According to Accenture’s 2015 B2B Customer Experience survey, only 23% of B2B companies achieved strong returns on their customer experience investments. Almost 20 %generated low or no return. That means the majority of B2B companies are surviving, but not exactly thriving! However, customer experience leaders achieve higher-than-average revenue growth. Let’s examine that fact…
Considering the B2B vs the B2C Journey
B2B journeys tend to be long, complex, and quite technical, consisting of a continuous interaction of services and sales touch points that are often fragmented by account and location, involving multiple teams in different departments. Adopting a customer-centric mind-set is just as critical in B2B dealings as it is when serving retail customers. However, creating long lasting relationships and satisfying experiences for B2B customers requires fresh and creative ideas around the following:
Although products often represent B2B organizations’ sole value proposition, they are hardly emotionally engaging or visually appealing. In many cases, due to the product’s characteristics, customers cannot perceive the actual value of the product’s features or components. For example, discussing the features of an iPad would not be as exciting as the features of wires and bolts for an aircraft.
In a B2B environment, the client’s purchase decision is usually determined by a group of people, like the procurement department. RFPs entail specific requirements designed to minimize any differentiation or value-adding factors between the offered products & services from different suppliers. Thus, the committee is often left to consider only the price as the differentiating feature. While retail consumers often purchase products and service on the basis of impulse, B2B customers frequently make illogical decisions by consensus – often on the basis of price alone.
Buying decisions in a corporate environment is a complex process entailing additional factors. As a result, in many cases the total cost of ownership is not the only decision factor. The CEO and CFO of a client organization might participate in initial strategic discussions but the final decision is left to the treasury department, legal team, procurement, and financial officers.
B2B relationships usually last much longer than B2C. When vendors in trucking, aviation, chemical and IT industries begin providing services, chances are that they will be doing so for many years.
In a B2B world, competition for every single client is fierce! In many cases, a single client can account for a significant part of your company’s revenue. A single customer can influence business decisions, profitability and revenue, while ‘Wallet share’ is a primary financial driver in many B2C relationships. The loss of a single customer can impact staffing, compensation or even the future of an organization. The importance of every customer should facilitate the recognition that consistently delighting customers is critical to long-term business success.
Redefining the B2B customer Journey
When designing the customer strategy, it is important to recognize that the complexity of the B2B relationships renders basic customer experience principles useless. The following can be considered before embarking on that journey:
The greatest challenge in providing an exceptional customer experience is adding unique and differentiating value that solves customer problems. Experiences at every stage of the customer life cycle should be customized to each individual stakeholder to have a harmonious and aligned interaction with all different styles. The journey of commercial excellence starts with the identification of the right market that your company will serve at the right time. Like in any relationship, the attraction must be high on both sides in order to create the spark (please see the chart below). Organizations must map all potential decision makers, (strong influencers in purchase decisions in some departments are often overlooked), and manage their different expectations to increase the likelihood of establishing long-term relationships that will drive customer loyalty.
2. Value Visualization
B2B customers rarely perceive the service or product provided by their suppliers as being different and unique. They often believe that vendors provide similar solutions and that price alone is the sole differentiator. Organizations must continually demonstrate their value through a visualizing value program in order to ensure the longevity and profitability of their customer relationships.
3.Integrity & Τrust
Integrity is an organizational way of being and acting that in turn creates trust – a willingness on behalf of the customer to engage in a ‘risky’ conversation with a provider. One of the highest performing brands in the UK business technology sector is DELL, providing strong performance and resolution by using the client’s voice to guide their strategic direction and excellence in troubleshooting, and turning poor experiences into great ones. One of the highest performing brands in the UK business technology sector is DELL, providing strong performance and resolution by using the client’s voice to guide their strategic direction and excellence in troubleshooting and turning poor experiences into great ones.
As customers increasingly perceive products and services as commodities, employees are left to create delightful experiences through their individual interactions. Suppliers often ignore core relationship metrics, forgetting that premium customers can become their best recruiters. Employees have the ability to destroy relationships or increase sales and relationship longevity through a single interaction. Creating appropriate training programs, defining roles and responsibilities, and providing the requisite tools and authority are needed to achieve delightful customer experiences.
Easy digital access to information, products and channels has made the traditional buying path—in which customers moved from discovery to consideration to evaluation to purchase—obsolete. There is great potential in the B2B realm in using concepts such as self-service, online interfaces, and automated decision rules. For example, the use of digital “track and trace” interfaces enables B2B clients to see the status of their customer journeys in real time.
6.Creating journey transparency
The European corporate bank created a “journey guide” that explained the process of applying for a loan in simple, visualized steps. A designated bank employee was managing and overseeing the entire loan application process, monitoring the entire customer journey. Each step of loan process was monitored with specific KPIs, informing the customer the duration of each process stage. This “journey guide: resulted in a significant improvement in customer satisfaction, during the loan application process.
B2B organizations face different challenges that require different business paradigms and customer experiences. Winners in B2B customer experience elevate service as a critical enabler of growth, and they over-invest in both traditional and digital capabilities to sustain and monetize customer engagement. In a customer’s mind, the distinction between B2C and B2B does not exist, and this is an important point for companies to take away: their business clients are now thinking as consumers.