It’s hard to believe that the Credit Crunch hit the global economy a whole decade ago!
Readers in their mid-thirties and under may not have experienced anything in their professional lives that hasn’t had an ‘austerity’ cloud hanging over it. Indeed, it has impacted and continues to affect all sectors.
I have been working with clients in my field of Customer Management (CM) over this historic decade, sharing the joys and pain of championing the customer-centric agenda in business.
Here are four developments that I believe are seismic changes in B2B customer/supplier relationship building. It is by no means all doom and gloom, and within each there is a lesson for the future:
1. Product-centric business models are dying.
In response to the Credit Crunch I published a report ten years ago entitled “The Importance of the Customer Experience (CX) in a Down Economy”. We foresaw both the B2B and B2C sectors reverting to short termism and indiscriminate cost cutting – and we were right! Many companies decided to focus on “core business”, which effectively meant the old 4 P’s – product, price, place, and promotion. In B2B, high levels of consolidation on both the supplier and customer sides has raised the importance of effective Key Account Management (KAM) of strategically vital partner relationships. Some companies are wondering why the good times haven’t returned and how come it is that they have to fight on price alone for every sale. They are also spending fortunes on “digital transformation” programmes, but I would argue that these will only result in a stay of execution unless their fundamental business model shifts to customer centricity.
I would urge you to fight for customer centricity in your business and in its operating model, doing everything you can to avoid “digital” just becoming another silo that adds complexity and inconsistency into the customer experience.
2. Trust has been eroded.
Customer empowerment means that people now decide for themselves who to trust and via which medium. This has been exacerbated by high-profile scandals in several sectors, principally financial services, automotive and retail. We passionately believe that trust is THE vital component of B2B customer relationship management – so much so that my fellow Director Mark Hollyoake is currently studying for a Doctorate on it specifically in B2B.
I believe that every company needs to be explicitly measuring and managing trust internally and externally to recover lost ground and/or protect the trust they’ve built, recognising it for what it is – one of your (if not the) most valuable business assets.
3. Insight dependency and democratisation.
Giant leaps have been made in the disciplines of customer insight that businesses must embrace – Data Science, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cognitive Marketing, etc. And I’m not just talking about your Business Intelligence departments! The companies that will prosper will be the ones that enrich their decision-making processes with accessible insight, and empower their people to make a difference. The in-parallel emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Super Connectivity has meant that knowledge is being democratised outside of your business, too.
You need to be making best utilisation of your data and insight to benefit all your customer groups in some way. Sharing some of this insight with at least your key customers will enhance trust, value and loyalty within the relationship.
4. Omni-channel, instantaneous and interactive.
Ten years ago, our business language was full of ‘funnels’, ‘pipelines’, ‘triggers’, ‘channel shift’, and ‘contact plans’. We’ve learned a painful lesson that customers don’t conform to our processes and preferred channels! I define the omni-channel customer experience as “how a company unifies its business capabilities to make and deliver on sales and service promises to prospects and customers wherever they are in THEIR journey and consistently in ALL the channels they choose.” The outside-in customer journey is at the heart of the omni-channel approach, which is individual and dynamic.
We must keep investing in real-time and cognitive insight, personalisation, interaction and response tools. The phrase “right place at the right time” is often used when it happens accidentally – we have GOT to start engineering ourselves into that position rather than leaving it to chance!
I truly hope that we’ve learned as businesses over the last decade, and that the next decade will be one of customer centricity, trust creation, insight democratisation, and omni-channel engagement.
Please get in touch if you need some help.
- Delivering Customer Centric Strategy - January 12, 2024
- Customer Centricity Corner with Peter Lavers – What customer centricity means in a intermediated business model. - October 4, 2023
- Customer Centricity Corner with Peter Lavers – the difference between customer strategy and sales strategy in B2B - July 26, 2023