Creating customer-centric change in a technology business
Among the world’s key industries, there is little doubt that high-tech is among the fastest-moving and most adaptive. Small wonder, perhaps, since it gave birth to all the digital tools and technologies that now power the world’s companies, governments, and communities.
Ever since Moore shone the first light on the growth rate of processing power, the pace of technology change has only accelerated. Today’s tech businesses continue to push back the boundaries of the possible, and champion digital transformation with fervour.
Yet, at an individual level, high-tech companies can find it just as tough as those in other sectors to adapt their business to the changing world.
Of all the pressures facing high-tech business leaders today, it is the urgency of securing and serving customers successfully and profitably that may be the most pressing.
Creating the changes that will ensure customers help drive you to the next level of success can seem daunting.
Satisfactory UX gives way to incredible CX
In the past, innovation was the lifeblood of a high-tech business. Firms focused on fielding the best products, at speed, to gain first-mover advantage and then stay ahead of the pack.
Software as a Service and XaaS changed the game. Tech firms pivoted into services businesses very fast. This certainly brought new opportunity. Yet it brought challenges too.
Now, customers need and expect more than ever. The value and experience they seek is not from products, but from providers.
Brilliant service has become the differentiator. Incredible experiences are dictating whether customers want to stay long-term – and what they say about you in the public domain.
Customer satisfaction can now make or break a brand. Securing, retaining, and renewing profitable customers can mean the difference between financial success and failure.
The concept of customer-centricity is far from new. However, in high-tech, it is now a critical success factor. Those who fail to make customer-centricity a priority may face oblivion.
It is the customer who determines what a business is, what it produces, and whether it will prosper. – Peter Drucker, 1954
Growing customer partnerships, not just accounts
Customers buying software as part of a service relationship look to providers to ensure they continue to gain ongoing new value from their investment, as they start to experience your upgrade cycles and become a part of your customer community.
The onus is on you to help them prepare for and leverage new functionality if you want each one to become a truly long-standing and profitable customer. It is time to embrace them into a circle of customers to encourage them to share, learn and surface new ideas that can power product development ideas and generate new opportunities.
Customer success has become about not just helping them succeed but entering a partnership in which your business succeeds too.
Customer-centricity needs company wide connections
Meaningful customer-centricity demands not only a connected business but one which recognises that the customer and their experience lie at the core of every operation.
Great relationships are not built by any one function. Every individual, team, and department will influence and impact customer experience. It is the sum of every impression, conversation, and interaction. Customers make no distinction between interacting with accounts payable, the service desk, or their account manager.
Customers seek a totally connected, seamless, harmonious journey from first sale, through delivery, through problem resolution, billing, and subscriptions. Instead, they often find jarring notes and irritations due to disconnected systems, disparate data, or departments working in isolation. Customer success managers may smooth over some issues, but not all.
This is now a continuous relationship, not a single transaction. Renewal and retention of customers and building long-term value and relationships have displaced simple sales volume measures as determinants of technology business success.
No change for customers without internal change for you
Connected customer-centricity done right will do more than simply introduce new systems and processes. It will shake up ideas about who owns what data, who carries the can for customer service, and who is ultimately accountable for customer satisfaction. It demands a whole company shift of mindset to unlock new collaboration around, and transparency for, the customer.
It requires a true change management approach that can only be driven from the top.
The most important aspect of any change is for there to be real ownership and vision at a leadership level, to aspire to transform how the entire organisation supports, engages, and nurtures its best customer relationships. Aspire is the first of five change leadership steps championed by McKinsey* which includes
- Aspire—Where do we want to go?
- Assess—How ready are we to go there?
- Architect—What must we do to get there?
- Act—How do we manage the journey?
- Advance—How do we continue to improve?
Leading a transition to a true customer-centric organisation has many facets, such as:
- Synchronising the operations of every function, to get everyone on the same page.
- Taking a fresh approach to data about customers to enable finance, sales, service, and more to collaborate to transform service for customers.
- Engaging and empowering not just managers but all employees, partners, and other stakeholders.
- Investing to create transparency and autonomous access to information for customers.
- Ensuring that you are equipped with strong insights about customers – or even ready to use the power of AI and predictive or prescriptive analytics.
- Perhaps most fundamental, integrating systems and processes to eradicate those gaps and disconnects between departments that erode revenue and deter customers from renewing.
To learn and explore in more depth how you can bring your finance, sales, service, customer success, and other teams into a customer-centric force for business success, download our new executive briefing “The connected and customer-centric high-tech business”.