New Ways of Selling: Understanding the changing landscape of customers.
Whilst there is no doubt that improving customer service quite rightly lies at the top of the page of every business mandate, stopping the problem in the first place - prevention rather than cure - surely must have a place on that list and investment in that option must be considered as a nearer term strategy?
Understanding the changing landscape of our customers and being able to adapt to their needs requires a different approach to more traditional sales interactions and means creating places where these new kind of interactions can flourish.
Platform Director, Max Eaglen, gives his thoughts on how Customer Experience Centres can do just this.
If you can show your business customers what’s coming, what will impact them, and what plans you have in place to help them tackle those challenges, surely the longer term view gives them a heads up on what they should be expecting and ultimately, a better customer experience which they can pass on to their customers too?
As the dialogue with our customers in B2B world becomes more complex so are the activities we look to have with them to enable them to evolve.
A few years ago, I wrote about the transition from transactional to consultative selling. Now things have moved on again and I’m writing about the shift towards collaborative, co-creational conversations and, with this shift, the change in how Customer Experience Centres are used and designed.
With the rise in “digital everything”, the majority of enterprise customers have been desperately trying to pin down their digital strategy - some with more success than others - but it highlights an all too familiar question...what’s next?
Customers are looking for answers to some fairly complex questions and for some this means working in collaboration with partners to help define, build and test solutions. We are starting to see a new addition to the Customer Experience Centre in the form of the Test Lab where customers and strategic partners are testing everything from MVP applications to customer journeys.
Case in point Vodafone Spain that has invested in V Lab, a state of the art centre for customer workshops together with a start-up facility that brings new tech talents and customers together to create custom digital solutions to business challenges.
Or Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) that has developed a whole app and developer ecosystem on the back of their Aruba wireless LAN solution that helps customers find the solutions to their challenges among the ‘shelves’ of apps developed.
As time goes on, we should expect to see more companies investing in customer innovation labs to augment their offering in Tech, Financial Services, Healthcare, Telecom, Automotive, in fact in any market sector.
The list makes for an interesting read - Cap Gemini, Delta Air Lines, Target, Google, Pfizer, SAP, Novartis, Autodesk, Fidelity Investments, Ford, Verizon, Marriott…
The Big Question is ‘What you expect to get out of them?’ Innovation can be a tricky thing. Ask a salesman and he will expect something to market within a year. Ask a CIO and it is likely product isn’t even on his radar.
Some are starting to understand how to combine product and insight and get more from their centres - Vodafone Spain is a good example. What they do well is link insight to product in a very clear way, opening the door to more expansive conversations around innovation.
A clear strategic vision is important – ‘What do you want to get from your conversation?’ ‘How do you want them to feel afterwards?’ If you are going to have a conversation about innovation, disruption and the future, where do you start?
Well here’s some guidance on how to approach it:
Sales teams can’t sell product in an innovation workshop so think carefully about how you get from brainstorm to product sell.
Be prepared with very good insights that have meaning to the customer and smoothly transition to a discovery conversation.
Think carefully before you approach any type of conversation that you understand where you are on the customer journey in your CEC.
Are you demo-ing product telling customers how great you are and how many awards you have won?
Or are you asking them about their ‘pain points’ and encouraging them to ‘open up’ and tell them what’s not working in their business?
Are you illustrating disruptive innovations and sharing your view of the future and how that might impact your customers’ businesses?
Or are you looking to set the scene for your customer’s business to be the innovator, the disruptor? Offering something groundbreaking within their marketplace?
If you’re working on disruptive innovations, many agree that it’s important to distance yourself, or at least have a distinct line of separation from, the company’s core activities and have an operational budget that allows you to nurture and grow the centre – these things need tending. And if you’re working on incremental or adjacent innovations, its ok to be more involved, and make sure you’ve got business-unit buy-in and support to help maintain and grow.
Visa’s innovation centre in San Francisco is a good example of a lab that has demos about the future of payment, yet they also bring in customers to collaborate and co-create and map out that future together.
There is no doubt that organisations that will succeed in the 21st Century and beyond are those that are looking at customer demands and desires in the 21st Century and beyond. Having the ability to create spaces that allow conversations, collaboration and creativity with partners to help build ideas that ultimately can lead to innovative product and services will be the way to futureproof your organisation.