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The Great Debate (4) – What Does Leading Edge Mean to B2B Customer Management?

In the fourth instalment of The Great Debate, three senior executives: Chris Russel of Luvata, Nigel Brotherton of Volkswagen Group UK and Mairead McSweeney of BT Business Ireland gave their perspectives of what leading edge means in their sector.

AS EVER, THE DEBATE GENERATED A LIVELY INTERACTIVE SESSION BETWEEN THE SPEAKERS AND THE AUDIENCE, HERE IS A SUMMARY OF THE KEY POINTS RAISED DURING THE DEBATE:

WHAT DOES LEADING EDGE MEAN TO B2B CUSTOMER MANAGEMENT?

WHAT IS CONSIDERED LEADING EDGE B2B SOCIAL ENGAGEMENTS?

  • “Ignorance isn’t bliss” – B2B can’t ignore social media and must listen and be ready to engage when and where their customers start to adopt it
  • Twitter should be used as a B2B medium, especially for thought leadership
  • So far it seems Facebook works well as a B2B tool in the US, but hasn’t done so here across the pond, where Brits tend to compartmentalise their business and personal profiles
  • Some great examples came to light from the audience – Toyota Handling, eBECS Yammer User Group, Reed Elsevier Exhibitions social log-in.

HOW TO KEEP CUSTOMER FOCUS AND LEADING EDGE TECHNICAL EXCELLENCE?

  • This is a tough nut to crack! Great technical experts often aren’t blessed with great interpersonal skills!
  • Initiate a Sales Academy with different modules that are tailored to the different roles – recognise the completely dissimilar learning aims!
  • Recruit for attitude & cultural fit first
  • This issue makes the Account Manager’s role even more vital – to ‘front’ technical people who perhaps have lower customer interaction skills – not to try and do it all – doesn’t work.

LEADING EDGE WAYS TO REWARD THE DELIVERY OF A GREAT CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE:

  • Firstly, have a clear line-of-sight for everyone to the end customer – know what the key touchpoints are and make it as seamless as possible
  • Integrate and maintain relationship quality KPIs in scorecards and commissions – this is key to building momentum and motivation; it trickles down from the top and makes cultural change easier
  • Know who your customer ambassadors are and support the staff that manage those accounts
  • Reward the top 10 CRQ ‘leaps’; then get them to nominate 3 non-sales people who contributed to the ‘leap’

INNOVATION VS. LEADING EDGE?

  • L Duncan is quoted as saying “Innovation is the ability to convert ideas into invoices” – there must always be commercially sensible application!
  • Innovation is a ‘buzz’ word but can be a curse if it’s not tested against customer needs. What is the point of innovation for innovation’s sake, if your customer does not benefit?
  • Many companies aren’t short of ideas, but do fall down in execution. Being leading edge is more about commercialisation than being the first to market with everything
  • Being leading edge isn’t just about PRODUCTS – or even NEW products! It’s about customer-centred ways of working (which include innovation & NPD)

To download the conference write up, click here.

Ellie Luk

Ellie’s career began in retail marketing for luxury and main stream brands over 20 years ago in London and in Hong Kong, where she was responsible for creating e-commerce platforms, initiating marketing strategies, developing B2B collaborations and partners and orchestrating customer events and conferences.

A keen project manager, Ellie is firm but patient in controlling and executing marketing communications, building B2B alliances, managing and developing the series of C-Level conferences “The Great Debate” for our B2B clients, enhancing customer relationship management and developing multi-channel customer strategies.