In the C-Suites of many B2B firms, there is recognition that growth and differentiation require a holistic, customer-first orientation. But how to make it happen … and fast?
In meeting after meeting with our clients, executives are the first to admit that they are playing catch up to their end customers – whose changing needs and expectations are influenced by their consumer as well as professional experiences. B2B buyers are expecting a total experience as frictionless, personalized and intuitive as when they buy books on Amazon.
Getting traction fast starts with helping executives really understand their business from a customer lens. In our experience, it can be shocking – and a critical catalyst for change.
C-Suite priorities have, of late, focused on increasing efficiencies throughout the firm. They may tout savings derived from their supply chain, from tightened terms with their channel partners to offshoring key work processes. Everything from organizational structure to employee policies are impacted in the never-ending drive to make the company more efficient. Where’s the customer?
The use of Customer Journey Maps helps executives to see and internalize how corporate policies and decisions may undermine both customer experience and corporate revenue. Business customers, for example, want to go to one source to buy products and not deal with numerous divisions with different policies and approaches. Corporate decisions to save on packaging may make getting a consumer product out of the box and setting it up a frustrating “I’m never buying this product again!” customer experience.
So ultimately, the first step in becoming customer-first at an enterprise level is C-Suite bravery – a willingness to confront all of the issues faced by customers and reinforced by employees. Next, C-Suite leaders need to take comprehensive steps to consider – and prioritize – all of the ways the company needs to change to close the experience gaps that are undermining customer engagement and corporate growth.
The Customer Journey Map is a critical tool because it can paint an emotive picture for executives of the optimal end-state, all the current problem areas and a range of ideas to close the gaps. That could include devising new ways of organizing products based on customer needs, making packages easier to open, or resolving a customer-experience issue the first time a customer calls.
These examples may seem small. And on their own, that’s true. In practice, though, customer-centric enterprise strategies may have hundreds of fixes. Enabling those fixes may require significant changes to organizational structure, processes, and operations. And the delivery of a total, improved, customer-first strategy is based on employees who need training, motivation, and empowerment to deliver against customer needs and expectations.
A customer-first transformation seems daunting, but a company can go from kickoff to implementing change and seeing visible traction within three business quarters. Speed and progress just require the executive team to focus on answering three questions:
- How can I get the entire executive team – across every function and region, not just marketing – completely aligned on what the customer-centric vision looks like? And how it changes the priorities of the whole company?
- How do we then figure out the organizational, cultural and operational changes that need to happen to truly improve the way the total company engages with customers?
- How should we subsequently get employees engaged, educated and ready to deliver on customer-first?