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B2B starts working on customer experience - but there's a long way to go

30th Jun 2014
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It looks like the business-to-business market is finally starting to catch onto the discipline of customer experience. But from what a recent research report has shown, it’s not coming naturally.

The majority of B2B companies have increased their spending on their customer experience, but their ROI is, in many cases, non-existent. Almost 1,500 B2B professionals – including sales people, service advisors and customer executives – from 13 different countries took part in the study, the results of which suggest around 76% could be squandering as much as half of their customer experience investments.  

The report, published by Accenture and entitled B2B Customer Experience: Start Playing to Win and Stop Playing Not to Lose, notes how B2B customers are starting to get a little more demanding. Acting more and more like domestic consumers as time goes on, they now expect the same viewing, interaction, and purchase capabilities that B2C brands offer. In response to this trend, 43% of suppliers are planning to up their spending on customer experience programmes by at least 6% over the next year.

The only thing is, that doesn’t necessarily mean increased customer satisfaction; at the moment, the B2B companies with initiatives already in place are not exactly reaping the rewards. Over half of the participants in this study admitted that their current customer experience programmes leave a lot to be desired, achieving either very small, neutral or negative returns when it comes to retaining customers and growing revenue.   

“The relationship between company and supplier has changed,” said Robert Wollan, global managing director of Accenture’s sales and customer services practice. “Business customers are acting more like consumers. They know more about the services on offer, expect more customized solutions, and are more price sensitive. “Companies say they recognise this but the majority are not designing and executing the necessary changes effectively. This creates a drain on profitability and missed opportunities. Getting B2B customer experience right increasingly determines market success, but too many companies are ‘playing not to lose’ rather than ‘playing to win’.”

The report identifies the ‘masters’ of the B2B customer experience game, and provides some insight as to how they’ve managed to get themselves such a status, not to mention an average 13% annual revenue growth. For example, the paper points out that 91% of top dogs integrate customer satisfaction into their bonus and review schemes, while less than half of the laggards do this. More than nine out of ten leaders have also developed a consistent experience across sales, marketing and service – something that, again, less than half of laggards have in place.

Those excelling at customer experience are also more likely to be investing more in it, Accenture’s report notes. It has been calculated that leaders were about four times more likely than laggards to report planed budget increases of more than 6%.

“The performance gap between the Masters and Laggards is more dramatic than you would expect, given both groups cite customer service as a strategic priority,” Wollan said. “Most are not willing to ‘walk the talk’ and make major changes. One place to get back on track is giving customer experience leaders control over, or close proximity to, the P&L; as well as fostering true collaboration across internal and external sales, marketing and service stakeholders, and external partners. Our analysis indicates that proximity to the P&L is one of the predictors of customer experience performance.”

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