Transformation and Change Must Not Trump Customer Engagement

The purpose of a business is to create a customer.” Peter Drucker

Most businesses today are going through or are about to go through a major change. Most of us now agree that constant change is the new normal, but the move to drive change has made me question if some companies aren’t turning the change crank too far. In discussions with hundreds of executives I’ve heard every one talk about the number of change initiatives they are trying to balance. When I ask how often they are with their clients – too frequently I hear answers that are very small. Why is this happening? I believe it is because this focus on driving constant, high paced change is putting the priority on internal organizational shifts and other challenges rather on the ‘purpose of the business – the customer.’

Competitors are Meeting with Your Customers

Yes change may be the new normal, but the other new normal is your competitors are meeting with your top clients – regularly. This distraction with internal change and lack of focus on the purpose of the business has some B2B leaders in a predicament because the third reality is that today:

Brand loyalties do not run very deep.

The combination of these three challenges:

  1. Distraction with internal change
  2. Competitors in your clients’ business
  3. Fleeting brand loyalties

present a significant hurdle and competitive risk and it is particularly painful for B2B businesses where one customer can control multi-million to billion dollar contracts.

“Inside are Costs, Outside are Results.” Peter Drucker

While all of our businesses must be agile and ready for change it is important that we not lose sight of engaging our customers. We must connect to what matters to our customers and drive change through that lens. One supply chain executive recently told me he fights against the internal turmoil by focusing on the customer. “I don’t go to half of the internal meetings I should attend because I prefer to talk to the customer. I learn more. I stay grounded and in the end I drive better results and that’s all that matters.”

So what should you do if you are in an organization distracted with change? Here are some tactics to improve customer engagement:

  1. Build a cadence and mandate that you and your organization must meet customers regularly, regardless of internal commotion.
  2. Test your change initiatives with your top clients through a set of meetings, advisory board sessions or other forums. Change that is not representative of the market need and desire will not succeed.
  3. Bring clients into your internal meetings. We’ve invited CIOs, CMOs and others into our clients’ marketing sessions to help them reflect upon their work through the client lens.

It is time for us to make sure that in our desire to stay ahead we aren’t solely pressing the change button and distracting ourselves internally without a sense of what matters to the customer. Instead of sitting in 14 internal meetings about the next thing that has to change – take your team on a field trip to your customer. Engage in a discussion about what matters most to them and why they are investing in your business. You might find that what they want you to do most is focus on their goals and not get mired in your own organizational struggles.



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