In this Customer Experience Counts article, we look at how companies are taking on the challenge of improving customer experience (CX) in a business-to-business (B2B) context.
When did you last review your customer experience strategy? Or assess how well your business is performing in this respect? If it’s been a while, you’re not alone. B2B companies have been slower than their B2C counterparts to prioritise customer experience. And B2B customers are feeling the lag.
Research shows that B2B customer-experience ratings lag behind those of retail customers. B2C companies typically score in the 65 to 85 percent range, while B2B companies average less than 50 percent, according to McKinsey1.
The race is on to catch up
B2B may have come late to the CX party, but it’s important to play catch up fast. Businesses are shifting to compete on value (not price) in order to build customer loyalty and differentiate themselves. After all, customer loyalty is seen as an indicator of customer satisfaction, and therefore a predictor of revenue potential.
Satisfied? Or just stuck with it?
However, with B2B accounts, it’s not always so clear cut that customers who are sticking with you are satisfied. There are often many ‘customers’ within one account – individuals who are involved at different stages of the account lifecycle. A hiccup at one stage can affect the whole relationship. For example, end users might be happy but if implementations have been problematic, the leadership team might seek a different partner. On the flipside, procurement might think they’ve struck a good deal but helpdesk staff at the sharp end wouldn’t agree.
As a reseller, you’re right in the middle of these complexities. Some aspects of customer experience are within your control. Others aren’t. By mapping the four key stages of the account lifecycle – customer acquisition, implementation, operation (use), and support – you can start to identify which customer touchpoints you can influence and then scrutinise the experience you provide.
It pays to be proactive in ensuring your CX is on point. You can’t take loyalty for granted. Ease of doing business is becoming a defining factor in customer experience. Could you make changes that save your customers time and effort in how they interact with you? By automating processes? Or improving self-service capabilities? It’s worth reviewing. It’s a safe bet that your competitors are working on it.
Technology is not the whole answer to improving CX. The human touch can make an emotional connection with a customer when it counts most. For example, complex issues are best resolved person to person, not by battling an automated system. Fine-tuning the human aspect of CX for your business might require staff training or changing your current processes, but it’s an investment that offers a strong point of difference in a digitised world.
What are the B2B CX leaders doing?
According to Accenture2, there are three defining principles of CX leaders.
- They don’t view service as a separate and final phase of the customer lifecycle. They combine product and service to drive outcome-based growth.
- They invest twice as much as their peers in offline capabilities such as contact centers, field service processes, and legacy CRM systems.
- They devote two-thirds of their customer experience budgets to digital.
So, where do you start?
Holding the mirror to your own business is a great opportunity to start a dialogue with your customers and show that their experience matters to you. Getting their input is a sure-fire way to invest in things that will be felt and appreciated by them. Will your business also feel the benefit? We’ll talk about how to measure the customer experience in our next blog.
In the meantime, if you have any stories about impressive (or dire) B2B customer experience, we would love to hear them. Please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org