Customer Focus and Service Orientation


It's commonly believed that business-to-business (B2B) customers are uncommonly rational. The conventional wisdom is that, when buying for a business, customers are primarily concerned with objective factors such as price, speed, and efficiency. It is only when people buy things for themselves do they get emotional about their purchases.

That conventional wisdom is probably wrong.

In fact, B2B customers are possibly more open to becoming engaged than business-to-consumer (B2C) customers. Think about it: If you buy the wrong brand of socks for yourself, you'll be annoyed for the single day you wear them. But if you buy the wrong firewall and virus protection service for your company and then your company's computer network implodes, you might lose your job. Because professional reputations and careers can be made or broken by B2B purchases, B2B customer engagement may be even more fraught with emotion than B2C relationships.

Engagement pays

But what is that emotion? One might think it has a lot to do with interpersonal relationships, and you'd be right. But that's only part of it. Whether it's B2B or B2C, customer engagement is built on four hierarchical needs. The baseline requirement is rational satisfaction, which comes from satisfying a customer's basic needs of price, speed, and efficiency. 

Companies that fulfil these basic needs will have customers that are more likely to be loyal, to recommend the company to others, and to continue as a customer. B2B organizations must satisfy customers at that baseline level because that is, literally, the least they can do.

Customer satisfaction may be a necessary foundation for building strong customer relationships, but by itself, it won't predict future customer behaviour. The real difference in customer behaviour -- and profitability -- comes from customers who are both rationally satisfied and emotionally engaged with your product or service.

So how does a company with B2B relationships secure a sufficient level of engagement with its customers, particularly the top accounts that represent the bulk of its overall revenue? It must instil a sense of confidence with its customers, demonstrate its integrity, and create pride and passion around its brand and product or service offering.

The critical four elements of B2B engagement are Confidence, Integrity, Pride, and Passion.

If B2B customers are confident that the company will do what it says it will and that it has the integrity to treat customers fairly and resolve problems, if buyers are proud to be customers, and if its customers have a passionate conviction that there's no other B2B company like their favourite, then those customers are deeply emotionally engaged. And engaged customers have a profound effect on a company's bottom line.
Fully engaged customers deliver a 23% premium over average customers in share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth, while actively disengaged customers represent a 13% discount on the same measures, according to Gallup research.

Creating an impact
B2B businesses that want to take a disciplined approach to engaging customers first must identify what, exactly, causes customer engagement while maintaining the brand promise that made them attractive in the first place. The next step is to determine what actions they need to take to create an impact for their customers. "Impact" occurs when the B2B Company, through its products and services and the breadth of its interactions with the customer, produces meaningful change in the customer's business.

A B2B company will know it has created an impact when its customer can say: "This Company knows my business and brings me new ideas. Our relationship enables me to create product innovations, new approaches to markets, and more efficient processes."

B2B companies that employ this approach are able to shift their customer relationships from price to advice. This not only fosters customer engagement, it provides a "stickiness" that is difficult for competitors to duplicate because it is often based on access that competitors won't have -- and it more than offsets the value of any proposed price reduction or discount. This doesn't negate the value of the more functional drivers of engagement, particularly those related to quality, utility, service, and responsiveness; to ensure growth, a B2B company still must meet customers' needs on the functional drivers of engagement. But emotional engagement also must be driven by the belief that a B2B company can -- and will -- produce tangible change and impact for the customer.

I acknowledge the source of the overview as http://businessjournal.gallup.com

The Plan of Action for the Learning and Development intervention:

v     Creating a Customer-Centric Model as the very basis of customer focus & service orientation within the organisation: A Top-down approach emanating from the Leadership team. Very clearly and firmly establish the fact that the Leadership team “want-to-and-like-to” deal with customers. This can be achieved through conscious involvement of the Leadership team to the desired change of creating a Customer-Centric Model, within the organisation through communication and employee engagement initiatives.

v     Constructing the architecture of the ‘customer-centric’ model through establishing the ‘ideal customer focus and service orientation’ traits for the organisation. Once the ‘ideal’ is established we plot the ‘present status’ through the concern validation exercise which includes observing the role holder’s in action, probing techniques, usage of HR inventory & tools etc. The CVE helps us identify the GAP and thus help in creating the learning design and the content for the training.

v    Identifying a ‘control group’ from among the participants, with the aim of creating Service Champions who gets to attend the pilot programme and subsequently gets certified as in-house facilitators for onward and ongoing ‘learning transfer’ within the organisation. The Control Group would also allow us to adjudge and assess the anticipated change in their outlook to customer focus and service orientation as against others, which will act a strong influence with their peer and subordinates. The Role Models would be identified by the respective business functions and line managers in consultation with the HR get nominated as the ‘Service Champions’.

v  Recommend quarterly review and feedback mechanism to align the customer focus and service orientation initiative to adapt itself to the visible and inconspicuous changes in business scenario, efficacy and application of the learning and the business impact thereby. 

v   The areas that have been identified, which would serve as the basis for constructing the Customer Focus        and Service Orientation.

ü      Defining Customer Delight.
ü      Creating multiple ways for your customers to easily communicate with you.
ü      Immediate problem solving with customers.
ü      Suggesting alternatives instead of saying that the customer is wrong.
ü      Customers know more.
ü      Customers’ needs
ü      New ideas to help your customers make money or save money.
ü      Ownership, Accountability, Responsibility and Follow-up.
ü      Commitment to customers – the limits, checks and boundaries.
ü      Customers living by your rulebook.
ü      Smart Probing and Intelligent Questioning as a measure of empathy.




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