557: 3 Things to Know About Customer Experience in the B2B Marketplace w/ George Brown, Jr.

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode we talk to George Brown, Jr., Associate Director at the Institute for the Study of Business Markets.

... to be company. So what if you could reverse engineer these relationships at a moment's notice, start a podcast, invite potential referral partners to be guests on your show and grow your referral network faster than ever? Learn more at sweet fish Mediacom. You're listening to the be to be growth show, a podcast dedicated to helping be to be executives achieve explosive growth. Whether you're looking for techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. I'm James Carberry and I'm Jonathan Green. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to the be to be gross show. Today we are joined by George Brown Junior. George is the associate director at the Institute for the Study of business markets, as well as the CEO at be to be advisors. George, welcome to the show. Thank you very much. Look forward to speaking with you, George. It's it's definitely a pleasure to have you on the show. You are you are an expert in the in the be to be space, and so today we're actually going to be talking about, I think, something very cool customer experience in the be to be marketplace. But before we get into today's topic, George, maybe you can tell our listeners a little about IBM and some of the incredible things that you and team or ups you over there. Thank you. Delighted to do that. The Institute for the Study of business markets is is a rather unique consortition. On the one side or academics and other researchers and on the other side are practitioners, typically in leadership roles in companies that serve business markets. The organization was founded in the S by a combination of researchers at pen state and a couple of company leaders from companies like Dupont that realized there was a lot of research on the...

...consumer market side but not nearly as much focused on business markets. The organization has grown pretty steadily throughout the years. There's currently over fifteen member companies spanning virtually every part of the business markets environment, from manufacturing companies to financial services companies to companies that provide other types of services. Most of them are North American companies, but quite a few of them these days have global reach and are involved outside the United States and everything from the established markets of Europe to emerging markets like China and India. There's is currently over fifty university organizations that are linked to the ISSBM. Some of the senior fellows are probably people you've had as guests on your show, because there's been an awful lot of publication and book writing by the people that are involved in Issbm, all focused on the challenges it exists in business markets. Well, that's fantastic. Certainly the ISSBM resume sort of speaks for itself, and so that's just one of the many reasons stories that were thrilled to have you on the show today, when we are going to be talking about this idea of customer experience in the be tob market place. You're definitely the right person to come on the show and talk about this. Can you tell me? I guess let's let's start off how you first became interested in this subject. Well, I got involved in that subject before I knew that it was really going to be called customer experience. A couple who decades ago, quite a long time ago, I was doing research on the factors that created relationships between suppliers and their customers and business...

...markets. It was research that was supported by the Strategic Accounts Management Association, who obviously we're vitally interested in figuring out what made for a good customer a relationship by a supplier, and through that research I was able to do interviews and do surveys with over a hundred organizations, about half of them on the supplier side and about half of them on the customer side. We could have a show on that topic alone, because there was a wealth of information that came out of that project. But one of the things I learned was that customer experience really is a driving factor in shaping the strength of a supplier customer relationship. I heard an awful lot of stories. I heard stories about how important implementation was, that if the customer could not trust the supplier, that was a maybe three strikes and your out situation where the supplier was unlikely to go very far and winning that customers business. And I also heard story after story about pleasant surprises, unexpected surprises were a supplier brought an innovation to a customer and just knocked them off their feet with the good news and and the value that they were able to bring to them. So that started me out on the process sense of learning what it was that made a difference to customers about their suppliers and as I continue to study that over you over the years, those sorts of themes continue to evolve. They remained very important. Yeah, well, and George, one of the things that we love to get...

...into the on the BB grow show is sort of providing our listeners with some real world examples. Now, you had mentioned implementation and innovation as to key themes. So do you have any examples that sort of illustrates how those experiences can influence a customers perception? Yeah, I'll give you an example of each one of them. On the implementation side, I was working for a client and their experiences and what was good and bad and ugly about them and obviously trying to learn what my client could do better in the future. And one of the people that I spoke with told a story of replaced an order with that supplier was very important. It was critical to our manufacturing process. Their truck showed up but at our loading dock and they opened up the truck and three mice ran up. The rest of the truck was empty. They had forgot to load the truck. Then he went on to speak at great length about how that failure of implementation in the logistics problem had adversely impacted on the company and how they were so disappointed and it taught them this was not a company that they could trust. It was a company that they had to be a little bit wary of in terms of how reliable they were. On the innovation side, I'll tell you a positive story. I was working with another company. They were a packaging supplier and they had a relationship with pretty important company in the personal care industry and that personal care supplier had decided to do some innovation on their own part. They had come up with a new formula they thought would be better than the old one of their product and they were testing it out and what they found was that the new formula reacted rather badly...

...with the packaging material and my client in the packaging company flew to engineers in from their operations in Germany. They worked with this Personal Care Company for almost a month in trying to solve the problem. They came up with a solution and and you know, when I was being told this story, the individual that was telling the story said these people are heroes. You know, they they will never be forgotten. It was an important initiative in our firm. It was foundering. We didn't know where to turn and they saved the day. They made this a successful initiative. Anyone on to talk about how the product that was involved has become a major success in the market place and from his perspective, they would have never gotten into the market place that it had not been for the contribution of this supplier that figured out how to solve the packaging problem. Yeah, well, that's fantastic and it shows how, even in something dry talking about packaging, you know, you can leave someone with with an incredible experience and I think a lot of certain you know, certainly our listeners, know the the value of that customer experience. They're looking to create that wow factor. It makes you feel good and obviously makes your clients feel fantastic. So if we can all agree that customer experience can be hugely important to to Your Business, to your firm, you know, I think the natural next question is sort of what can be done then, George, to achieve that outcome? Well, it's a challenge to do that. I mean almost different company says. You know, we obviously try to have good customer experiences, but and in presect number of firms recognized they haven't taken it...

