Service desert Germany – Improve Your Customer Centricity 

Katharina Krus
CEO & Managing Director of leadtributor GmbH. We support companies in managing their multi-level sales in a transparent and targeted manner.

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Customer satisfaction in Germany? The state of customer centricity at German companies

Customer centricity: The term "service desert Germany" was bandied about in the German media in the 1990s. It was coined by management consultant Hermann Simon. What has changed since then? A recent online survey by the opinion research institute YouGov provides a deep insight: Almost 40 percent of the customers surveyed feel they are not being looked after well enough today.

Has nothing really changed in almost 30 years? And why? We asked sales expert and managing director of leadtributor GmbH Philipp von der Brüggen.

"In the globalized world, "the customer is king" means "customer centricity. In other words, the customer has become the center of attention. Yes, hasn't he always been, you may ask. "Yes, he was and is, in the sense that you do everything you can to win the customer over for your brand: You do market research and try to formulate your advertising messages accordingly.

Everything seems to be focused on gaining leads," explains Philipp von der Brüggen, managing director of leadtributor GmbH. "But this is an old-fashioned way of perceiving the customer.

Because there are two extremely important phases in which customers are still inadequately served.

  • the period before the purchase
  • the long phase after the purchase

That's where most German companies are still failing."

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Example: Digitization in the car trade

Take, for example, the German's favorite child: the car.

Recently, Skoda's digital boss Peter Lorenzen complained that 80 percent of customers remain unknown to the dealer until they make personal contact at the dealership. Yet there are numerous contact points well before the visit to the dealership that most people don't use: potential customers go to websites, leave digital traces, get information, download material. That's where you have to pick them up, says Lorenzen, otherwise someone else will do it. For example, new car portals.

"Retailers can no longer afford this passive attitude," confirms Philipp von der Brüggen.

"First, because products have become more interchangeable in terms of quality. No one really has a massive technological edge to show for it. So service is increasingly becoming a differentiator."

Slow response times - before purchase and after - can do significant damage to a brand's image. Brüggen again cites the example with digitalization in the car trade: "If I want to buy a car today, I go to the manufacturer's website, maybe even give my details and ask for an appointment. If I don't get an answer within minutes, I try another dealer or another brand."

And even if the customer doesn't explicitly request a sales appointment, good customer service starts at the "website touchpoint": "As a company, I have to become active right away and offer them something for their visit: namely, relevant content," says Brüggen.

The world is spinning faster, offers are lurking everywhere on the web, customers are used to speed thanks to digitalization - and are more impatient.

Data Integration Breaks Down Silos - Digitalization Marketing and Sales

Which brings us to the keyword "digitalization in marketing and sales. Because, according to Brüggen, this is not just a tool for transporting data more quickly.

"Digitalization represents a paradigm shift. Not only does it allow us to send customers more relevant messages, but it breaks up old corporate structures, puts an end to silo thinking: the distinction between marketing and sales, for example, is completely obsolete today."

In what way?

In the past, Brüggen says, the sales process was linear: marketing and advertising deliver leads, they're passed on to sales, and sales closes the deal. Done! That's what the famous sales funnel represents. However, experience shows that exactly at the point where the customer journey supposedly ends, it has actually only just begun. Because no one collects as much information about the customer as the sales representative.

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It doesn't matter if it's a dealer or a sales representative. This information must flow back into the company's databases immediately. In return, the manufacturer must constantly support the dealer or sales representative, even during sales negotiations, with up-to-date data that helps them sell. This is not only data about the product, but also about the customer: Has he been interested in other products?

If the customer is a company, it is important to find out if there is relevant company news that could support the purchase: Mergers, new bosses, sales figures ... This also applies to cross-selling and upselling:

  • The more the manufacturer knows about the customer, the better and faster

- quasi ad hoc - he can offer him further products. "The boundaries between marketing, sales and customer service are becoming blurred: the marketing department is increasingly taking over the development of the lead until very shortly before the deal is closed. Sales, in turn, takes over many after-sales functions, keeps an ear to the customer, exchanges information with customer service. Thanks to modern data warehouse solutions, all departments will have access to the same data in the future - in real time."

Customer centricity: media breaks are taboo

Product development and pricing could also benefit directly from completely digital tracking of the customer journey: "Here, too, departmental barriers have to be torn down: What insights have customer service and sales representatives gained? Does the product, as it is, still meet customer needs?"

  • In short, when we talk about "customization" in production today, it doesn't just apply to fashionable sneakers.

This trend will increasingly spread to other industries, Brüggen said. "Does customer data show that square sinks are more popular than round ones? The product range must change accordingly. For this to happen, it is (necessary for survival) that this data flows unhindered through the departments.

And that is no longer science fiction. Thanks to digitization, this can now happen in real time. To ensure this, however, there must be no media discontinuity. Those who start with slips of paper, Excel lists and notes have lost."

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Conclusion: The customer experience with the brand is the bottom line

And why are we doing all this? "Ultimately, this digitized process leads to a merging of customer needs and brand," Brüggen says. "In the Age-of-You, it is increasingly important to retain attention and brand loyalty. And to make the customer part of the value chain. Customers are becoming co-creators of a product, so to speak. This is customer service at its highest and most absolute."

And what is the current situation in German companies with the 360-degree view of the customer?...

"We still have a long way to go. I would advise everyone to use digitization as an impetus to change the entire structure of their own company. Digitization is absolutely a matter for the boss."

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