Customer First Requires Commitment and Change

“Getting closer to the customer” is an all-too-common goal of companies. While the refrain has a nice ring to it, enabling a strategy to deliver on the promise is not trivial. After all, we know that customers have more choices than ever before and  brand loyalty is only as strong as the most recent experience. When we are asked how to help on the mission of building a customer-engagement strategy and then we hear that the budget for this effort is one that never gets supported…. it creates some dissonance.

Given that many B2B brands are not effective at funding, building and sustaining programs that are customer-first, it is an area that is ripe for leadership. It isn’t as simple as the CEO stating the goal. It must be supported by a longer term vision, funding and commitment to building and deepening relationships – from there revenue will flow. There are three core elements to consider:

Behavioral Change:

Develop a set of measurements and metrics that will drive behavioral change for your teams. Measure areas like depth of client relationships, extension of recurring revenue, propensity to recommend, and why clients recommend. Incentivize the behaviors in your client-facing teams that will deliver upon those areas you are measuring.

Beyond Transactions:

If transactions are rewarded then transactional behavior will ensue. In our work with C-level executives, the single frustration they express is companies that don’t deliver on the promise of the contract and come back for more. It is the most brand-damaging behavior in the eyes of your client. “If they deliver on the commitments, deals will flow,” one CTO told us. Put pressure in the system for your teams to build relationships that will elevate your clients and the work you are doing. Trust that transactions will flow – because they do.

External Orientation:

Too often we hear – “well we want to do it that way because our CEO is coming to the session and that is what we think they will want.” Stop focusing your goals on the internal audience and start focusing on the external. Stop changing meetings with clients because your boss wants you at their meeting. Too often we hear from Advisory Board members that they are rescheduled because the vendor (our client) they work with had internal meetings. This sends a terrible message. If you are an internal executive – start to reward the behaviors that are client-first, and demonstrate them with your own actions.

To do customer engagement programs well, we must focus business-wide on the goal. To be successful, take a long-term view and commit to driving change that will involve all areas of the organization. Those companies that stay the course with their client-focused strategy will rise above.

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