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B2B Organic Growth Remains Elusive

B2B Organic Growth Remains Elusive
by Ed O'Boyle and Amy Adkins

Story Highlights

  • Current levels of customer engagement aren't a recipe for organic growth
  • B2Bs need to build a customer-centric operating model
  • One predominant factor in a customer-centric model: B2Bs' people

Business-to-business (B2B) companies face an ongoing problem: Only 29% of their customers are fully engaged, according to a Gallup report. Their remaining customers are either indifferent (60%) or actively disengaged (11%). This lack of engagement isn't a recipe for organic growth -- that is, for getting more business from current accounts.

One solution is to focus more intensely on customers by building a customer-centric organizational model.

By doing a deep dive into customer analytics, such as key account reviews, customer surveys and driver analyses, B2B companies can learn what their customers need and want from them. The real sticking point comes in knowing how to act on all of that information.

Companies need a plan for transforming their current operating model to a customer-centric one. Many moving parts make up customer centricity -- from having a clear customer engagement strategy to talking with customers to creating a plan of action.

Developing this model comes down to four phases, which Gallup has categorized as discovery, diagnostic, analytic and sustainment. Within each of these phases, Gallup has also identified common tasks that enable companies to understand and act on the voice of the customer.

The Four Phases of a Customer-Centric Operating Model

Discovery: This phase involves evaluating the current state of the customer relationship. Some of the tasks associated with this phase include:

  • conducting stakeholder analyses to identify the current customer landscape
  • identifying the B2B company's needs and priorities
  • exploring the B2B company's existing world, including its account structure, its organizational language and culture and any prior metrics used to evaluate the customer relationship
  • building or refining a customer engagement and impact strategy
  • creating a customer list and relationship map

Diagnostic: This phase includes conducting qualitative and quantitative analyses. Some of the tasks associated within this phase include:

  • conducting a key account review
  • gathering key account review findings to gain insights into customer accounts
  • using key account review insights to make recommendations
  • sharing best practices based on insights and recommendations
  • carrying out an ethnographic study of customers
  • identifying key priorities for customers

Analytic: This phase synthesizes the findings and insights from the discovery phase to identify the key drivers of the customer experience and how the B2B company is performing on them. Some of the tasks associated with this phase include:

  • identifying the key drivers that propel the customer relationship forward
  • gauging the company's success with the key drivers
  • linking the key drivers to customers' priorities and conducting a gap analysis
  • making connections among the findings from the discovery phase

Sustainment: This phase pinpoints specific steps to improve the customer experience. Some of the tasks associated with this phase include:

  • creating an action plan to transform the customer experience
  • identifying quick wins to improve the customer relationship
  • implementing a strategy to communicate the results throughout the company
  • communicating progress with customers to ensure they understand the company's efforts to improve the relationship

Recognizing the People Factor

Of course, there is one predominant factor in a customer-centric model: people. If a B2B company wants to transform its culture, it has to ensure that employees at all levels understand what customer centricity means for the business and how to deliver on it.

  • Leaders need to hear the voice of the customer to improve the company's customer relationships and its business outcomes. They have to take accountability for generating a holistic culture shift and for creating processes to build strong, vital relationships that support business results.
  • Managers set the tone for improving customer relationships by targeting the key drivers with the greatest impact on customers' overall experience.
  • Individual contributors who work daily with customers are the face of the company to them. Helping individual contributors understand the importance of improving the customer relationship is the ultimate catalyst for creating change.

Taking a Holistic Approach

Customer centricity involves a clear and sustained focus on the customer, but this can't happen in a vacuum. Companies can't deliver real value to customers without considering all of the parts and pieces that affect their service delivery. Gallup views the customer as one part of the customer-centric model. The other components of the model are the B2B company itself and its suppliers.

The company has to determine what it stands for and how it differentiates itself in the marketplace. That positioning informs the company's interactions with customers and suppliers, and without it, the rest of the model falls apart.

However, this model isn't linear. The company can't focus on itself for a bit, and then move on to focusing on its customers or suppliers. It has to work on all three components together while understanding that a customer-centric focus is never really "done." Instead, this evolutionary process deepens customer relationships, which, in turn, can create organic growth.

A version of this article first appeared in CustomerThink.


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