Essential Insights for B2B Customer-Facing Team Leaders

5 Things Every B2B Customer-Facing Team Leader Needs To Know



Mike Thelen

Director, Customer Financial Services,
Land O’ Lakes


[0:00] Mike Thelen:

Let’s do some of the learning parts of this organization’s radiance. The first thing I want to do is just go over the general topics or the agenda for the meeting. I’m going to cover why customer experience and their business to business space is important. Five things that business leaders should know about, which are your customers are expecting your business to have consumer experience, a silent desire for automation. It’s big customers that pose real challenges. Short term results may compromise long term value, your team’s value is greater than just their collections, risk management or payment processes. So why is customer experience important in the business to business space? I’m gonna try to move around a little bit. I don’t like to stand behind the podium. If we think about These three companies, huge companies, they’ve done some things that seem obvious now but didn’t seem so obvious at the time. A number of years ago, when we wanted to watch a movie, we had to drive to our blockbuster, check out a video, bring it home, make sure our video recorder was working and watch it and bring it back the next day seemed really nice and simple at the time. And now we get our videos streamed right to our television, don’t have to worry about anything but getting it right to the TV. You don’t have to bring it back. That all seems so simple. How do we live without that? It’s just so convenient. Now, what about Amazon? I think about Amazon being a book company that wanted to make it easier for you to buy books.

They wanted to deliver books to people all over the place. Are they a book company now? Now there is an open marketplace, you can buy anything you want. You can buy car parts, you can buy cowboy hats, just about anything. You want, and they’re delivered every day. So they’d become more than a bookstore, they become more than a marketplace. They also offer this thing called prime, where you can pay once and get things delivered for free. So they’ve, you know, introduced this idea that delivery shouldn’t be a concern. And they bought knock people out of business. Series is no longer with us. A number of other brick and mortar companies are really struggling because of the ideas they brought forward. Apple, you know, Apple brings us these, these fancy things that we stare at all day long. Apple also uses the data they get to help us with things so if you’re into their music, they provide you a very personalized list of suggestions of other songs or music you might want to be interested in based on what you’ve already used. So as consumers we’re seeing these changes and utilizing them in many ways. As consumers we also get more and more tied into the idea that we should be served well, we want to make sure that we get great service. So off to the left, customer retention. 82% of customers stopped doing business with a company because of poor service. So the example I’ll give you is, we got really frustrated with Comcast. We had Comcast for a long time, their service was never very fast. If a couple of people came over and restreaming things it didn’t work very well. They were constantly raising our prices. So we stopped and switched to some other options. At least to the point on the right, 95% of customers with a bad experience, tell somebody else what they just do. So now we talk about the business to the business community. Why does this business to consumer experience translate to business to consumer? Well, we’re all consumers. And we go to work. And we’re starting to expect more and more from my work experience. Why can’t we have as many conveniences in the work setting as we have in our personal experience? So I go through that. I got five ideas that I think are important for us to know as leaders of customer-facing areas. And the first one is what I was just mentioning, your customers are expecting our business to have a consumer experience, and so are your employees.

[4:39] Mike Thelen:

So if we think about all the changes we see personally and then all the changes we see in business, there are so many things that we have to do to fit our customer’s expectations. They give us to expect many different payment methods. All of them have different invoice and remittance formats. Many of them prefer to modes of data and exchange, whether that be EDI, which has been around for a long time or sending you spreadsheets for your email, or nowadays, many of them say, you need to come to our portal and get we shouldn’t even have to send you the information. We have to handle all those options, knowing and complying with customers preferred mode of contact. So if it’s your employee that has to deal with these customers, how do they know what the best mode of operation is? Do they need to become partners with those customers to find out, does that customer like to get a phone call to be reminded? Can I just do an email? What about the customers that say, Don’t even contact me just go to my portal, or texting? In our company, we aren’t given company phones. So many of my staff have gotten to the point of saying, Well, if the customer wants to be texted, I’m going to text him on my personal phone. So a little scary and I thought that you know my employees are giving up their personal numbers to these customers, but they’re getting the results They want. And it gets back to this idea that we as consumers go into business, into our business setting into our workload and expect that we can get all the things that we get when we’re consumers. So the next thing I want to mention is, and I don’t have these in a particular order, but the next thing is there’s a silent desire for automation amongst your team. And you might laugh at me a little bit, but I think I think it’s true.

