Why creating customer centricity is critical for competitive advantage in business services
Business services is a challenging place to operate these days. No matter what your focus is, selling services into a recovering business marketplace will stay tough throughout the remainder of the pandemic, and beyond.
Leaders are well aware of the difficulties of a business services mission. Whether you operate in technical, professional, consulting, financial, or media services, it isn’t easy to win new business. To generate fast, accurate pricing and proposals that both convince prospects and assure margins. To achieve the high-efficiency levels in service delivery that enable meaningful profit. Or to differentiate your brand, services, and products from the pack.
What are the benefits of creating connected & customer-centric business services?
Today, your task is not just to convince an over-served business marketplace that your services are perfect for them to get a contract signature. That’s only the beginning. True success lies in retaining and renewing their custom, in the face of hungry competitors.
Customer centricity is now critical for competitive advantage, financial success, and even survival. If customers aren’t sufficiently engaged, given answers they need, and effortlessly able to interact with every part of your business in a consistent manner, they can leave – and tell the world why.
What is customer-centricity anyway?
Over the years, customer centricity has been described in many ways.
It was originally mooted by management guru Peter Drucker in 1954 when he stated: “It is the customer who determines what a business is, what it produces, and whether it will prosper.” Although many companies have embraced it significantly, it has too often become a glib phrase of “putting the customer first” in many a mission statement and considered as solely within the domain of the sales team.
Gartner’s definition has more depth. It states that “Customer-centricity is the ability of people in an organization to understand customers‘ situations, perceptions, and expectations. Customer-centricity demands that the customer is the focal point of all decisions related to delivering products, services, and experiences to create customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.” [Gartner Glossary 2021]
Yet even this does not really help a leader trying to ‘create’ customer-centricity to know where to start. Unless you bake this change deeply into the organisation, you can still risk only thinking about the customer at a superficial level. It’s not enough simply to encourage everyone to ensure customers are ‘the focal point of all decisions.’
The organisation itself needs to be structured around the customer. Every team, function, and individual needs to have a fundamental purpose of not just keeping customers happy but ensuring that the company is able to maximise relationships. They must all support retention, revenue, and opportunity by ensuring consistent, unbroken, and truly satisfying customer experience – and do so continually.
Creating customer-centricity requires recognition that every function in the business is interdependent. Finance needs to understand the customer as deeply as the delivery team if they are to ensure every customer account query creates a great experience, for example. It means synchronising functional processes, reshaping workflows, and enabling complete collaboration around and with the customer.
True customer-centricity involves integrating and connecting the processes and handoffs between departments, instead of working in a disconnected way. Breaking down the traditional boundaries between the front and back office, enabling everyone to rely on crystal clear and easy access to the same customer data and collaborate for their, and your, business success. Equipping everyone with the tools to automate and speed up key stages, from powerful Configure, Price, Quote automation tools that help to secure profitable opportunities faster, through to Professional Services Automation platforms to power great service delivery. A connected approach makes it possible for the whole team to wow your customers from the very first quote through to final delivery.
The old, linear way of seeing customer relationships is simply no longer fit for purpose. Instead, the customer needs a continuous, self-sustaining, and satisfying journey that is helped along at every touchpoint, by every team – from sales to service, to finance. Each needs a more informed view – for example, a more holistic and deeper understanding of the cost to serve each customer is needed to determine customer lifetime value, nurture customers appropriately, and ensure profitability.
Competitive advantage is acquired by companies that stand out from the crowd. In business services, this means brands that are not only about excellence of service but about excellence of relationship – which is based firmly on customer experience. Changing this at scale and for the long term is no mean feat – and it can only be driven from the top.
In our latest guide for business services leaders, Creating connected & customer-centric business services, we explore the relationship between customer-centricity and the ability to retain customers, reduce costs and build revenues by connecting the organisation.