Tuesday 11 June 2019, London

Business is all about relationships” was the opening line from Alison Hodivala, Partner Director at Introhive, at the mid-June PM Forum London event. With success stories and statistics throughout, the talk explored the role of ‘relationship capital’ in driving business insight and competitive advantage.

Two initial themes of client experience and new technology laid the groundwork. When we talk about client relationships, we aren’t just talking about the sales process. Instead, relationships should be productively managed throughout the entire client lifecycle. In addition, new technologies are disrupting the way people engage with organisations. These two ideas often create a disconnect between intention and reality. This disconnect was illustrated by some interesting B2B statistics from Gallup.

• 47% of B2B customers who don’t think that their sales or account teams are trusted advisors
• 64% of customers who switched provider last year [did so] due to poor customer service

The questions were therefore raised: how well do you really know your clients? And what is causing this disconnect? From the discussion that ensued, we explored three key takeaways to help answer and solve these questions.

1. Seeing a joined-up picture of all touch points

Despite potentially good efforts from different areas of a business, it’s often hard to see the joined-up picture of a client relationship. You may be aware of who knows who, or who was the point of referral and current client manager, but do you truly know who talks most to a client day-to-day? How strong is the relationship overall and where are any weak spots in the relationship? Of course the levels of day-to-day interaction differ based on the activities underway – a business development manager may not be the individual that a client has lengthy email conversations with everyday.

Furthermore, CRM systems are often out of date. This is a dangerous but all too common mistake businesses make, to keep sending communications to a database that hasn’t been updated or cleansed – we’ve all heard the anecdotes.

Client surveys may also separately be undertaken, as part of brand or client feedback work.

All of these seemingly disparate client touch points provide businesses with an inaccurate perception of their customer relationships.

2. Flip the mindset

Rather than good client relationships being the result of success, they should be the driver of success.

More statistics from Gallup suggested that vendors with high customer engagement scores achieve 50% higher revenue/sales and 34% higher profitability. Unlocking this ‘relationship capital’ can drive business strategy, align marketing and business development, and improve the client experience.

3. How firms get it right

We then examined a model that suggested a correlation between business value and the sophistication of tools, governance, processes and skills. From ad-hoc processes, disparate touch points and unorganised data – through foundational service and sales functions and basic improvements to client retention – up to differentiating and breakaway levels of data-driven insights, client intimacy and real time social data tracking.

Successful firms use ‘relationship intelligence platforms’ to bring together platforms such as mail, calendars, phone calls, blogs, marketing and financials, alongside layers of data automation and sales acceleration, in order to help improve understanding of the nature of the relationships firms have with their clients and prospects.

The standout success story was of PwC and its Global Digital Transformation project. Some outstanding results from a pilot in Canada included 11k+ hours of admin time saved, $375k in contact enrichment services saved and a 25% increase in new leads identified for business development. Howard Kennedy was another case study mentioned, as well as audience members from Bird & Bird commenting on their positive experiences.

Amongst all the talk of technology and disruption, however, the primary takeaway suggested that client experience and relationships are the greatest risk of losing customers – not competitive trends or technological change. A holistic and integrated approach to client relationship management with real time 360° visibility will equip any business with the ability to not only maintain but drive business development through positive client relationships.

Written by Jed Backhouse, Creative Manager
Infinite Global