So the first thing I think about when I think of this is the skepticism that we all may have even myself. It’s like, really, how is this automation going to help me in my job? Is it really going to improve things? Isn’t this automation going to take a lot of time to learn? Do I have that time I’m busy now? How do we have to learn all this automation? Our new system doesn’t really help with our current operations. I think our current operations are pretty smooth. So how’s this gonna help? Why should I trust artificial intelligence? Because, man, if that screws up, I’ve got more work to do. This automation thing isn’t aren’t you really just doing this to get rid of my job? Why would I be supportive of that? But I think there’s a flip side to it. I think that if you really get to know your staff, and if you have great staff, they’re going to be thinking about, again, all these things they’ve learned in their personal lives and want to figure out how can they use them at work? So let’s stop for a minute and think about how you get somewhere today. To use Google Maps or, or ways to find your way instead of using a paper map or asking for directions and writing them down. It’s so much easier to get around. What about going to a conference, they have this Huva app, it gives you all of the stuff you need, who’s here you can look them up, you can find out when your session is over. Where is it at, all of that everything just happens on your phone. Why can’t we get more of that in our business? Right? It just seems like there’s a disconnect between what we get as people and what we get as business employees. And I think it’s the right timing now that more people are thinking, Hey, we really shouldn’t take a greater opportunity and do things in our jobs that are more progressive. So where are the executives? What are we supposed to do about this? How do we make a difference?

[8:39] Mike Thelen:

I think there are a couple of things we can do. One of them is we need to provide the right culture. We need to be allowing our employees to dream a little bit and ask us for things and we need to ask those employees what it is they want, where there are bottlenecks, we want to bring in people that can help them see new ways of doing things. I mean, after all, we are the leaders. And we should be bringing forward things to help them out.

[9:11] Mike Thelen:

Another part of leadership is making sure we have the right people. So are we hiring people that are open to change? or hiring people that are willing to try different things? One of the things I think about with this is, so often when I’m talking to my managers about their open position, how they’re going to fill it, if for example, was in our dairy foods business, they want somebody that’s already done dairy foods work and done credit or collections or deductions. And so oftentimes, we look at the resumes and get excited about people that already have the same job we’ve got now, but as we go to interview them, and we’re looking for the right skill sets, we find out that it’s more important to match the skill set or the intelligence quotient with the job. And then beyond that, we need to make sure that as they come into the organization, we’ve trained them on the job. So there are some steps that we can do as executives to make sure that things work better. The third point is for big customers. I think big customers pose the biggest challenges and I probably should have said the biggest reward as well.

[10:29] Mike Thelen:

We can all think about this. We have a big customer and they weigh more on a scale versus smaller ones. We still have to have the smaller customers, don’t we? When I think about it is the top piece of this transactional focus versus the highest priority. So many times our staff gets so carried up with being busy and wanting to check off their to-do list. So if they’re collectors, they’re wanting to check off five customers. That feels a lot better than just checking off one. If there are deductions, analysts, they want to just get through the easiest time when it’s the quickest. But I would propose that that’s not the best way to go, that we need to share with them that it’s more important to take some time with those larger customers. It’s a lot more important is to make sure that Walmart is paying us on time. If Walmart’s out there, you’re paying us on time. So thank you. But we can’t just ignore them because they’ve got 50 items that are past due and we need to call on that versus that customer that’s only got two or three.

