Does CX management really matter in manufacturing and other B2B sectors?
Business-to-business customer journeys can be complex and challenging, and quite different to business-to-consumer journeys. So is customer experience management as relevant to sectors such as B2B and professional services?
“I know customer experience is Important, but…”
When I speak to groups or host our weekly webinar series , I hear one thing over and over again.
“I get it. Customer experience is important. BUT… my business is…
- Professional services.
…So we can’t really do this or think about it in the ways you want us to.”
I understand. Those of us who aren’t in direct, business-to-consumer markets have been told we need to think differently.
- Our customers aren’t individual people in the traditional sense.
- They aren’t making decisions individually for themselves.
- They don’t always WANT what we sell, but they might need it.
- They aren’t buying a shiny new device or just-released sneakers just for themselves.
- They’re buying systems or parts or consulting or medicine.
Sure, there may be some level of truth to these claims and others you’ve been told to consider in your unique situation.
But here’s something that’s always true: your customers are human. They make decisions based on emotion, just like we all do. They debate the value of what you’re offering and they are disappointed when you don’t live up to the promises you made.
So, yes, my non-B2C friends… customer experience is for you, too. Just for fun, let’s take each case study on its own.
How to apply customer experience to business-to-business (aka B2B)
I get asked about CX in the context of B2B most of all. B2B customer journeys can be more complex and challenging. But customers still expect certain things, and these things are often ignored in businesses serving businesses.
B2B customers still have common expectations in their journey:
- They want things to be easier. Gartner reports 77% of B2B buyers state their latest purchase was very difficult or complex.
- They want to know who to call. I’ve worked with plenty of B2B clients who explain how their processes work, from the inside out. “After sales, we move them to a new account manager.” The customer, however, still trusts and relies on the salesperson they built rapport with. They want to call who they know when they have challenges. Customer experience requires a look from the customer’s perspective, not just how the org chart is set up.
- They expect B2C-like conveniences. They are customers just like you! They order from Amazon for next-day delivery and rely on their mobile app to change their profile preferences. Why can’t the businesses they order from behave the same way?
Many B2B organisations think they don’t have to worry about customer experience because their customers are businesses. But businesses don’t order products or sign the checks. People do.
In B2B situations, sometimes several people are needed to build consensus. But they’re still people. Don’t oversimplify the business you are serving. The business is made up of people who make decisions. They are relying on you for a great customer experience.
How to apply customer experience to healthcare
Healthcare encompasses a broad set of service providers including doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, insurance, and even medical devices.
Who is the customer, exactly? Well, at risk of sounding like a broken record, customers here are still very much people. They are seeking a solution to a problem.
Many healthcare providers see their role as the remedy. They are highly-skilled professionals who have one job to do: help patients resolve issues through diagnosis and treatment.
The problem lies with the rest of the experience. Patients make choices about where they seek that treatment. Those choices are based on their experiences, or what they’ve heard from others.
Patients — people — expect to be treated with respect regarding their time, their care, and their money.
- Patients want convenience. According to Healthgrades, convenience is a top priority.
- Customers are sick of waiting for doctors. More than 40% would be open to seeing another doctor for a shorter wait time, according to a study by Software Advice, a personalised software recommendation company.
- Healthcare providers are now publicly reviewed. The complaints often focus on disorganisation, poor communication and general customer service issues. Excellent clinical care is expected, but the rest of the experience is what’s reviewed.
Healthcare in general is complex and confusing for many patients in the United States. The “front office” is often the defining factor in patient decisions. Patients have choices, and often they are taken for granted.
How to apply customer experience to professional services
Accountants, lawyers, consultants and others rely on their expertise. They charge by the hour and expect to be respected.
It can become easy for professional services practitioners to lose sight of the “service” part of their role, and customers are surprised to see invoices for conversations.
Customers rely on these experts for their education, expertise, and advice. What happens when these trusted advisors ignore the customer experience?
- Clients often feel they are “talked down to” by the very experts they’ve hired. Invoices include terminology or acronyms unfamiliar to people outside of the industry, leading to confusion and embarrassment.
- Fees and billing are treated as an afterthought. Instead of informing the customer of what’s charged, the fees are revealed only when the invoice arrives.
- Proactive communication with clients is often discouraged. Customers are expected to ask for help when they need it. If they don’t need help, they may not hear from the professional services firm at all.
These clients, as they’re known, are still people who are customers. They expect customer experiences that are focused on them, easy to understand, and personalised.
How to apply customer experience to manufacturing
There’s something about manufacturers that has always impressed me: They make things. Sometimes these things are products that show up in stores for customers. Sometimes these things are parts that make things work. Manufacturers’ customers are distributors or retailers or other manufacturers.
It’s easy to think these types of businesses are too focused on building things to really care about customer experience.
And yet… the decisions are made by people. The orders are placed by people. And the invoices are paid by — you guessed it — people.
Manufacturing firms often don’t think they need to step up the experience because their customers don’t have as many choices or don’t “care about that stuff.”
Working with several manufacturing firms, I can tell you that their clients DO care about the experience:
- They are frustrated the manufacturer doesn’t understand what a delay does to the client’s business. Those delays cost them money and credibility.
- Customers are forced to figure out the payment processing system, the account management system, the purchase ordering system… all because that’s how it’s set up on the inside of the organisation.
- Customers rely on one or two people at the manufacturer. These are trusted advisors. When they leave their position, the customer isn’t loyal to the brand, they’re loyal to the person.
Customer experience is based on creating a trusted, consistent experience for all customers. Manufacturers need to consider how disjointed, confusing and complicated their experience is.
Customer experience matters in every industry
There are other industries I could write about here – insurance, franchises, education, non-profits, and more.
The bottom line is this. If you have a business, you have customers. If you have customers, you need to understand, improve and innovate around the customer experience.