One of the most exciting parts of being the lead Business Acumen training consultant for more than 20 Fortune 1000 companies is the endless number of opportunities to learn and explore business-topics in more detail through my blogs and other research.
During a recent discussion in a live business acumen program for a specialty chemicals company, a cross-section of leaders were discussing the intricacies of executing a customer intimacy strategy. One of the participants asked a profound question that can have an immediate learning impact for many organizations, especially those organizations trying to execute a customer intimacy strategy.
The participant shared that he has significant doubts about his company’s ability to successfully implement a customer intimacy strategy because of the alarming rate of turnover his customers are going through - specifically at the decision making level within his most key accounts. He estimated that over the past five years, the decisions makers in his company’s key accounts has changed at an annual pace of about 40% per year. If he is correct, then that means his entire customer database completely turned over in two and a half years. Think of that from a customer intimacy perspective; every single decision-making customer left or was promoted within a three year time frame!
According to Strategy + Business, about 45% of corporate CEOs turned over in 2014 and when you add in mergers, acquisitions, and spin-offs, that number rises to almost 60%. As we all know, when you have such high turnover at the top, it trickles all the way down through the organization at the same pace (at least). One final piece of data. Our marketing automation system, Hubspot, allows us to track the bounce rates of subscribers of our articles, blogs, and email campaigns. Over the last 2 years, we have seen a consistent 35-45% turnover every quarter.
All of this data brings us back to the big question; can you deliver customer intimacy if your customer are always changing?
- How can you develop deep relationships?
- How can you understand your customer’s needs, or personality styles?
- How can you differentiate?
It is a great question and clearly a difficult challenge, but the view from here is yes! Here are 4 tips on how to do it:
1) Create Strong Account Teams that Help New Customers Understand Their Situation
Information and experience become currency within organizations that are changing and replacing decision makers. A new decision maker will greatly appreciate the value of basic and advanced information provided by a vendor / partner who can share information about the situation without being too pushy or selling too aggressively. Set up a support organization and regular communication cadence that can regularly give the new customer data, history, competitive analysis and an overall sense of comfort.
2) Hire People Who Have a Service Orientation
If your strategy is customer intimacy, yet your customers are constantly changing, you need to hire people who have a strong service orientation and know intuitively how to serve the customer in a sincere way. I have seen too often that organizations become more operationally efficient when decision makers change because they believe the new customers won’t see the value. It’s very important to hire people who intuitively know and want to serve the customer no matter what the circumstances or situations.
3) Make Sure Your Team Stay Strong, Together, and Engaged
It is easy to give up and play the “blame game” when customers are constantly changing. Even though your customers are changing, your organization doesn’t have to. You need to do everything possible to maintain consistency through training, performance management, and other programs can keep employee engagement high. Customer organizations going through changes will recognize your stability and institutional knowledge.
4) Make it Easy for New Customers to do Business With You
I have seen selling organizations become complacent when they don’t have competition during the time of extreme customer change. When new decision makers come into the picture, conduct an assessment to see how easy it is for your customers to work with you. You will be surprised what you find out!