I cannot say if customer service is, in general, improving or getting worse. The American Customer Satisfaction Index suggests that customer service improved until mid-2014 but has been trending downward since. It is probably growing in some industries and not in others. Personally, I am occasionally impressed with the service, but the service I receive is “adequate.” I give talks frequently, and I often start the presentation by asking who can recall a positively memorable service experience in the last few months. Typically, I will see a smattering of raised hands. If asked about unsatisfactory service experiences, the number of hands raised is usually far larger. Is Customer expectation changing or is consistency slipping?Read More
Over the past few months, several managers have expressed frustration about being unable to get an acceptable view of their end-customers. As one said to me, “we do not know how well our end-users are being served. We have no view on the customer experience. I cannot see my customer!”
These managers work at manufacturers who use distributors to resell their products to end-users. Distributors play an essential role in many business-to-business markets by providing a cost-effective way of moving products and services to customers.Read More
B2B companies often have customer relationships large enough to warrant CEO-level involvement. Towering in size above other accounts like a mountain peak, these relationships often represent as much as 10%, 20%, or more of the firm’s overall revenue.
In contrast, B2C companies' largest customers typically don’t contribute more than a fraction of one percent of sales.
Consequently, B2B companies must manage their key customer relationships with an obsessive level of focus. The loss of just one of these accounts may be devastating; contract renewal is everything.Read More
Have you ever played the game of “telephone,” where players whisper a message from one person to the next? Once a message goes even one or two hops, it can break down quickly with often hilarious results when the message is announced at the end.
The same dynamic exists in B2B value chains though the end result is less amusing. If a B2B company relies solely on the next hop in its value chain to know how well it’s satisfying customer needs and identify opportunities for improvement, it’s at risk of receiving poor quality information.Read More
Over the last several years, I’ve seen an increasing number of B2B service organizations buy into the idea that communication, a soft skill, is an essential ingredient in delivering exceptional customer experiences and in turn, hard business results such as repeat business and word of mouth referrals.Read More
I recently asked the manager of a truck service shop how the feedback from our voice-of-customer research had helped her improve her operations. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, but after a thoughtful pause she looked at me and said “paint and zip ties”. I laughed at how far off the mark I’d been with my assumptions.Read More
In many business-to-business markets, value-added distributors are used to get products to the end-user. Well-known companies such as Grainger, Fastenal, and Ferguson Supply are examples of distributors that offer a broad range of products to a wide variety of industries. Such companies are typically non- or low-valued added distributors. They stock inventory from a variety of suppliers, market it to the end customer and typically provide product delivery.Read More
A couple weekends ago, after many hours of online shopping and discussion, my wife and I were ready to buy a new family sofa. We embarked on furniture store visits starting at IKEA, where we and our two boys sprawled out on a sectional sofa for some “real world” testing.Read More