While airlines, hotels and retailers have faced some of the worst moments in their history thanks to COVID-19, James Ward would like to remind the world of all the firms standing behind them dealing with similar challenges.
As CEO of Clientshare in the U.K., Ward leads an organization that focuses on business-to-business (B2B) entities such as business process outsourcing (BPO) firms, and IT service providers.
Clientshare’s technology acts as a centra way to manage a supplier’s customer community. This could include everything from Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys to finding information and integrating marketing communications materials.
Since the novel Coronavirus turned into a global pandemic, Ward said he’s seen two main responses from B2B suppliers. The first is to capitalize on new business opportunities by offering digital tools to help support remote work processes.
If you’re not a Zoom, Slack or Microsoft, of course, that’s not really an option.
The second response is similar, but more desperate.
“A lot of companies are scrambling around to find a new service offering they can take to market and do something completely different,” Ward said in a series of webinars Clientshare has been hosting called ‘Staying Customer Obsessed in a Challenging MarketStaying Customer Obsessed in a Challenging Market.’
Ward offered a third option, along the results of a supplier survey which uncovered the “magic moments” that will keep customers loyal amid the COVID-19 crisis and long after. You can watch a recording of the webint in full, or sign in or subscribe to get the details, along with comments from an executive with IBM.
Where B2B firms should double down amid COVID-19
“What most companies should be doing,” Ward said, “isw in the future.”
While B2C companies may be able to do this by offering special discounts, promotions or new online shopping options, B2B firms need to focus on simply being easier to do business with, Ward suggested.
According to Justin Ablett, global director for IBM’s Adobe business, “ease of business” becomes more complicated when it means suppliers have to offer the same experience across every touchpoint all the time at scale.
“So many of my team come back and say, ‘Oh, well, the reason we didn’t win this deal was because of price,’” he said. “That’s true in some instances, but we all know so often that is not the primary reason organizations or people don’t go ahead with a purchase. It’s about the relationship.”
Some suppliers are already ahead of the game, however. Albett talked about a customer in the cement industry that has focused on using technology to make its supply chain more seamless, providing tools to assist with choosing materials to what will happen on a building site.
There’s no place to hide. Even the most basic of industries. Cement company. Necessary product that we all need. Been working with them in terms how to engage with consumers — builders or people who are benefitting with what’s been built and making the supply chain seamless. Providing tools for each step fo the way — right materials, frictionless.
Ward provided other specific ideas using a survey Clientshare conducted with its own customer base. While he didn’t get into the sample size or cite statistics, he said those polled all gravitated to three core “magic moments” where suppliers can have a positive impact on their customer relationships. These included:
1. Offering timely, reliable sharing of information that matters: “That really took us back, actually,” Ward said, admitting that while it sounds like common sense the Clientshare team hadn’t expected it to rank so high.
“It’s one the biggest sources of frustration in business relationships.” The key is not simply to offer the right information at the right time to B2B customers — like when an order will arrive, for instance — but that it’s in the right format for a particular organization, he said.
2. Engaged business leaders: Ward said having a CEO or other senior leader who speaks and helps a customer directly can impact the results two times more than suppliers tend to think.
“So often they see the business leader will help win a contract and then disappear into the hills,” he pointed out. “It’s not difficult for leaders to stay in contact. Buyers are saying ‘If they get it right, we will be more likely to buy from them.’”
“Very often, we are being told by our customers’ customers that they’ve got this great opportunity to manage brilliant reviews, but they do it really badly,” he said.
Ablett said the second point in particular could prove game-changing once COVID-19 has been contained.
“I wonder how many people in their business lives feel they’ve got the executive engagement form their suppliers,” he said. “I wonder how influential that will be when the world changes and times are good again. I can only imagine how much strength that will give to the relationship.”