The complexities of customer expectations have also increased quickly and maintaining these expectations has become an enormous nightmare for most companies. Customers now demand service delivery on different platforms and in a format best suited to them. Businesses everywhere are being faced with implementing multi-channel environments that come at a tremendous cost and intensive resource allocation. The reality, is that relationships are now fundamental to the success of a business, especially in developing, marketing, performing and maintaining effective and efficient operations. But the approach has had to change from building virtual roundtables relationships with the sole purpose of invoking a sale, to understanding the customer needs.
We have now seen and experienced a significant shift towards the development and implementation of Alternative Business Methods (ABM), of which the most common growth is evident in Outsourcing. The creation of alliances, consortiums, partnerships, joint ventures and collaboration between Businesses (B2B) is now a general practice, focusing on developing integrated solutions amongst them. All in an attempt to ensure the successful operations of a business, incorporating the successful implementation of customer service structures.
This has naturally led to relationship building between businesses that is now deemed as fundamental for business success. Some level of skepticism still exists however, as the general viewpoint is that forming B2B relationships must also include the measurement and management of the relationship, to determine its actual value and benefit. Nevertheless, the value of these B2B relationships must not only be measured in terms of financial value, which is typically termed as ROI (Return on Investment). Other areas of value must also be considered, such as economic, technical, service and social benefits.
It is also true that the value of a B2B relationship can include basic elements, such as knowledge transfer, reputational gains or even network access. But it must be understood that building B2B relationships involves sacrifices by both parties, no matter what measurement will be used to determine the value or benefit of the relationship. These sacrifices can include cost and overuse of current resources.
The most cost effective B2B relationship is collaboration, creating a platform, online and offline, where businesses work together towards a common goal, for the entire business community. Collaborative relationships will allow communication to flow between all participants through the sharing of information. This includes understanding the market better, obtaining feedback on their performance, and learning alternative methods to improve processes, or different ways to manage their businesses. The parties also are more likely to work together in ‘idea generation,’ learning from one another.
The knowledge gained within such a B2B collaboration can then be used to improve all participants’ business operations, as well as educating and informing their individual clients on best practices in using the businesses products, services or solutions.
The idea of B2B collaboration is still very new, but the concept of working together to achieve more makes huge sense to most businesses. As with Outsourcing, the concept has been adopted and is growing rapidly. The success of this type of business will, however, be dependent on the level of contribution of all parties. Also B2B collaboration will be most effective when members are carefully selected and few in numbers. So, early adoption and participation are highly recommended
In the current economic climate, plus taking into consideration that most businesses operate at less than 70% efficiency, collaboration should no longer be viewed with careful skepticism. In working together business can meet the challenges of complex customer demands, improve their own operations and enjoy the value and benefits of B2B collaboration.