Experience is all the rage. Many advertising campaigns talk about “experiencing peace… tranquillity… adventure…” and many of us have decided to stop shopping or eating at a place because of the experience we had or because of what we have heard about others’ experiences.
As a child, I went to the same hotel in Cornwall for 7 consecutive years (shout out to Bedruthan steps) because the experience our family had was so good. My father used to rebook every year whilst he was there (and then we bought a caravan but that’s a different story!).
Experience matters. It creates loyalty; it creates a sense of belonging to something bigger. My brother recently went on holiday to Cornwall and sent me pictures of Bedruthan steps, and it made me think about procurement and business in general. How does procurement think about the experience we provide to customers and stakeholders?
According to recent Ardent Partners research into the State of Procurement, a top hurdle over the next 18 months will be solving problems about engaging with stakeholders. This year’s Deloitte CPO Report found that customer satisfaction has fallen in several key areas. It’s clear that how we engage with stakeholders is crucial. Ardent Partners goes on to state that the top CPO strategy is to improve internal communications and collaboration with stakeholders, with nearly half of the respondents selecting this as their top priority. In short, they need to make the experience better for their customers.
How can procurement start to do this? I believe that there are two important pieces of information we need to drive the effort: operational data and experience data, which you may have heard referred to as ‘O data’ and ‘X data.’
By marrying rich operational data (such as compliance to contract, spend under management, invoice compliance data), with real-time sentiments, we can ensure that procurement continues to evolve in line with ever-changing customer needs.
At Sapphire Now, we heard from procurement leaders who pointed out that digital transformation never ends; it always evolves because the needs of customers and stakeholders always change. The Hackett Group key issue report identified that stakeholder resistance to change is the biggest hurdle in transformations. Procurement must therefore continue to evolve our understanding of the needs of our stakeholders and find the source of their resistance.
In a recent McKinsey article about driving impact through customer centricity, we read about the U.S.-based insurance company Sun Trust and their experience management journey. Their CIO stated, “We are taking our client journeys, aligning them to our technology capabilities, and asking ourselves where we want to be in the future from an overall digital standpoint.”
The article goes on to discuss what they did to accelerate that process. They started by thinking about the personas of their customers and how each persona’s needs would be different. They then had deep conversations with those customers, which helped to drive the relationship and also gave them insight into their needs.
In procurement, we need to understand the changing needs of all the different personas among our stakeholders and the way they interact with us. It is more than just spend data they need from us. They need an experience based on how they interact with our systems and processes, how their needs are being met (or not), and what we do about it.
Assuming everyone wants or needs the same experience can potentially lead us to embrace the wrong strategies, and even stop us from achieving our goals. It can jeopardize our ability to drive value for the business, become a strategic advisor, access innovation from the supply base (because suppliers are stakeholders too!), and manage the ever-changing risk profile of markets.
The Ardent Partners report discusses technology adoption, specifically driving adoption internally with customers. For me this brings us back to the persona issue.
- Have we understood their needs and sentiments?
- Do we continually check to make sure we are on track during deployment as well as after?
- How will these needs change?
Getting close to and understanding our customers is key to procurement success.
The Hackett Group 2021 key issues survey listed “act as a strategic advisor to the business” as the #3 priority for procurement. In an accompanying webinar, one of the authors stated that it’s hard to become a strategic advisor if routine work is not being done in a way that meets the needs of the customers. To put it another way, unless the experience is right, they won’t bring procurement in on key strategic initiatives.
A plan to drive customer adoption and engagement must include:
- Be clear about the differences between your stakeholders; not all personas are the same.
- Meet and discuss their needs, likes, and dislikes.
- Discuss how they can evolve over time.
- Marry any learnings or observations with sentiment analysis.
- Link the above findings to your digital technology strategy roadmap.
So, what’s the prize for us if we can create a pleasant customer experience? For my family, it was rebooking and using the facilities at the hotel. It was us telling our friends about it, and personally for me it was the memories it brings back (as well as the home movie footage!)
90% of the interactions that stakeholders have with procurement is connected to the P2P process, making the interactions with our stakeholders (or customers, whichever you prefer) pleasurable and personalised. Meeting their needs will help with driving user adoption. If we get adoption, we get compliance to contracts, we deliver the savings we identified, we keep the promises made to suppliers, and we raise our profile to that of a trusted advisor.
And that is the biggest prize of all.
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