[11:30] Mike Thelen:

So what customers are most important? How do we know which big customers are important? There are some easier things that might define them. And that’s on the left-right here. growth, profitability, channel access. So growth is an obvious one, size might be how profitable they are. Maybe we’re trying to get into a new channel so they become important if we’re now trying to sell convenience stores or aerial spraying services in agriculture. There are some other things that make customers important. Maybe these customers are very interested in new ideas, and they’re taking on your technology. If you’re offering new things or the first customers of yours that are trying new products that could make them important. It could be the customers that are advocates for you, that are the ones that are selling you on, or that are selling for you and bringing you another customer. So there’s a number of ways that customers can be a value. And I think you want to make sure that you help your employees understand that so that they don’t just see them as Oh, well. That’s a small customer, I’ll just be quick with them. I might even be a little firmer than usual. Maybe not maybe you should share that this is a trend and area we’re trying to get into and we need to handle them more closely.

[12:55] Mike Thelen:

The fourth point that I wanted to bring up is short term results can compromise long term value. So what do I mean by that? I think about a couple of situations where we’ve hired staff and right off the bat within a couple of weeks to a month or so, we see they’ve made tremendous progress, dealing with cash application or dealing with collections or maybe doing a lot of analysis. And then we get a month or two out and all of a sudden we start hearing from the sales team, or maybe even the customer starting to report back that these people are moving along too quickly. They’re getting too firm with the customer. And it’s our time as leaders to check back and say, what’s going on if we got them focusing too closely on those easy metrics that are easy to evaluate, like, what’s your percent current? What’s your deduction balance? What’s your open percent of cash to be applied. And we realize as leaders, we need to step back and share with them a few more things. We should share with them that this is a long haul thing. We’re not in this for the short run, we’re not doing medical collections, and we’re expecting those customers never to be coming back. Most of our customers we need for the long haul. So let’s make sure we’re building relationships with those customers. That over the long haul continues to be the most important thing, even in this day and age with all the technology and all the data we have, people relationships can still mean the most. Why is that customer of yours going to pay your company versus your competitors? Probably because they like you more and why would they like you more? Because your people are having a better experience with them. So as leaders, we should make sure that’s happening. How do we do that? We start by hiring right? Gotta find the right people to hire. And again, I already mentioned this, but let’s make sure you hire more on what their emotional quotient might be, what their interpersonal skills are, their ability to learn, they’re interested in trying to try new things. And that can be a lot more important than, “Wow, this resume kind of fits exactly with what we do.” Even if we grab the potential employee and hire them, and they were in a role that was just like ours, I think the other thing we want to make sure we do as, as managers leaders, is make sure that we train them when one of the biggest things that can happen is you just assume that they have learned everything you want them to learn. Many customers may or excuse me, many employees have not had a chance to do much negotiating today. I mean, I grew up in an area where you had to negotiate for your car prices. Today, you go to these places, and most of them have a set price. So a lot of people don’t have as many experiences there. We want to make sure that we train them. The second thing that I would point out in terms of training is, We shouldn’t assume that the training they got at their last job fits the way you want them to do the job at your company. Maybe those people were trained to do a thing really quickly and not worry about accuracy. And in your company, maybe accuracy is important. Maybe they’ve been trained to say we got a million customers just to get through the list. And in your company, it’s like no ever becoming customers. We don’t want to be losing them. There are only so many grocery customers out there. So I think that’s our role is to make sure that the right perception is there. This is our fifth and last one and we got the questions that you can ask if you’ve got any. So number five, your staff value is greater than collections, risk management, and payment processing. So first of all, as customer interacting employees remember we’re a customer-facing team. We deal with customers a lot, and at least in my group, we’re dealing with at the end of the chain. They’ve delivered the product, they’ve got the invoice, they’re now looking to make a payment to us. And along the way, they’ve accumulated problems. And they’re probably coming back to us to say, “What can you do to help me?” I keep having this pricing problem or, you know, we always have the shortage over here. How can you help and by the way, that’s why we’re not paying you on time. And that’s why you need to call me because you don’t have my pricing, right? Well, we can become customer advocates for that. And make sure that that customer gets things right. So if we take up that cause for the company, and go to others in the organization and say,”Hey, there’s a pricing problem.” and that gets fixed, that customer will remember that and they’ll be much more likely to do what you want. When you call them up and say, “Hey, I need to get a payment. It’s coming to the end of the month” and I see a miss this one any chance you get into the system and get the terms changed, and they’ll remember that.

