#1 Most Effective Tactic to Avoid a Customer Divorce
According to marriage.com a lack of communication is one of the key things that leads to divorce. This is what they say:
“Communication is crucial in marriage and not being able to communicate effectively quickly leads to resentment and frustration for both, impacting all aspects of a marriage. On the other hand, good communication is the foundation of a strong marriage. Yelling at your spouse, not talking enough throughout the day, making nasty comments to express yourself are all unhealthy methods of communication that need to be ditched in a marriage. Practising mindful communication, to change age-old marriage mistakes, can be hard but it’s well worth the effort to improve and save your relationship”
I’d argue that the same principles apply in b2b relationships. When we win business, when we win amazing new contracts, when we excite our prospect, suppliers have clear and well managed communication lines that are the bedrock of a relationship.
One of the huge IT Services companies we work with recently took me through their communication map; it was a work of art.
Essentially for a £100m+ new business opportunity, they had mapped every client stakeholder (over 50) and had clearly aligned responsibility for individuals in their business for building a relationship with each person (from operations to management to D-level to C-level). What also impressed me was that this approach was in their company DNA for all new business opportunity. Everyone knew they had a role to fulfil and took responsibility even if in many cases some of the relationship work was outside of their day to day remit. For example, the HR Director for the IT Services company had a role to build a knowledge sharing relationship with their peer at the client. The HR Director wasn’t there to sell let alone know the ins and outs of the pursuit, but simply to build a contact base and be a point of communication for when it mattered. This company by the way have an awesome new business win ratio.
But, and there is always a but….we were called into their business to help with a different challenge – GROWING and RETAINING existing contracts. They had a 92% retention rate – sounds good, it’s got a 9 in it after all; but in reality nearly 10% of their client base were leaving them after 5 years. Why?
The answer was uncovered by looking at best / worst practice. Everything they did for new business pursuits they tried to carry on with new contract awards – the relationships, the communication and numerous touch points. But gradually, as the contract ebbed and flowed, relationships and communication started to crumble into the sea like shifting sands. It wasn’t their intention, nor their client’s, but over 2-5 years and in most of their contracts they moved from being a trusted adviser to becoming a leading supplier to eventually being pigeon holed as a single service supplier. This latter status was what was killing their retention rates – they were hitting SLAs, KPIs and their brand was well received but it wasn’t enough to keep their price high. Their competition appeared to be hungrier, more price savvy. In fact, when they retained contracts most of the time they were haemorrhaging margin just to keep the business. They struggled to demonstrate to their clients the added value they were bringing, the additional savings they had made, all the times they went over and beyond their contract scope and the innovation and thought leadership they had tabled.
Gartner tell us that 53% of the reason why we win in b2b is down to Customer Experience, (9% price, 19% Service/offering, 19% brand). For B2B contracts, we think that CX pretty much means the relationship between the buyer and the supplier. Get relationship right and retention and growth become easier; good relationships remove the friction between both parties and ensure everyone has their finger on the pulse of the contract and relationship at all times. And this is where communication comes into it. It is inevitable that after the honeymoon period of a new contract, your communication lines between supplier / buyer start to wane and that’s when you open yourself up to risk. If you can easily, efficiently and succinctly keep communication channels open and relevant, the impact it has on growth of contracts and retention rates is significant.
So what has this to do with divorce? Here is the marriage.com quote altered for B2B:
“Communication is crucial in marriage b2b and not being able to communicate effectively quickly leads to resentment and frustration for both, impacting all aspects of a marriage contractual relationship. On the other hand, good communication is the foundation of a strong marriage contract. Yelling at your spouse Poor gathering of feedback, not talking enough throughout the day contract, making nasty comments to express yourself poor explanation of roles and responsibilities and knee jerk escalations are all unhealthy methods of communication that need to be ditched in a marriage relationship. Practising mindful effective communication, to change age-old marriage b2b relationship mistakes, can be hard but it’s well worth the effort to improve and save your relationship grow your contract.”
If you get your communications and relationship right it leads to contract growth and retention – it’s very simple in principle yet we regularly see large companies become inward facing during large contract life cycles. They forget that as a big supplier they actually have the right to meet and greet lots of client contacts and share all their successes, ideas, people and content. In fact, according to PwC, 25% of Supplier value is left on the table during large contracts largely due to the fact that the relationship goes stale. It’s seemingly not hard yet, so often it is the single biggest reason why companies lose GP or contracts – they go from being strategic to becoming ‘any old supplier’ which means it’s a race to the bottom.
So what about the IT Services company we’re working with. They’ve now deployed Client Share across their major accounts with x5 ROI targets:
1. Increase retention rates.
2. Increase cross-selling
3. Reduce GP burn in renewals
4. Make relationships easier
5. Give the customer a world class experience
And what underpins this is pretty simple…. they are going to improve the way they communicate and manage their key client relationships.
1. Relationship is critical
2. Communications underpin relationships
3. Throughout the contract life-cycle you need to demonstrate value at every turn
4. It’s a team game, not just the responsibility of the account manager
About Client Share
Client Share’s purpose is to improve the relationship between buyers and suppliers. We enable suppliers to retain and grow contracts they fear losing and we enable buyers to unlock up to 25% of additional value from their suppliers. We do this through Client Share, a private digital community that makes relationships easier for both parties and brings to life Content, C-Suite, Community, Collaboration, Innovation and Feedback
See more: www.myclientshare.com
Speak to our MD: firstname.lastname@example.org