The Top Five Obstacles to Customer Centricity in B2B Companies and How to Overcome them
Obstacle 5: Out of Date IT Tools
This is the fifth blog in our series based on the early results of research undertaken by Peter Lavers on customer centricity.
“My company has IT tools, capabilities or infrastructure that are either out-of-date or not being used effectively”
Only 9% of respondents ‘completely’ disagree with this statement, which means that the vast majority of B2B organisations aren’t where they want or need to be when it comes to IT enablement for customer management (CM).
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Most start the journey but…
The reason why this issue comes in 5th is that most have at least started their journey to IT improvement, but the 11% who ‘completely’ agree shows that this is still a substantial issue despite the massive real-terms cost reductions of deploying CRM functionality, e.g. Microsoft CRM.
It may seem unbelievable in 2016 that I am still speaking with B2B companies that still rely on product systems, ‘black books’, shared folders and manually-produced spreadsheets to manage and measure customer relationships in their business.
And success is by no means guaranteed for those already undertaking projects to improve their IT – please see my 4th blog in this series, which is about programmes or initiatives getting stalled, delayed or dropped before they fully deliver!
So, what’s stopping companies from 100% agreeing with the opposite of this obstacle: “My company has IT tools, capabilities and infrastructure that are up-of-date or are being used effectively”?
Well, here are some of the reasons with suggestions for how to begin resolving them:
- Leadership. Project sponsors who consider themselves too senior or too important to see and feel what it’s like to be a front-line employee are seriously letting their business down. If nobody on the senior team is losing sleep about customer relationship quality then it’s unlikely that the provision of the right IT tools will be prioritised. Also beware of projects where sponsor “pass the parcel” has been played – their likelihood of success reduces with every handover. As a start to addressing this, make someone accountable at the top table for the customer experience and relationship quality. Also make every senior manager spend time at the “coal face”
- Group Function or Outsourced IT. This is one of the biggest frustrations for staff working in large organisations. Work requests seem to be set up to give reasons for not doing things, and when approval is received your project is put at the back of a very long queue of routine or compliance-driven upgrades. The decision to centralise or outsource was often made for cost reduction reasons and consequently customer experience-driven initiatives get assessed against risk-biased (rather than opportunity-biased) criteria. We can help you improve customer-focused project definition, stakeholder engagement and supplier management, and would suggest a cross-functional customer centricity masterclass as a good starting point
- Disconnected Strategy. Many companies don’t actually have a customer strategy, so it is no surprise that the IT strategy doesn’t enable it! Strategies are often silo-led (see Blog 3 ), resulting in the prioritisation of product or channel tactical fixes rather than the customer experience. This tends to compound the problems discussed above! Sometimes an eager CIO who ‘gets’ customer experience will try and impose better tools in the hope that the business will adopt them and the culture will change, which likely will result in a poorly adopted system. The solution to this is, of course, a clear customer strategy that doesn’t reinvent the wheel but sets out what we are trying to achieve with customer management; who we are engaging with & when; and how we are going to do it. We can help you with this
Good management of customer information and the systems that store and share it is fundamental to good CM and the delivery of an appropriate, intelligent customer experience.
It is vital that the organisation delivers appropriate data to the account teams that need it to deliver the right customer experience and value-enhancing initiatives.
We can help you ensure that your significant investments in tools are not wasted by taking a systemic approach to joining up strategy and tactics, remembering that good people can cover up poor data & systems, but good systems can’t cover up poorly managed & motivated people!