There are five business principles that B2B companies need to understand to differentiate themselves from the competition.
For decades, B2B sellers benefited from the complexity of the sales process. Once a customer was in the door, they were willing to endure a clunky customer experience because it was far more painful for them to start over the whole process of investigating, pricing and getting internal approvals before switching to a competitor. In turn, many of these legacy companies focused more on efficiency and lowering costs, often making the experience more challenging for customers.
As technology has lowered the pain of change for many customers, customer experience (Cx) is becoming a critical differentiator in B2B. Research shows that 89% of companies will soon compete mainly on customer experience. As business customers raise their expectations, B2B companies need to prioritize Cx as part of the core business strategy and culture.
Many B2B organizations should begin transitioning from competing on operational efficiency to customer experience. There are five business principles that B2B companies need to understand to win the Cx competition:
- Consumer influence
- Aligning company culture
- Nurturing personal relationships
- Continuous improvement
B2C experiences influence B2B expectations
Cx’s progress with B2B companies lags behind consumer-driven brands. But it’s important to remember that B2B buyers have their expectations set by their B2C experiences. They are accustomed to the conveniences digital Cx affords them in their lives at home. They have expectations of a speedy purchase process, problem resolution, responsiveness and accessibility through the channel most convenient to them at the time.
As consumers increasingly turn to online solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the average consumer is now trained to expect 24/7 self-service access to tailored product information, pricing, inventory availability, order history and delivery details. More comfortable with online for everything, business buyers now want the ability to pay invoices online and access ordering tools that help them control the experience on their own time.
Differences in the business environment require balancing the impulsiveness of B2C buying behaviors against the B2B logic-driven business decision-making process. Longer sales cycles, highly educated users, multiple decision-makers, thorough vetting before purchase, and more significant stakes on account renewal and customer continuity make it a unique challenge. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the business buyer persona within each high-value segment to start and plot the customer journey, which includes measuring the value of pain at each point of interaction.
Aligning company culture
Business customers typically have mature processes. They expect consistency from the companies they work with and seamless integration to their established workflow. Leading B2B companies do this by helping customers identify business challenges, adding consultative value throughout the buying process and personalizing solutions, especially with critical customers. In legacy B2B companies, this means tearing down silos and abandoning assembly line process for delivering customers solutions. Companies that have departments work cross-functionally on behalf of their customers build better experiences and can respond quickly when errors or misalignments occur.
Nurturing personal relationships
Providing personalization is a significant pillar of Cx, and business customers expect it. Achieve it by knowing the customer, being aware of wants and needs, and tailoring experiences to their circumstances. Walking in the customers’ shoes makes it easier to identify their priorities, challenges, fears and worries.
A strong B2B customer experience balances critical stakeholders across the customers journey. Even when end users aren’t the buyers or even part of the buying process, they can influence satisfaction and requirements used in the buying process.
Technology has come a long way to enhance Cx for all brands and business types. Cx improvements support ease of doing business, which is a reliable driver for loyalty. The B2B companies already winning the Cx competition use technology to simplify the customer journey and enhance relationships by reducing time, cost, friction, and effort.
A focus on improving Cx and making it easy to do business with you, reveals the technology you need to develop. Too often, B2B companies buy or build technology without understanding what customers truly need from it. Investing in an augmented reality app for customers to see new products in the factory is a waste of money if their biggest pain is quickly and transparently resolving problems.
There is no finish line in the race to create the best Cx, just as markets are never static. B2B leaders must continuously seek and facilitate feedback from customers and make improvements based on that insight.
Customer conversion happens by turning a poor experience into a great one. So be sure to design proactive moments throughout the customer journey, and not just for the interactions leading up to getting the sale. Making sure the onboarding process is easy or simplifying the re-order process can result in huge gains in customer retention and customer lifetime value.
Is your brand looking to win the Cx competition? Learn how to make Cx a part of your core business strategy and culture by contacting Melissa Lackey at firstname.lastname@example.org or Nick Sargent at email@example.com.