...on proactively. And one of the things that I've learned, I've learned a few secrets to success. One of them is that this requires a change in the customers, in the cult of the company to really focus on their customers experience, that this isn't simply something you tell the sales people and other people that are in customer facing positions to worry about. It's really something that has to be taught to the entire company because, you know, just like those two examples suggest, the problem on the truck that arrived empty was not a salesman's fault, it was somebody in the shipping department, and the solution to the packaging problem involved engineers that previously had been involved in their own work and product development and testing. So changing the culture of the company to get everybody to think this is part of their responsibility to make the experiences of customers positive and avoid the negative ones. That's really the first step that has to be taken in this regard. Perfect. Okay, so we've got three action areas. Number one, developing the right kind of culture where every one in the company is aware of this idea of enhancing the customer experience. Let's talk about the second action area. Okay, the second thing I would focus on is is it requires some amount of planning. As I said earlier, if you ask people, they say, of course we try to make customer experiences positive. Why do we need to spend any more time on this? Well, the truth of the matter is there's often a lot of issues that a company is unaware of that are getting under the skin of their customers. And and...

...if you put some attention into figuring out what is irritating the customers, what are the negatives that they will tell you about, and then put some very concrete plans into place, then you have a chance of actually achieving something. If you if you simply let this be platitudes and simply say, you know, we've got to make customer experience positive, nobody really knows what to do. If you tell them and give them some concrete directions as to the changes that are necessary, as to the issues that are bothering their customers, then they can tackle those issues and make a difference. And so plans are very important. Don't just leave it the chance make could very concrete and focus some attention on the specifics that that will make a difference to your customers. Great. So I will, George, I'm going to I'm going to put you on the spot again a little bit and sort of ask you, you know, if you have another sort of real world example of a firm that accomplished sort of this second action item? You know, they they they had a plan and they they executed on it. Yep, but I worked with an engineering and construction firm that their CEO took on this challenge and said, you know, we really knew need to do a better job. And he said, you know, we plan more than I can ever imagine. I mean they have plans for everything from safety on the job to how they're going to have construction material show up but exactly the right moment onto the job site and everything. And he said, the one thing we don't plan is how we're going to make our customers happy. And and when he started to look at this and when he put the team together to look at this, you know,...

...one of the things they realized was there were an awful lot of customers, some people call them stakeholders, and and he said it was eye opening to just simply put together the catalog of who are our customers and then we went out and we talked to them and and ask them what it was that was bothering them. What, what could we do better? We went to customers that we had worked with for a long time and they gave us an ear for one and he said we came up with some very specific action items that we incorporated into our planning process that, you know, on day one when we started a new project, we addressed how we're going to work with our customers to avoid the disruptions and avoid the experiences that bothered them and and also do some things that gave them confidence that we were looking out for their best interest, not just trying to get the job done and get paid. All right. So, George, we've got we've got number one, company culture, we've got number two sort of planning for the customer experience. What is the third action item we're going to be talking about today? The third action item is institutionalizing the changes that you're trying to make here. There's a lot of dimensions of it. It's not just having a rollout meeting and then forgetting about it. It's making this an ongoing process. It involves teaching. Often times the reasons customer experiences aren't positive isn't because of bad people doing bad things, it's because they don't know what are the good things they should be doing. So there's often an educational process building this into performance reviews. You know if there have been good or bad experiences. If you hear about that...

...during your performance review, that makes a big difference. It says this matters and gets the attention. And, lastly, linking this into the company's processes where it makes sense to do so. That that's a very important part of the process of institutionalizing focus on customer experience. Fantastic. So, George, you know we're kind of coming down to the end of today's episode. Do you have any maybe key takeaways that you think in particular? You know, our listeners should be should keep in mind that they should actually take away from today's episode. Sure, I really focus on two things. One is you really have to think about customer experience as involving every employee, every interaction every day and and if that's the perspective your company has and the company's leadership have, then I think you're you're solidly on the path to to of being successful. And then the second, second thing I would remind people, or the three themes that we talked about, that building this into the company culture, not just the customer facing people, the sales teams, but in every department of the customer or if the company, making sure they understand positive customer experiences part of their responsibility. Putting very concrete plans, not making them nebulous and vague, but focusing on some specific actions that customers have communicated our problems and we're improvement can make a difference. And thirdly, institutionalize in it through process, through performance reviews, through ongoing teaching. It differs from one firm to...

...another, but I think there's three. Three steps are important ones to making a difference and improving your own company's ability to have positive experiences enjoyed by your customers. Fantastic. Again we're talking with George Brown r with the Institute for the Study of business markets. We are so thrilled to have gotten connected with ISSBM. We're going to be actually featuring more members moving forward. Look forward to to additional episodes. But, George, in the meantime, you know if any of our listeners are interested in finding out more about the ISSBM, they're interested in today's topic or they want to connect with you. What's the best way for them to go about doing that? Well, certainly we would invite you to visit the ISSPM website. It's W W WISBM DOT or. You'll find a lot of information about the organization on that website, and people are certainly invited to reach out and contact me with questions. I'd be happy to respond to them. My email Rab drefts is gfb of George Frank Brown, be Teo be Advisorscom. I thank everyone listen to this and I thank you for having me on the show. I enjoyga well. Thank you, George. As a pleasure having you on the show. If you're a BEDB marketer, we want to feature you on sites like Huffington Post, social media examiner and chief marketer. Every week we send out a question related to be to be marketing. We use the responses to those questions to fuel the content we write for really popular websites. So head over to Sweetish MEDIACOM backslash questions and sign up today. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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