Managing Director PeopleTECH
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The final frontier in customer experience – B2B

31st Oct 2016
Managing Director PeopleTECH
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It is well-documented how empowered consumers have become over the past decade or so. They have increased choice, more competitively priced options and it is easier than it has ever been for a consumer to change where they get their products or services from. Even in the energy sector, notorious for being hard to switch providers, has made it much easier to do so now.

This has all meant that customer experience has become arguably the main differentiator. Companies like Amazon and Uber have taken customer experience to the next level and there are very few brands now that do not have a major focus on the customer experience they provide.

But the B2B world has been much slower to adopt such a focus. I accept there are different factors to be considered in B2B. If you are a company that needs 100,000 widgets a month to make your product, there are not necessarily the options available that a consumer might have if they were dissatisfied with their monthly shop.

Yet many of the principles of customer experience apply just as much to B2B as they do in the B2C world. Why have B2B firms been slow to acknowledge the importance of customer experience and what can they do to address this?

A lack of choice = B2B CX apathy?

Part of the reason that B2B firms have been slower than their B2C counterparts to address CX is straightforward – it just hasn’t been as big a priority. The importance of CX with consumers is obvious and tangible. If a company doesn’t deliver a good experience, the customer will just walk away and buy elsewhere and the connection between CX and the bottom line is clear to see.

But with B2B firms, there is much less choice than with consumers. There might be only two or three suppliers of a specialist B2B product in the world, meaning it is significantly harder to change providers. There might also have been a relationship for several decades, which makes it a much tougher and more emotional decision to switch.

But generally speaking, there is becoming more choice. People that work in B2B have seen the customer experience they receive when wearing their ‘consumer hat’ and have rightly decided that a similar experience would be welcome in their professional life too and are taking active steps to find companies who can offer it. This has meant that belatedly, B2B companies are focusing in a major way on customer experience.

Start at the top

The best way of kickstarting this process is to make sure it’s a focus that starts at the top and has someone driving it and taking responsibility for its success. Earlier this year we conducted research with FTSE 100 companies and found just one of those has a Chief Customer Officer (CCO) on its board. Only 11% had a CCO on their SMT or executive committees.

With so many B2B companies on the FTSE 100, this reveals an astonishing lack of senior focus on delivering a good customer experience. Without someone to make it happen, it is highly unlikely that any organisation could deliver the right experience in any meaningful way, so this is something that B2B firms must address as a priority.

Know your customers

The principles of B2B customer experience are the same as in B2C. You need to know what your customers want and deliver that to them as efficiently and effectively as possible. A big part of that in the B2B world can be addressed by content, conversation and social channels. 

B2B firms have been slower to use social media than B2C, but this is changing. Social platforms are an effective way of having a broader conversation with customers, letting them know what you stand for and providing valuable information / content around a specific solution or particular topic.

The importance of digital

In much the same way that people who work in B2B have wanted a more consumer-centric approach to CX, there has also been a move to a much more digitally-focused proposition. In short, digital is everything and is increasingly expected within B2B as well.

This means a number of things - a mobile responsive website, a joined up and responsive social media proposition – but most of all it means a consistent experience across all channels. People want to move from mobile to other channels, and if they wish to leave a website to visit that a B2B brand’s mobile app, then that has to happen easily.

CX in B2B is here to stay, and those that don’t embrace it will suffer in exactly the same way that B2C brands have – customers going elsewhere and an impact on the bottom line.

 

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