B2B companies are generally terrible at Customer Experience

By: Shannon Ballard

…but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Customer experience (CX) is quickly becoming the leading challenge in B2B marketing. In fact, 86% of B2B executives recognize CX as a strategic priority, noting it provides a competitive advantage and drives revenue.1 However, despite this understanding, only 18% of B2B businesses truly understand their customer journey and effectively implement CX strategies.2

Why is it that B2B organizations understand the importance of customer experience but can’t figure out how to properly identify opportunities or implement solutions?

B2B businesses are set up for themselves, not their customers. They are organized to drive efficiencies within and across multiple business units, which not only leaves the customer out of the consideration, it actually creates inconsistency and inconvenience for the customer. While everyone would say we’re in business to serve our customers, internal structures and processes can get in the way. What companies really need to do is look at the customer’s experience – every single touch point of customer contact – from their point of view and in a holistic manner. This is commonly referred to as customer journey mapping.

Customer journey mapping is an exercise where you create a visual representation of your customer’s mindset, challenges, questions and needs from their first consideration through to the final purchase, product/service experience and potential renewal or reengagement. Some key questions uncovered in this type of exercise include:

  • What do customers require at each phase of their journey and how are you (or aren’t you) delivering against these expectations?
  • How much effort does it take to work with your business?
  • What processes do you have in place that work internally for your organization but make it difficult for your customers to work with you?
  • Are there ways you can anticipate and manage your customer’s expectations to make the experience more positive?

Above all, customer journey mapping is an effective tool to understand how your service delivery model is (or isn’t) meeting your customer’s needs and expectations.

B2B companies and customers are disconnected. By nature, B2B businesses operate within complex networks to deliver their products or services through the sales channel’s distributors and other partners. Very few people within a B2B organization have direct contact with the end consumer. This structure in itself impedes true understanding and connection with the audiences that matter most. Implementing a Voice of Customer program and following that feedback through provides insight into opportunities.

Overloaded with data, light on insights. B2B organizations are fraught with fragmented customer data. Organizations tend to be swimming in data, and yet most don’t understand it or know what to do with it. There tends to be a lack of appreciation for how the data actually translates into the customer’s perspective or how to leverage this information to help the customer experience. By using data points against your customer journey you can uncover opportunities for CX improvement. Leveraging unstructured data also provides valuable insights. For example, can you listen to call centre conversations? Look at social media inputs? Determine what questions or concerns are appearing consistently or where you see drop-off?

Focused on acquisition, falling behind on retention. By focusing heavily on attracting new customers, B2B businesses are missing the boat on keeping their existing customers happy. These B2B businesses spend considerable effort, resources and time on this initiative, and yet focus far less attention on the management of the day-to-day business. In the interest of growth, many companies underestimate the significant cost incurred by keeping unhappy and dissatisfied customers. By rethinking this mindset and focusing more resources on the customer experience, B2B brands can improve customer loyalty and grow their recurring business and revenue.

How can you start to build an effective customer experience program?

Excellent CX requires a commitment of resources to truly pull back the curtain and look at the entire consumer journey with open eyes. Remember, taking a good look at the full customer journey serves as a catalyst – not a conclusion. Making meaningful CX improvements will require honest feedback that challenges the conventional thinking and a willingness to make changes based on the insights revealed. It requires a commitment to organizational transformation; one that puts the customer at the centre. It is not an easy, short-term solution, but it is worth it. Research shows that customers are 5.2 times more likely to purchase from a company with great customer experience.3 Couldn’t your business benefit from that boost?

 

1. Accenture 2015 CX research findings

2. https://www.salesforce.com/form/marketingcloud/2015-state-of-b2b-marketing.jsp

3. https://experiencematters.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/the-ultimate-customer-experience-infographic-2015/