Customers have always been important to business—and they’ve always been demanding. But we believe, in 2020, that customers are harder to engage and easier to lose than ever.
On top of that, economists agree: There’s a recession looming on the horizon, with the potential to hit this year or next.
Between the customer landscape and the economic outlook, it’s more important than ever to solidify your relationships. To do so, you need more than a shift in your mindset—you need a change in your approach. Keep reading to learn more about the current state of customer expectations, and how KAM can help you build resiliency for the year—and the decade—to come.
The Customer Landscape
It’s easy for B2B companies to forget that their clients are people, too. It’s a mistake we all make: we get caught up in our niche, diving into the specifics of our industry, and we forget that every client we do business with has a smartphone in their pocket. They go home after work and stream content. They conduct their lives as everyday consumers, with cars and gym memberships and streaming subscriptions and social media accounts.
So what does this mean for you? It means you can’t just look at trends in your industry to understand who your clients are and what they expect from you. You have to place your clients in the broader context of the world, remembering that they’re influenced by the same disruptive forces that affect us all. Whether they recognize it or not, the forces surrounding them in their personal lives very much so shape their professional expectations—even if it seems like your B2B service is a far cry from everyday consumerism.
Here are a few examples, intentionally using “we” because the point is: Whatever our titles may be, in whatever industry we chose, we are all modern consumers, and that means:
- We want things now. Technology has accelerated our expectations for how quickly we can get the things we want—sometimes well beyond reason. Your customers are no exception. They want to see deliverables. They want to see results. And they want to see them quickly.
- When we’re not happy, we tell everyone, immediately. Gone are the days when a dissatisfied customer had to decide if they cared enough to do something about it. Now, there’s a very low threshold for effort—we just post our scathing review immediately, to everyone we know. This instant gratification in the face of disappointment is pervasive in our psyche, and B2B companies aren’t immune. If your client is mad, they are likely going to tell somebody about it immediately, and they’re going to want resolution immediately.
- We are bombarded by choices. Consider a dating app. Or the infinite tabs available to us on our browsers. Or the endless scroll of social media. We are more acutely aware than ever that we have choices in what we wear, where we travel, how we spend our time, and with whom. Your customers are acutely aware, too, that they have choices when it comes to the product or service you provide. It’s easier than ever for your competitors to target them, and if your customer is vulnerable, they won’t have to look far to find another option.
- We want things personalized. In a world where your technology knows everything about you and serves up content accordingly, and genetic testing can reveal your exact percent risk of developing certain kinds of cancer, we have come to expect that everything we’re offered has been modified to meet our needs. Your customers expect the same from you.
Think about your own experience in the world. The speed you’re accustomed to. The outlets for dissatisfaction and the constant availability of other options. Think about how personalized even seemingly agnostic platforms can be—after all, your social media feed is unique to you. The news you see was picked for you; the photos you see were selected for you; the ads you watch were chosen for you.
Now remember your customers are also, all of them, people in the world. So even if you live in a B2B world, you are still dealing with people whose baseline expectations are for personalized, exceptional products and services. And if you’re not providing them, they’re going somewhere else.
The Economic Landscape
In a survey of 226 economists published by the National Association for Business Economics in August 2019, 72% of the respondents said they believe the U.S. will enter its next recession in 2020 or 2021.
So there you have it. Recessions aren’t unique to 2020, but they’re a sobering reminder that exponential growth has its limits. When the going gets tough, and people start guarding their pocketbooks, you’re not going to want to be a salesperson, or even a vendor. You’re going to want to be a strategic, trusted advisor. A partner who’s added enough value along the way that nobody can bear to lose you. If you haven’t gotten there yet, now is the time.
How KAM Can Help
So how do you build resiliency when your customers will always demand more? When they are bombarded by your competitors? When they’re facing the same economic downturn you are?
The answer is: You put your customers first. You put yourself in their shoes and do everything you can to understand the challenges they face, and then you build your business around addressing those challenges. You make yourself indispensable.
What you don’t do is get distracted. You don’t frantically try to win new business while letting your existing accounts suffer. You don’t knee-jerk respond to competitive threats without stepping back and staying true to your strategy. And you don’t try to use a CRM to build meaningful customer relationships.
Customer-centricity takes more than intention: It takes infrastructure. We tell our own customers they need a dedicated team of client management specialists. They need an established internal process. And they need purpose-built technology. When your people, process, and technology are all centered on customer improvement, you start to build the kind of rock-solid relationships that withstand increasing customer demand, competitive threats, and even economic recessions.
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, and build resiliency for the decade to come.
Schedule a personal demo today to talk through your current approach to customers, and how we can help you succeed in 2020 and beyond.