For B2B Tech Firms, a Customer-Centric Approach Leads to Innovation
If there is anything that we have learned in the last 18 months, it is that change is inevitable, both in business and in life. But for technology teams, allowing only business-driven and product-driven initiatives to define your strategies during such a time of unprecedented change can throw off your work focus and lead to adverse outcomes that impact your organization for years to come. That is why more and more tech companies are placing new emphasis on customer-centricity when it comes to innovation.
What Does It Mean to Really Be Customer-Centric?
Customer-centric approaches are generally phrases for using feedback to improve the customer experience. For technology, especially B2B services, this can mean a lot of different things, but being genuinely customer-centric is more than utilizing behavioral data. It means that the customer is at the center of your decision making, especially when it comes to innovation.
According to Forrester, those who place customers at the forefront of their decisions perform 80 percent better on the S&P 500 index compared to those who don't. In addition, their clients are seven times more likely to be long-term customers, eight times more likely to try other products offered, and 15 times more likely to give a positive review by word of mouth. For the tech space, this is an important fact to note as there is ongoing pressure to continuously innovate and launch new offerings faster.
How Client Sponsors Foster Customer-Centricity
It is no wonder that making the customer your most important stakeholder is essential. But how? Traditionally, engineers, not end users, often create new products for tech firms. With a customer-centric approach, this old-school way of thinking needs to be flipped. Tech companies must listen to what a customer wants. It seems easy enough, but it is more than simple surveys. It's about a focus on solving problems and determining what they value the most. One such way that has proven effective is to have client sponsors involved throughout the product development life cycle.
Businesses and clients must work together to co-create opportunities that provide solutions, not just produce products. A client sponsor program enables tech firms to collaborate directly with the client, define the problem correctly, discuss potential solutions, and validate the solution and product before building it. Client sponsors then test the solution created to ensure the design and build are in alignment with the expectations set during product discovery and make sure that those products and services are delivered in a timely manner. With this type of approach, tech companies see higher adoption rates, reinforce their commitment to the customer, and reduce the amount of additional work needed after launching in-market.
Customer-Centricity Is Ongoing
To be truly customer-centric, organizations need to think long-term. Once the products are launched, the work really begins. With a focus on continuous process improvement, there must be follow-up and constant feedback taken into consideration.
Whether a team adopts a client sponsor or uses another approach, the customer experience should always be at the heart of the process and needs to be filtrated through the organization, which could include:
Training: New employees may need to be brought up to speed on how your company interacts with customers, and existing team members can benefit from ongoing coaching ensuring to keep the customer front and center in all decisions.
Recognizing successes: Affirmations, sharing your wins, and reinforcing a commitment to the customer experience are effective motivators when focusing on customer-centricity.
Communication: Teams must stay in contact with the client, even during "downtimes," to know what upcoming expectations might be, what new technology is available, and to just keep a finger on the pulse of the client mind-set.
Insight-Driven Decision Making Results in Lifelong Customers
Opinions change. Needs evolve. And this is more absolute in the technology industry than in any other space. Innovation must be looked at in broad terms. It starts, but it never really ends.
Everyone benefits from this type of approach towards innovation. Even more so when client feedback is incorporated into a final solution customized to fix the specific problem needing to be solved. This is why the tech industry is taking note, with an estimated 58 percent of tech companies investing in larger CX budgets this year. While the transformation of converting into a truly customer-centric organization is long and multifaceted, the advantages far exceed the efforts.
Matt Robison is chief operating officer of Rev.io. Based in Atlanta, Robison is an operations and service executive offering a strong strategic vision and business/financial acumen, combined with the ability to see ahead of the business and align strategic objectives to capitalize on opportunity.