As recent studies have shown, customer experiences within B2B are not living up to the expectations customers have from B2C. With clear benefits such as optimised lead generation, improved loyalty and retention, reduced cost to serve, and stronger organic reach, it is surprising B2C best practices have not yet rubbed off on B2B.
Is your organisation truly customer-centric?
Most B2B professionals would say they put the customer at the centre of everything they do. There’s no doubt in my mind that the willingness to put customers first is there, so the problem of B2B CX is an organisational one.
Coming from a marketing perspective, I like to think of CX as the perception the customer has of your brand. It is built over time as the sum of interactions customers have with any touch points, whether that be a sales rep, a visit to the website, a leaflet at an event, a call to the support group, a chat bot, an invitation to participate in a satisfaction survey, and, of course, any use of the product or service itself.
Orchestrating all those possible touch points to create great CX is by no means an easy task – especially not in solution-selling companies with very long sales and use cycles. Here are a few ideas on how to improve the customer experience in larger B2B companies.
Help me accomplish what I need to
What most B2B customers have in common is that they have one thing in mind: accomplishing something. You need to help them do just that. Whether it’s registering for an event or getting in touch with tech support, the customer should always feel that the interaction is seamless and the task easy to accomplish.
When optimising for superior CX across the customer journey, think about all the small steps involved in that task and how you may be able to help. For example, if the user has registered for an event, then send a confirmation link with an “add to calendar” file that contains all the practical information to get there. And think further then that – what opportunities are there to make the whole event experience before, during and after easier, more inspiring and helpful?
It all starts by understanding the various tasks the customer needs to perform, which goals, motivations and aspirations these are part of, and how you might be able to help meet or exceed customer expectations of your company in that regard.
Use data and technology to personalise the experience: Be relevant
As B2C customers, we’re accustomed to personalised experiences across digital channels. Customers alike start and pursue large parts of their customer journey online, and thus timely and relevant content should be served using behavioural data, segmentation and marketing automation tools.
One brand, one voice
A key challenge to large B2B businesses is to create a “one brand, one voice” presence in the market. Unaligned or inconsistent communication from different parts of the business, whether that be the message itself or the way it is presented (tone of voice; look and feel), is unconvincing and will make customers question the professionalism of the business.
Connect with emotion: Be memorable
As a private person, I want to be exposed to relevant and timely information. On top of that, I want it to be worth my time. In other words, I want it to be memorable. Research has shown that customers who are emotionally engaged are more likely to be loyal customers.
Many B2B companies lean towards neutral and impersonal communication by default. Today I believe that customers expect more. They want them to communicate with personality to make that emotional connection that makes the brand stand out from others.Many #B2B companies lean towards neutral and impersonal #communication by default. Emotional connections are created with personal communication. #CX #CustomerExperience Click To Tweet
Being memorable can be achieved in many ways, but communicating with both mind and heart is important. It could be by sharing your brand’s vision and inspiring the customer to take part in that journey. It could be by sharing opportunities that I am missing, or by showing me aspirations I had not thought of.
You can’t create superior CX in silos
Customer experience is about building trust, and trust is the currency that B2B businesses need to create to remain competitive. Within psychology, trust will simply be defined as attitudes or perceptions built upon consistent and predictable actions over time. B2B companies should aspire to just that by building predictable, repeatable, consistent and relevant experiences that help the customer accomplish their goals, connect emotionally and inspire them to develop.
As the frenetic business development over the last decades clearly has shown, customer expectations are a fast-moving target. They cannot live isolated in one department but should cut across all levels as an integral practice. So how is this achieved?
In brief, B2B companies should focus on:
- Internal alignment and a shared vision for the customer experience.
- A central strategy for customer experience supported by employee enablement and accessible guidelines.
- Internal knowledge sharing across all departments to build actionable customer insights and innovation.
- Finally, as CX doesn’t stop at the company gate, partners should also be involved in the ongoing work of crafting customer experiences.
The future of our business is in the hands of our customers. Truly putting them at the centre will require an extraordinary effort that in many cases will take us far beyond our comfort zones. It will require us to break out of our silos and take a fresh look at our organisational design and mindset.