Janet, tell us about your journey as a Key Account Management Professional and how do you help companies achieve growth through focusing on their strategic partnership with the key account?
Before starting my consulting practice in customer experience management almost ten years ago, I led the development of a new coaching and training model for sales leaders and sales managers of a $7 billion corporation. Within this role, I helped senior management recognize the importance of understanding what customers’ value most during their interaction with an account management professional and how to use that information to drive measurable results. Today, our firm specializes in coaching senior leaders on how to design and deploy customer strategies to drive customer-led growth. Although most senior leaders say that improving the customer experience is their number one priority, many significantly underestimate the time and effort it takes to lay the foundation to build a customer-centric culture.
When is the right time for businesses to start looking at their client relationships in the more strategic manner?
A business must have the right foundational components to serve customers and meet expectations, as promised, before expanding to a strategic account management approach. The goal of strategic account management is to deeply link account investment to the co-creation and execution of innovative solutions with a strategic partner. It is more difficult than traditional account management because it requires structuring and aligning business processes across buyer-seller boundaries. Senior leaders must understand how difficult it is to execute a comprehensive SAM customer strategy before proceeding.
What are the biggest obstacles you see businesses face toward becoming more oriented toward servicing & acquiring a deeper understanding of their strategic accounts?
Delivering great service experiences at every interaction isn’t easy, even for the best-in-class. It requires regular tracking of customer perceptions and how they evaluate experiences across multiple channels, interactions and transactions with a company, brand or service. One of the biggest obstacles facing organizations today is the inability to track the cost and occurrence of poor quality and its impact on the customer experience. Senior leaders today often do not know where their customer experiences are unreliable. Acquiring a deep understanding of a strategic account entails an in-depth knowledge of customer perspectives and the mechanisms needed to ensure customer issues and ideas are visible throughout the company at all times. Strategic account managers need a close-the-loop process to identify problem areas and processes to collaboratively work towards solutions. Customer feedback should be aggressively sought and mechanisms put in place to ensure customer opinions are reviewed and acted upon quickly.
What is your one mantra for growing strategic client relationships?
It is the promises you keep, not the ones you make that drives growth.
Delivering on your promises each and every time builds trust and strengthens the relationship a customer has with an organization. Customer trust and loyalty increases referrals, share of wallet, and lifetime value—key indicators of customer growth. In today’s environment where features and price can be quickly matched by competitors, customer experience is becoming one of the primary drivers of differentiation and, ultimately, business performance.
Would you like to share an interesting business book you have recently read and what was the key takeaway for you?
I recently read ‘The Value of a Promise Consistently Kept’ by David Kincaid.
David writes that “the brand is an organization’s most valuable asset”. He defines a brand as the value of a promise consistently kept. In my view, the customer experience brings a brand to life. David and I are very much aligned in our thinking. I believe a brand is the expectation of the customer experience multiplied by the emotional connection of that experience. Our goal is to help organizations to design and deliver a Branded Customer Experience® —one that is intentionally differentiated from other brands through the consistent delivery of a well-articulated value proposition across all customer channels.