B2B customer experience - hot topic?

by Webcredible on 28 February 2016
Customer experience is a hot topic. Job titles such as Head of Customer Experience and Chief Customer Officer are starting to appear, these individuals are the driving force for the 'voice of the customer' and shows how businesses are starting to take customer experience strategy, design and management seriously by making someone accountable for it. But how about in the Business-to-Business (B2B) arena? Is customer experience a 'hot topic'? The B2B realm has historically been significantly behind the curve in terms of customer experience as Forrester research found in their 2011 industry surveys. Forrester went as far to say that the B2B businesses had a lower level of customer experience than the worst of the consumer brands. Scathing! Now, if customer experience wasn't important in the B2B industry then that would be no surprise and not really anything much to write home about. So the first thing to do is to work out if B2B businesses should prioritise customer experience at all.

Is B2B customer experience beneficial?

Here are a few areas where customer experience can support your B2B business:
  1. Cost saving: It costs a lot of money to gain new customers and get into a trust position to be able to grow those accounts so a positive customer experience that supports your customer can take away their strains and increase their loyalty.
  2. People talk: B2B often runs on word-of-mouth marketing so remember the personal elements, it's a mistake to think that you are just dealing with a machine that has service level agreements.
  3. Grow your customers: A more trusting relationship means you can work closer with your clients, often increasing their spend with you and you can support them to grow through innovation in their supply chain.
  4. Differentiation: Customer experience could be a lucrative differentiator in addition to the traditional price competitive market.
Those three reasons aside, customer experience is key for any business as even at its most basic it represents the optimisation of products, communications and services to make interactions more efficient. B2B customer experience should be a hot topic and a core part of B2B business plans and management.

Where should B2B businesses start?

Customer experience management is actually much more complicated for B2B businesses, mostly due to the number of people involved in decision making and the forward usage of products and services (I.e. the customers of the customer, which could be internal to your customer organisation or external continuing the supply chain). This means that there are a lot more experiences to measure, manage, plan for and create and it also makes it much more important. So where should you start? Here are some ideas of where to start, questions to answer and what to consider to start getting your B2B customer experience up to scratch:
  • Good experience: What is good customer experience anyway? Identify what customer experience you want to create from first contact to post-purchase service and beyond, identify what value would it add to your clients.
  • Your experience: It's not just about good experience, it's about your brand experience and your brand personality, that's how you can use customer experience to differentiate your business and services.
  • Create journey maps: understand where you product or service reaches and see how you can measure, manage and improve the customer experience at each step.
  • Segment with behaviours: Don't just identify all the different job roles as there will be too many to manage. Try to identify all the different 'customer types' you have in one client organisation along the journey map. Then you can look across your different client organisations to create a handful of personas of the key influencers, purchasers and users.
  • Get your teams together: it isn't just the responsibility of marketing, customer service or account management. Connecting the dots behind the scenes within your organisation can help deliver an excellent customer experience.
  • Don't be complaisant: Remember, it can change so re-visit your research, amend your strategy and reaffirm the customer experience goals across your organisation.
The B2B market has huge scope for customer experience, and we are working with clients in different segments of this industry to try and do just that! Have you got any other questions about B2B customer experience, or any observations of great or bad customer experience that you've experience, let us know in the comments...  

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