[18:04] Mike Thelen:

I think the converse also happens. We, at the end of the line also see the situations where customers have decided to abuse the organization. They’ve implemented many compliance fees, or they’ve decided they’re going to constantly take small balance write-offs, or they’ve decided that they’re going to push out the terms. And I think what we need to do as employees of our company is to make sure we share that information with the people that are recording the profitability of customers. How do they know that? A great example I have is I was brought into a pricing team. I won’t talk anymore in pricing, because I want to get anybody in trouble with having a pricing discussion here. But that was what the subject was about. And the director and VP asked me to represent the order to the cash side of the equation. So I went to that meeting, thinking Well, I hope I can help. I don’t really know how we stay pricing, but I’ll get to learn about that. So that’ll be fun. And it quickly became evident to me that as someone that talks to customers a lot, and my staff does. So many of the people in our marketing group never talked to customers, they had no idea how our cash system flows. They don’t know what some of the frustrations of the customers are. They don’t know where customers are taking advantage of us. So first of all, I’d say shame on me for not doing this sooner and sharing more of that. But it was a really fun event. And they and these other peers of mine became very appreciative that I wasn’t just the sales prevention department that I actually could provide them with information that would help us better evaluate where our profitability is coming from. That was a fun feeling and I think it was beneficial to our company. Alright, so I just told you two things that are kind of the opposite. One is you can be a customer advocating and the other one is you, can tattletale, on the customers that are not doing the right things. And I think we have a role to do both of those. I think we really do. And I think we can do both of them. We can be known as a customer advocate, and we can hold our customers accountable. That’s my challenge to you. Please go do that. I think that’s my last official slide. We have a couple of minutes left. Does anybody have any experiences similar to this they want to share or any questions they might have related to these topics? There’s a hand up. Morgan, could you give the mic over to Joy, please?

[20:43] Audience:

Thanks, Mike. That was really good. From a customer experience. And what we’re doing in our area, when you talk about visibility is, we have been partnering with our supply chain on the customer compliance side and we’ve developed cost to serve reporting or I should say that team has Developed cost to serve to report. So now our fees and fines and the deductions guide, the way we code them are automatically flowing into that cost to serve. And it’s enlightening that group and to the organization and to sales because right now, that doesn’t go against their customer PnL. But they’re seeing the other expenses that roll up to their customer. And they’re starting to ask questions, and they want to get involved. So the visibility is starting to create. If you want to call it, more questions.

[21:36] Mike Thelen:

Good. Yeah, I bet it feels good to write you’re helping your organization out in a way that they didn’t expect. So thanks for sharing that. Any other comments, thoughts, questions? All right, how are we doing? timewise All right. Okay, last chance.

[21:58] Mike Thelen:

Thank you all for being a great audience today. I appreciate your listening and paying attention.

[22:04] Host:

Thank you all for coming out this morning to Mike’s session. If you have any additional questions, feel free to go down to the demo stations on the field or you can also connect with Mike on the Huva app. On the app. You can also view the agenda and see all of the sessions that we’ll be following this one. So thank you all again and have a great rest of your day.

[0:00] Mike Thelen: Let’s do some of the learning parts of this organization’s radiance. The first thing I want to do is just go over the general topics or the agenda for the meeting. I’m going to cover why customer experience and their business to business space is important. Five things that business leaders should know about, which are your customers are expecting your business to have consumer experience, a silent desire for automation. It’s big customers that pose real challenges. Short term results may compromise long term value, your team’s value is greater than just their collections, risk management or payment processes. So why is customer experience important in the business to business space? I’m gonna try to move around a little bit. I don’t like to stand behind the podium. If we think about These three companies, huge companies, they’ve done some things that seem obvious now but didn’t seem so obvious at the time. A number of years ago, when we wanted to watch a movie, we had to drive to our blockbuster, check out a video, bring it home, make sure our video recorder was working and watch it and bring it back the next day…

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