4 Essential Steps to Building a Customer-Centric Model

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By Ed O’Boyle and Amy Adkins

Customer engagement represents the emotional and psychological attachment between your company and your customers. It is vital to business growth and vitality, and can accelerate your company’s revenue, sales, profitability and share of wallet.

Every B2B leader we’ve worked with understands the importance of customer engagement and has a strategy in place to improve it. Yet a recent report from Gallup has found that B2B companies have only managed to engage 29% of their customers. Where’s the disconnect between strategy and outcomes?

The very best B2B leaders we’ve worked with take a customer-centric approach to engaging customers. This approach puts their customers at the core of everything and is about more than focusing on customers or having a defined customer experience. We believe that customer centricity provides the surest path to customer engagement.

Although an increasing number of B2B companies realize they need to be customer-centric to compete in today’s market, not all have figured out how to put this model into use. We have found that developing a customer-centric model essentially comes down to four phases: Discovery, Diagnostic, Analytic and Sustainment. Within each of these phases, there are also common tasks that companies can follow to understand and act on the voice of the customer.

1. Discovery: This phase involves an evaluation of the current state of your customer relationships. Some of the tasks associated with this phase include:

  • conducting stakeholder analyses to identify the current customer landscape
  • identifying your organization’s needs and priorities
  • exploring your existing world, including account structure, the language and culture of your organization and any prior metrics used to evaluate customer relationships to date
  • building or refining a customer engagement strategy
  • creating a customer list and relationship map

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

  • conducting a key account review
  • gathering key account review findings to make 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

3. Analytic: This phase encompasses the findings and insights from the Discovery phase to identify the key drivers of the customer experience and how your company is performing on those key drivers. 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’ key priorities and conducting a gap analysis
  • making connections among the findings of the Discovery phase

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

  • creating an action plan to transform the customer experience
  • identifying quick wins for ways to improve the customer relationship
  • implementing a results communication strategy across your organization
  • communicating progress with customers to ensure they understand your organization’s efforts to improve the relationship

Of course, there is one predominant factor in a customer-centric model: people. It is critical that every employee understands what customer centricity means for your business and how they can deliver on it. This applies to your employees at all levels, including leaders, managers and individual contributors.

Leaders: Leaders must hear the voice of the customer to improve the company’s relationship with the customer and to improve business outcomes. They must take accountability for generating a holistic culture shift and for creating processes to build strong, vital relationships that support business results.

Managers: Managers are in the best position to set the tone for improving customer relationships by targeting the key drivers that best link to customers’ overall experience.

Individual contributors: Individual contributors who work day in and day out with client contacts are the face of your organization. Helping individual contributors understand the importance of improving the customer relationship is the ultimate catalyst for creating change.

As your company moves through the four phases outlined previously, you must provide employees with the education, training and tools they need to play their part in the customer experience. For example, during the Discovery phase, your leaders should develop an in-depth understanding of customer engagement and impact, and how both work to strengthen customer relationships. Or, in the Diagnostic phase, your managers should attend a course or similar training to learn how to set up their account teams for success.

Ed O’Boyle is Global Practice Leader, Workplace and Marketplace at Gallup. Amy Adkins is a Writer and Editor at Gallup.com.

Ed O'Boyle
As Gallup's Global Practice Leader, Ed O'Boyle oversees strategic vision for the company's Workplace and Marketplace practices. He is responsible for turning ideas into innovation using Gallup's leading-edge science and discoveries as a guide. Ed was instrumental in developing the company's B2B framework, which empowers clients to achieve exponential increases in performance through customer engagement and impact.

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