Understand your B2B Customer

Posted on: February 5th, 2018 by Staffan Engstrom

I have worked in business-to-business situations for many years, and one of the most frequent criticisms that I hear from customers is that their service suppliers just do not understand their business. There is indeed quite a learning curve to be overcome in this area where it is not necessarily obvious to the service supplier what it is that really matters. Time and again, service suppliers that work for one kind of client fail to deliver, because they do not understand what it is that matters when working for another industry.

As a management consultant, I come across this all the time. You need to understand how different industries work if you are going to be able to help them. The same applies to all B2B organisations with multiple customer types.

I have found the SIPOC tool (Supplier; Inputs; Process; Outputs; Customers), from the Lean Six Sigma stable of tools, to be really useful in helping to understand – relatively simply and quickly – what matters to a customer.

It makes you ask the main questions necessary to get a grasp of what the business is about: the key inputs, processes and outputs that the end customer is looking for, understanding the volumes and key output rates along the chain.