Technology | Media | Telecommunications

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Are B2B Technology Firms Customer-Centric?


According to a CMO Council market study, the significant disconnect between vendors and their channel, on one hand, and customers, on the other, begins with a basic disagreement about what it means to be customer-centric.

Customers say that, above all else, centricity begins with the strategic alignment of a vendor's organization with the customer. Yet, among vendors and the channel, strategic alignment with customers is neither their top priority nor a real competency.

When asked what three qualities best characterize a customer-centric company, some 52 percent of customers cite "organizational, operational and cultural alignment around the customer," compared with only 40 percent of marketers and 35 percent of channel respondents.

Perhaps even more importantly, vendors do not believe they are particularly well-aligned with customers. When asked how well they are aligned with the customer -- the customer's own yardstick for measuring customer centricity -- only 21 percent of marketers say they are extremely well aligned.

Even more telling is how the channel assesses the vendor's alignment with the end-used customer, with only 3 percent of channel partners indicating that the relationship is extremely well aligned.

Accountability and measurability in meeting the needs of customers is far and away seen as the top success factor for customer centricity among marketers (54 percent) and the channel (58 percent), but it ranks only fourth among customers, who selected it only 23 percent of the time. In addition, some 40 percent of customers point to "empowerment of employees to address and remedy customer problems."

Perhaps as a result of this basic disagreement on the factors behind customer centricity, vendors are significantly overrating themselves, far more, in fact, than the channel. Fifty-six percent of vendors perceive themselves as being extremely customer-centric, compared with only 12 percent of customers.

In fact, only 47 percent of customers rank their vendor's customer centricity as moderate or better, while they place 65 percent of their channel partners in that category. An overwhelming majority of vendors (85 percent), are convinced that they are getting better at responding to customer needs, but 45 percent of customers disagree.

When asked whether vendors are getting better at understanding and responding to customer needs, nearly 45 percent of customers answered "no" or "not sure." When asked the same question about the channel, 41 percent said "no" or "not sure."