Are Your Customer Relationships a House of Cards?

House of Cards

A few rainy Saturday’s ago (which you can’t say very often in Silicon Valley) my daughters’ soccer games were cancelled due to a hectic lightning storm. So, my husband and I used the precious free time and spent the afternoon on our sofa binge watching the latest season of Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright’s House of Cards on Netflix. For you House of Cards fans, you know the twists and turns of this rollercoaster show that keeps us on the edge of our seats. But I wondered, how different would Washington be if all deals were tangible contracts and not simple handshakes or back room agreements? How would relationships in Washington change?

Luckily for us in the corporate world, customer relationships are solidified by specific legally binding contracts. But what happens when the contracts are complete? While the contracts may be filed away, the customer relationship journey is just beginning.

Complex Relationships are a Reality

In today’s environment, business relationships are necessarily varied and complex. Market conditions, customer needs, regulation and competition make them so. Every large B2B enterprise has a number of large, complex customer relationships and nearly every part of your organization—including sales, contracts administration, customer support and finance—exist to find, start, build and maintain these relationships.

Legacy Approaches Don’t Work

Despite standardization, automation, product-line pruning, total quality, business process re-engineering and any other attempts to reduce confusion and simplify access to customer information, variation and complexity continue to characterize the customer relationships of most companies. Think about the complex forces constantly at work–product line changes, price changes, customer requirements, corporate M&A, reorganization, regulatory change, negotiation—resistance to changing customer relationships is futile.

Efforts to eliminate complexity by standardizing all contract forms or automating the approval process to allow zero changes simply won’t work. And such efforts can have severe negative effects on the organization and customer relationships. The answer? Embrace the complexity! Embracing it means you’ll have a customer centered focus, you’ll be flexible and responsive, you’ll be innovative and you will enable new things to get done. Some of the world’s largest enterprises including Comcast Business, CenturyLink, FICO, Medtronic, and Truven IBM have embraced the complexity and greatly benefitted from it.

How Do You Master Complexity? Leverage the complete information found in complex customer relationships – the agreements, exhibits, amendments, schedules, work orders and notices. The entire scope must be consolidated, digitized and centralized. And you must have the most up-to-date intelligence on all aspects of your critical business relationships, as they change over time. Key contract provisions must be translated into the business-related meaning that your organization needs, so people can do their jobs and contract intelligence can be provided to authorized users across your entire organization.

Make no mistake: mastering the complexity of your business relationships will lead to clear competitive advantage. Your organization will have immediate, digital customer insight in meaningful context. And that means deeper, stronger, more profitable customer relationships.

While Frank and Claire Underwood may have to rely on skillful cunning to strengthen their political alliances, we’ll keep helping Pramata customers in the real world harness the value of complex contracts to draw insights and improve their customer relationships.

Read the 7 Ways to Master Your Complex Customer Relationships to learn more.

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