Pitfall 6: Customers Aren’t Held To Account (Lesson 7)
I don’t know exactly why it is such a problem for suppliers to hold customers accountable. All I know is that it’s a very real problem and keeps a lot of businesses from realising their full margin entitlement.
It puzzles me because it seems so contrary to how most of us were raised. As a child, you learn quickly that you won’t pass exams if you don’t study. As an adolescent, you learn your parents won’t loan you the car if you don’t pull your weight around the house. And as a young adult, you learn you can’t get a loan from the bank to buy a house if you don’t have a suitable deposit.
Overall, the world is quite good at saying, “If you want what I have strongly enough, then you will agree to my terms.” So why don’t suppliers in the B2B world say the same thing to customers?
One reason is clear. If staff members don’t know what the rules of the contract are, then they certainly can’t uphold them.
Another reason is much more human. We just don’t like conflict. People don’t like to hold other people to account because it’s risky. Who knows how the other party will respond?
It takes a lot of courage and strength of character to call out a customer counterpart who constantly flouts their obligations, especially if you don’t believe the boss has “got your back” or you don’t really care about the outcomes because it’s “not my problem.”
Then there’s the simple truth that tough situations are “in the moment,” and people often don’t know how to respond effectively immediately. They often need more time to react properly than the situation gives them.
All of these reasons lead to staff members feeling disempowered and disengaged. A 2017 Gallup survey conducted with 30,000 participants in the United States found that, on average, 87% of workers are “not engaged.” More so, companies with highly engaged workforces outperformed their peers by 147%.
So, if even a little of this “not engaged” sentiment is present within your business, what are the chances frontline staff will hold customers to account on the smallest of items? It isn’t going to happen. Alternatively, if your staff are engaged and understand the bigger picture, how much more could your business thrive?
A Good Day At Work
At the opposite end of the spectrum, research reported in the Harvard Business Review on a similar sample size found that the number one driver for staff to experience a “good day at work” was the feeling of “making progress” or “moving the dial.”
Moving the dial is hard to do if staff members don’t know which dials to move. Yet lining up what is required can be so very simple.
Explaining customer obligations to staff is a key part of this. Explaining what “good” looks like to every supplier function enables staff to experience more good days, even if it means putting up with the odd tantrum.