Business services leaders are under pressure on many fronts. Meeting steep growth targets while reducing business complexity and embedding future flexibility and scalability into business models is no mean feat.
Pressure is piling on as customers become more demanding, while new digital-first competitors with innovative ideas and resourcing models can scale to challenge traditional services incredibly fast.
It can be very hard to know where to focus first.
There has always been one critical success dynamic that any services business could not ignore: satisfying the customer. It is no less true today than it has always been. More so, perhaps. Today’s most valuable business customers feel more in control, have more choices, and are more courted than ever before.
Customer-centricity is not a new idea. It has been around since the 1950s. At first glance it seems a truism: if you don’t make customers happy, you have no business.
Embedding customer-centricity fully and firmly inside a business, however, is far from easy.
It isn’t just about window dressing and encouraging everyone to ‘put the customer first’.
It isn’t ‘owned’ by one function such as sales or customer success.
It requires changing how the whole business operates.
The evolution of customer relationships
The old linear view of customer relationships was based on the idea that you took a customer on a journey from capturing their interest and business, through delivery, to final billing. When dealing with a one-and-done product sale, that worked – but not for business services, and not in the current age of customer expectations.
Today’s relationships must be far more complex, continuous, and consistent.
In a modern service business, the cost of acquiring a customer is significant. Contract renewal, long-term retention and a strong relationship are vital. You must also understand the cost to serve them at a deep level, retain the most profitable, and never miss opportunities to boost relationship revenues or field new services and products.
Maintaining a constant view, engagement and connection with customers allows for no breaks in the chain. Customers can never feel abandoned or ill-served at any point. Every person and function is interdependent and equally responsible for creating and delivering a coherent and excellent customer experience.
There is no room for fumbled handoffs, gaps or disconnects. The transition from sales to service must be seamless. Hasty discounting to win a bid should never lead to an unprofitable contract. Customer-facing service teams must become attuned to financial realities. Finance must serve customers as well as manage the books and control costs.
Every process must work seamlessly and efficiently to protect tight margins, avoid revenue leakage at any stage, and give customers what they need fast.
Every function needs to be connected and empowered with the right information and insight about customers so they can collaborate, drive customer success, and innovate in concert.
Customer-centricity starts from first encounters
It must all start with costed estimates that are compelling for customers, deliver your target margins and match your capacity to deliver. High value must persist for customers throughout your delivery, so they feel a strong return on their investment. They need an amazing experience not only when they speak with sales, engage with consultants in the office or operatives at work, but also when they contact finance about a query. This must endure throughout the engagement, to set you up for effortless renegotiation.
Embracing appropriate platforms is part of what is needed. Advanced configure, price, quote capabilities help you to initiate rapid and commercially compelling service estimates, convert new opportunities into new business, and set the scene for successful delivery. Powerful Professional Services Automation tools enable you to connect the resources you depend on and assure delivery timelines, quality of service, and gain the analytic insights you need to understand customers better and plan ahead.
Leadership may be the most vital element of all. Driving customer-centric change deeply into the DNA of your business services organisation, functions and processes can help you to pursue your growth, efficiency and flexibility aims at the same time as helping you to keep your most critical assets safe: your customers.
Business leaders who invest in smart ways to synchronise teams to succeed, integrate functions to eliminate disconnects, and empower people to collaborate and serve customers better, truly take customer-centricity to the next level to drive future growth.
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 service organisation.