Customer experience or CX as it’s more commonly known has grown in importance over the past few years for B2B organisations and the impact of great CX shouldn’t be underestimated. According to customer intelligence consulting firm Walker, by 2020 CX will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. And Gartner estimates that for 80% of B2B customers, CX is the biggest influencer in the decision to work with a certain vendor.
For companies operating in a highly competitive market the challenge often isn’t finding customers, it’s keeping them. This is where a great CX can be the difference between winning and losing a sale. But it’s more than that. According to Mckinsey, where companies had transformed the buying experience for customers by changing their processes, they received higher client satisfaction scores, a reduction of between 10-20% in cost to service, as well as increased revenues of 10-15% and increased employee satisfaction. The message is clear. CX must sit at the heart of a B2B organisations buying platform if they intend to compete effectively.
As technology improves so does the complexity of an organisation’s customer experience. Access to and the choices of product, delivery times, purchase information and even product monitoring post-order has become simpler and more accessible for the customer, but often more complex for the seller to provider. Being able to offer this level of insight across channels such as mobile, online and face-to-face is increasing the burden on the supplier.
Yet technology, and specifically e-commerce software, is the simplest way to deliver amazing CX. So how can companies overcome the challenges they face?
1. Be strategic
Providing customers with a consistent experience starts with developing a strategy. Involve all departments, plan ahead and invest time and money in getting it right up front.
2. Be usable
Consider load speeds, page structure and design so customers can easily navigate your webstore. Don’t forget easy-to-follow search paths so customers don’t get lost, as well as faceted search functions so customers can filter by attributes – especially for complex products.
Can your customers go from initial search to purchase in just a few easy steps? Let buyers know the steps involved so they’re not surprised by a complex process at the checkout. Setting expectations is important. Try and provide as much key information at checkout – shipping calculations, options for payment and delivery, even alternatives for out-of-stocks.
Make sure that all of this information is presented clearly, correctly and in the right language. The way you deliver this information is as important as the information itself. If it’s online through your webstore then ensure that you’re speaking the customer’s language. According to Common Sense Advisory, more than half of consumers are willing to pay more for a product presented in their own language.
3. Be fast but be informative
Speed is key in delivering a good CX but that shouldn’t come at a cost of delivering information that the customer needs to make an informed purchase decision. It’s not just product information that’s a core part of the CX. Utilising data that you already hold in your ERP to proactively provide information to the buyer that can help with purchasing decisions can improve the experience too, and help to increase sales. For example, order histories can be used by the purchaser to make quick decisions about a new order, but it can also be used to create order templates to speed up purchasing processes now and in the future.
And what about other non-product data? Do you need to provide details of product parts or spares or even materials used in the manufacture of a product - even if they’re not for re-sale? Can these details be easily pulled from your back office system or ERP? Could a searchable FAQ help customers to move through the purchase process quicker or more easily? Would manuals or instructions aid customers pre- and post-sale? Consider customer data needs and deliver against it.
4. Be transparent
Utilising the information held in the ERP system and integrating this into your e-commerce platform can provide customers with an insight into production that can improve the experience. And integration works both ways. Any information inputted into the ERP system or web store can be made available to each other – keeping customers informed at every interaction. Out of stocks, for example, can be frustrating for buyers, so being able to see when the product is due back in enables them to make a clear decision about whether to wait or not. Alerting buyers when stock is low or back in can trigger purchases. In fact managing and sharing product inventory details is also a great way to increase engagement with the customer and for them to view you as a trusted supplier.
5. Be personal
Think about using personalisation as a way to deliver a strong customer experience – both online and offline. All of the structured customer and sales data required to provide a personalised experience already sits within the organisation’s ERP or CRM system. Since B2B e-commerce is often more complex than its B2C counterpart, personalisation means delivering accurate pricing deals, appropriate product catalogues, shipping and delivery information, as well as special offers and discounts. These can be tailored based on the customer history to date. If you can personalise the CX, the opportunity to upsell is vastly improved.
6. Be mobile
While B2C has been quick to optimise for mobile, B2B has played catch up. Yet the growth of B2B purchases on mobiles has in many ways driven the need for CX. Being fully optimised for mobile means being able to provide customers with the ability to buy in just a couple of clicks, whichever device they choose.
As aggressive sales tactics from auction sites threaten companies’ traditional customer base, differentiation and providing the best buying experience possible is key in retaining customers. Yet it also provides big opportunities for organisations to up-sell and cross-sell to customers, whichever channel they use. Whether you’re starting to move from a simple website to a web store, or whether you’re upgrading your first generation web store to a more fully-featured e-commerce system, creating a technology solution that maps against a strong and successful customer experience will help support retention and acquisition in a competitive marketplace.