What would you think is a fundamental customer need, a key differentiator, whose importance has diminished over the past 3 years? It is responsiveness. This indicator of customer-orientation has dropped down the list of requirements in many of our studies. It is not top-of-mind, nor does it drive satisfaction as much as it did in the past.
This is all the more curious when we consider customers’ ‘responsiveness’ requirements. They want suppliers to respond quickly when they place orders. They want them to be even quicker when responding to complaints or technical queries. By email, by phone, by visit, b2b customers want responsiveness, responsiveness, responsiveness.
So what is going on? What has supplanted this age-old requirement of jump quick and jump high? Have b2b buyers suddenly become less demanding?
Examination of recent B2B International surveys gives a clear answer to this question. Business buyers are more demanding than ever before! However, we have entered a post-responsiveness age. Whether you provide steel or engineered parts or marketing services or industry accreditation, your customers now require you to go beyond responsiveness.
Where once we had to resolve problems quickly, now we have to check in regularly and avoid problems happening at all. Where once we responded swiftly to requests for delivery updates, now we have to update the client before they even ask. We have to show that we are thinking about our customers’ future business, and that we want to share that future. En masse, buyers are insisting we move from being reliable suppliers to trusted partners; that we transition from responsiveness to proactivity, from transactional serfs to consultative colleagues.
Whilst discomforting, this represents an enormous opportunity for those of us who wish to solution-sell. To do this we need to be proactive, of course: we need to anticipate customer’s challenges and worries before they do. Above all we need to challenge our customers. We need to question the brief, challenge the perceived wisdom, provoke our customers into asking whether they really want what they’ve always received. The desire for proactivity represents a need for marketers to embed more closely within customers’ production processes, R&D departments and long-term thinking. Going beyond responsiveness means going beyond what we previously thought was possible.