Crisis & key account management: a silver lining to the cloud

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  • Key account management requires a structured approach, especially in times of crisis.
  • Risk management should be proactive – contingency and recovery plans – and reactive – continuity plans and operational coordination.
  • Crisis can transform a customer-supplier relationship into a real partnership.

As the world reels from the impact of COVID-19, it is essential for suppliers to get back on their feet quickly, regroup as best they can, and commit to a recovery strategy. Crises are inherent to business and, in the coming weeks and months, the ability to manage the damage will make all the difference.

A reliable supplier should be able to handle any crisis situation successfully and calmly and, for this, a key account management program is especially useful. It can help to refocus the debate, promote the establishment of integrated pragmatic strategies, facilitate action plan implementation and follow up, improve communication and – something that is really important post crisis – re-establish confidence.

In times of crisis, it makes sense to take a structured approach to the management of relations with key account customers – companies that have financial weight (a turnover of several millions or even billions), international geographical reach, a willingness to expand and become global, and a wish to cooperate. A structured approach allows suppliers and other partner companies to understand the customer’s problems, develop a recovery strategy, set up and follow up, and learn from mistakes in the long run.

A strategic relationship with key account customers is likely to increase productivity in the long term. Suppliers typically establish a global or regional account team to handle quotations, sales, program quality management, implementation, finance and communication, projects, and consultancy. This team usually provides a single point of contact for the customer and support for any local country teams. Risk management should be part of the prioritized joint activities. It should be proactive, with contingency and recovery plans, and it should also be reactive with continuity plans and efficient operational alignment and coordination.

It is essential that true added-value is being delivered.

The silver lining to the current cloud is that groups of people who go through a crisis together are often more united afterwards. And sometimes it takes a crisis for the customer/supplier relationship to transform into a real partnership, which is a powerful, solid basis for future development.

In future blogs, I will be expanding on the topic of a structured key account management approach. I’ll review proactive risk management to identify potential disruptions and the required contingency plans, consider responsive risk management to swiftly address each event with relevant actions, and prepare early for activities related to post-crisis management.

Published: August 2020