ultimately depends on it.