So, you want your organization to be more customer-centric. You’re not alone in that. However, it’s a very involved process that’s far more difficult than it sounds. Following through with your desire for a greater customer focus means changing how you do business in general, not just making a few little adjustments to your account management department.
Simply keeping up with what your customers are doing isn’t enough to call yourself a customer-centric company. Most B2B companies like to say they have a strong customer focus or that they want to build a stronger focus on the customer. It’s easy to see the benefits and value in a customer focus, but it’s more difficult to start truly valuing that or building it in your own organization.
Saying that your customers are your top priority doesn’t automatically make it true. Customer-centric companies have to put their money where their mouth is and do the leg-work to make it happen. It’s easy to focus on how you interact with your customers, what they need from you, or your goals together. But, being customer-centric means focusing mainly on what the customer wants to accomplish and seeing how you fit into their needs.
Whereas it’s natural to focus on how customers fit into your own goals and plans, you need to walk a mile in the shoes of your customers and see things from their perspective instead.
Know Your B2B Customers
Because your customers are larger and more complex than individual buyers, you will need to put more effort into learning about them. It’s not as simple as sending out a survey or making a quick phone call every once in a while. You have to invest more into knowing your B2B customers, but the benefits of learning can be much larger than they would be for B2C companies.
Creating Intentional, Customer-Centric Plans
You have to intentionally focus on your customers if you want to become truly customer-centric. Without a plan and a well laid out strategy to help you move forward, it’s difficult to become and remain customer-centric in your entire business practice. Some areas of the company find it easy, such as customer service or sales, while others will not intuitively adapt a customer-centric viewpoint.
What can you do to intentionally make your entire organization more customer-focused? You need to research your customers to understand them as well as possible, discover where they are in their journey and what their needs are, then see what you can do to amplify the positive customer experience and strengthen your position as a B2B supplier.
Do a VOC
Voice of Customer (VOC) is an effective way to learn about your customer by asking them direct, informational questions. When you do it right, the VOC will help you understand what your customers think of you, how strong your partnership or relationship is, the goals of your customer, their challenges or obstacles, and a lot of other useful auxiliary information.
VOC should be a highly personalized process for each of your customers, not just an email survey sent to your customer contacts. If you want to get the right data, you have to ask the right questions in the right way. Doing your VOC properly is a great way to get a big chunk of the information you need right from the customer.
The jobs to be done framework can be a helpful supplement to the VOC. More information is available on this framework below.
Customer Journey Mapping
Though it’s a tool traditionally used for marketing and sales, customer journey mapping can be a useful tool for B2B companies as well, especially SAAS companies. Mapping the interactions you have with your customers helps you track the experience they’re getting with your company and lets you see areas you may need to improve.
Tracking a customer’s experience with your company will be useful to gain information from the point of view of your customers. Mapping out all a customer’s interactions with your company shows you what they may be thinking about at each step, what they may need most from your company, and how you may be able to improve the service you’re providing.
You’ll be required to do research about your customers to create an effective customer journey map. Both analytical and anecdotal research should be done to get information from all sides. Collecting and compiling this data will give you a more complete look at your customers. Customer journey maps don’t have to have a certain presentation style and are often presented as infographics for simplified understanding around your company.
Matching Account Plans to Customer Goals
Do your account plans for your customers match what you now know about their goals and needs? It’s vital that the plans you have for forward momentum with your customers are heading in the direction that the customer wants to go. While the other steps to becoming more customer-centric can be done mostly on your end, this step requires you to meet up with your customer and discuss what you’ve found out and how you should proceed together.
Make sure that the development of the new account plan is a collaborative effort, not just you telling your customer what you’re going to be doing. The end result should be an account plan that more accurately defines the customer’s goals and creates a pathway to reach them.
The Jobs to Be Done Theory
Customers do not buy products for all the features and benefits they offer. Instead, they buy products and services in order to accomplish a specific task or goal. It doesn’t matter how good your product may be. If it doesn’t help the customer to get to where they want to go, they will drop your and look for a better solution. In the words of Clayton Christensen, customers don’t just buy the best products, they “hire” products that they think will get a specific job done for them.
Even if you ask customers what they want out of a specific type of product, they may not give the right answers about what drives them to buy that product. It’s more useful to find out what job or jobs your customers are trying to do with your products, so you can tailor the experience to their specific needs.
Research is the key to discovering what job your product is being used to do. As the developer, it’s easier for you to see the features and benefits of your products or services than it is to see what your customers actually do with your products and why they buy them. You need to research in order to get inside the heads of your customers and figure out what causes them to buy or not buy what you’re selling.
It’s not always simple to find out your customer’s jobs to be done. Some may be simple and made up of a limited number of simple tasks, such as buying a pair of running shorts in order to keep cool and comfortable running. Other jobs to be done are complex and made up of an enormous number of small or large tasks, such as increasing the efficiency of salespeople in the field.
Does your product accomplish the job or jobs that your customers are trying to complete? No matter how many features and benefits you have, they may not be the right ones to help your customers accomplish their jobs to be done. If customers are considering your products to complete a specific job, you need to understand that job and build features and benefits that help them complete it.
With the information you gain about your customer’s jobs to be done, you can begin a process called job mapping that will help you find potentially places for improvement in your products or services. When you map the steps needed for a customer to accomplish a specific job, whether simple or complex, you can see what the product or service does at each of those steps and identify potential weak spots.
Products and services aren’t necessarily weak or ineffective, but there are usually areas where improvements could be made to simplify the customer’s jobs to be done. Job mapping is a proactive step towards improving what you offer based on your customer’s real needs.
It’s essential to remember that mapping a job requires you to think about what the customer is trying to do when they are completing a specific action. What they are trying to do may not always correspond directly with what they are doing. Many actions are a way of getting to a result, but they may not be contributing directly. For example, a baker will check the temperature of the oven before putting cakes inside. The job he’s trying to do is to bake cakes for his customers. Checking the oven temperature is a small actionable part of that more complex job.
These small action steps are usually where your company has the chance to improve things for customers and gain an advantage over competitors. Every customer job has some number of executable actions that need to happen to get to the result. If you can make it simpler, easier, or more efficient for the customer to do the job they’re trying to do, your product may provide a greater value.
To map the job, you need to break it down into each individual step. According to Lance Bettencourt and Anthony Ulwick, the basic structure of any job, large or smaller, is as follows:
- Define the job requirements
- Identify and locate inputs
- Prepare each input and the physical environment for use
- Complete the task
- Check the results
- Modify or problem-solve when necessary
Simple jobs like washing hands or cleaning a window may make each step a little harder to discern from the others. But, even simple tasks can usually be broken down to their basic steps in this order. This is where you will find the best ideas for innovation that simplifies the customer experience. Find the steps that your product or service operates in and see what can be done to make it even better for the specific job.
Making a Customer-Centric Company Culture
Being customer-centric means that your entire organization is focused on how to get the most value for your customers. Understanding your customers, knowing their jobs to be done, job mapping, and everything else you may do won’t be enough unless you implement a company-wide strategy to focus on your customers. Each and every department should know about your customers and be involved in value creation.
Don’t keep important customer information to yourself. The more people in your organization understand the customers they are working to satisfy, the better off your organization will be. It’s an impossible task to be customer-centric unless many key executives and different departments are also on board with the strategy. If you can’t get the buy-in, you’ll be constantly trying to get your own company to see and act on the customer’s point of view.
Sharing what you learn about your customers helps everyone to stay on the same page and act as a unified organization. Keep your peers and your working colleagues in the loop if you want your customer focus to spread around the company.