By action most organisations typically think of the mechanics of customer relationship management (CRM). They think of things like key client selection, relationship manager allocation, CRM systems, dashboards, client feedback and training programs.
“Walking in the client’s shoes.”
“Putting the client in the middle.”
“Being a relationship business.”
“Achieving trusted advisor status.”
The authors have been exposed to the good and the not so good when it comes to turning these phrases from words into real action. By action most organisations typically think of the mechanics of customer relationship management (CRM). They think of things like key client selection, relationship manager allocation, CRM systems, dashboards, client feedback and training programs.
These resources and systems are important to success; however they often have unrealised potential because of two missing ingredients:
- Leadership buy-in and drive, and
- Cultural alignment.
Focusing on these two elements will not only increase the likelihood of achieving real client-centricity and genuine trusted advisor status, they will enhance the ROI from your investments in the mechanics of CRM.
Why bother focusing on clients any more than you currently do?
Client engagement (like staff engagement) is how engaged your clients feel towards your organisation. Gallup defines client engagement as “a client’s emotional or psychological attachment to a company, brand or product” (Gallup, 2016).
Gallup’s research indicates that on average only 29% of B2B clients are fully engaged with your organisation. 71% therefore are either indifferent or actively disengaged when it comes to their relationship with their B2B provider. They assert that higher client engagement leads to a:
- 50% revenue lift
- 34% profit lift
- 55% share of wallet lift
- 33% greater likelihood of first choice for future business
- 63% less attrition
- 32% fewer Days Sales Outstanding (faster payment!)
While the quantum of these benefits will vary from sector to sector, one cannot deny the underlying premise that having more committed clients is a good thing. It also points to the fact there is a significant prize by working in more dedicated and sophisticated way with existing clients, especially in mature markets. The first provider to really elevate the client relationship and create a strong and enduring commitment will be at a significant advantage over others.
Role of leadership and culture
A whole-of-organisation approach is required to creating more committed clients. Dedication and sophistication comes not only from CRM mechanics but from strong leadership and a supportive culture. Evidence of genuine leadership buy-in includes things like:
- Personal involvement in client relationship development
- Keeping client engagement on the executive agenda
- Willing to tackle sacred cows that may constrain collaborative behaviour e.g. the firm’s measurement and reward system
- Willing to bang heads together to ensure clients get seamless and reliable delivery
- Using appropriate client-centric symbols and language
- Retelling compelling client relationship success stories
- Bring people to account for counter-cultural behaviours
- Allocating necessary funding / resources to focus on key clients
- Enabling infrastructure
- Role modelling client care and commitment
- Willing to reap and sow in regards to strategic client development.
There are many other steps that can be taken to foster the right culture and climate for CRM. Like any strategy change journey, the path is often long and arduous. But...
"...without deep commitment, phrases like 'trusted advisor' and 'client centricity' will remain just nice words in a business plan or on a wall poster."
And they will remain internal terms rather than terms that genuinely mean something to those that matter; i.e. clients!
This piece was co-authored with Joel Barolsky - Strategy Advisor & Facilitator at Barolsky Advisors Ltd. He has spent over 25 years helping law, accounting, engineering and other business advisory firms plan, innovate and grow. Joel has been an advisor to Beca in both the creation and on going development of our CRM Programme.