Account Manager smiling in office

Customer Service vs Customer Centricity

At Kapta, we believe strongly in the power of a customer-centric approach. Our product and process are designed to support our customers as they put their customers first—because that’s what drives shared success. But we’re not a customer service software solution, and here’s why: Customer service isn’t the same as customer-centricity.

Read on to learn more about the distinctions between the two, and how Kapta can help B2B companies truly put their customers first.

A Matter of Depth

There are really 3 layers to your customer approach.

  1. The most superficial layer is customer service. This is how customer-facing employees interact with customers who contact you needing help or information. The caliber of customer service at your company is characterized by your team’s attitude, knowledgeability, and ability to make decisions that meet the customer’s needs. When we say the customer service layer is “superficial,” we don’t mean it’s not important; we just means it’s only the tip of the iceberg. It’s possible to have excellent customer service and still not be a customer-centric company.
  2. The next layer is customer experience. This means every touchpoint with your brand is an enjoyable, productive, even delightful experience for the customer. Long before they’re reaching out to your customer service team with an issue, they’re intuitively navigating your website or using your app to do the things they need to do. They don’t even have to contact your customer service team because you’re structurally anticipating and meeting their needs.
  3. Finally, at the core of how you do business is customer-centricity. This means every decision you make as a company puts the customer first. It affects the products you develop, the services you offer, the growth you project, the people you hire, and everything else you do. True customer-centricity happens throughout the company, not just in a customer service department.

This article is a good breakdown of the difference between customer service and customer-centricity, as demonstrated in a B2C context. Below, we’ll talk about how these principles apply in B2B.

Applying Customer Principles to B2B

It’s easy to see how these layers of customer approach apply in a B2C context. We’re all someone’s customer—we use our phones to book and change travel (customer experience) and we end up on the phone with customer service agents when we need additional help.

But how do these 3 layers of customer approach apply in a B2B context? Let’s look:

  • Customer service: It’s critically important that your clients’ day-to-day interactions with the account management team (or client management team, depending on the terminology you use) be courteous, professional, and knowledgeable. Your account team should be empowered to make decisions that meet your customer’s needs, such as expediting a service or absorbing a cost if your team missed a deadline. These things are great—but in a high-value, B2B relationship, they’re just table stakes. You’re not going to keep and grow business by being polite.
  • Customer experience: Every time your customers interact with your organization, the experience should be enjoyable. For example, the process for reviewing and approving contracts or other documents should be seamless. Any interactions they have with your systems or technology should be intuitive. These may seem like little things, but the lesson gleaned from the B2C world is that brands are living entities, and every interaction with them shapes the perception your customer walks away with. If your customer spends a lot of money with your company but their emails constantly bounce back, you aren’t sending the message that you’re worth the investment.
  • Customer centricity: This is where B2B companies can really shine. Let’s bring back the account management team for this example. Yes, they provide courteous, responsive, knowledgeable customer service. But that’s the least of what they do. Customer centricity means they are taking time to understand what their customers are trying to achieve, and actively building resourceful, creative solutions to reach those goals. Even more fundamentally than that, it means your leadership projects growth goals based on what your customers can support; in other words, your customer’s growth comes first, and yours follows as a corollary.

How Kapta Can Help

To take a fundamentally customer-centric approach to doing business, you can’t just say it’s important and hope your team does it somehow. You need to be intentional, and you need to build infrastructure.

First, you need a dedicated key account management team. It takes a lot of time to be available to key customers, not only responding quickly to their needs, but also anticipating them by virtue of understanding who they are and what they’re trying to achieve. It takes time to stay connected to the client’s industry, recognizing challenges and competitive threats even before they do, and working proactively to help them prepare. In short, it takes time to be customer centric, and KAMs can’t be successful if they don’t have the time to spend with customers.

Second, you need a clear process that puts customers first. Our KAM Process is built around the fundamentals of customer centricity: Know your customer, act in their best interests, and measure your impact. Once you establish an internal process, you can hold your teams accountable to those expectations.

And finally, you need technology. Not only can Kapta automate some of the more tedious aspects of client management, but it can also extract data from multiple sources to give you powerful, real-time understanding of how well you’re helping your customers achieve their goals. Because it’s built around a process, Kapta also prompts the behaviors that drive customer centricity—checking in with clients, building action plans around their strategic objectives, and measuring what matters to them.

Conclusion

Customer-centricity is the goal. And key account management is the path. Kapta is key account management software, guided by Our KAM Process, so you have the structural support you need to operationalize a customer-centric mindset.

Schedule a personal demo today to talk through your current approach to customers, and how we can help you transform exceptional customer service into an exceptionally customer-centric approach to your entire business.

Kelly Sharp
Kelly Sharp is a content creator at Kapta