Customer Experience in B2B – unnecessary or underestimated?
For some time now, I have been asking myself what the difference is between customer experience (CX) in the B2C and B2B sectors – i.e. business-to-consumer and business-to-business respectively. For myself, I have come to the conclusion: There is no difference in expectation, but there is a difference in expectation fulfilment. Yet!
It has long been clear that CX is just as formative and decisive in B2B as it is in B2C. However, companies in the business environment are making slow progress in optimising the customer experience at every touchpoint. Why is that?
Decision-makers in B2C and B2B
The most striking difference between B2C and B2B is probably the
- in the purchase decision phase,
- the group of decision-makers and
- the investment volume.
It is therefore all the more astonishing that business prospects will still be satisfied with an inadequate customer experience from their service providers or product suppliers in 2021. I believe that this will change within a few years. Digitalisation is probably the key word here.
Decision-makers are people who are customers in their private lives just like everyone else. The question will arise more and more why one has to overcome so many more hurdles to make a decision in professional life when it is made so easy in private life. And this will be reflected in purchasing decisions. Suppliers of comparable products will come under pressure. Then it will no longer be enough to have a great online presence or good sales. There is already a clear demand for transparency of the service/product. At present, this is still regulated by long formulated contracts and many discussions. And yet there are many business customers who are dissatisfied with their decision in retrospect. This is then reflected more and more seriously in the churn rate, i.e. the percentage of churn measured against existing customers. This rate is an excellent indicator of customer satisfaction. If this rate increases or is constantly at a high level, it will cause pain and demand solutions.
Improving the customer experience in B2B
What can these solutions look like? I am firmly convinced that companies (as customers) have exactly the same expectations as private customers. Companies in the business sector can copy this very easily:
- Put the customer / user in absolute focus and design all processes around them.
- Get to know your customers. Discover and describe your target audience. Only then can you really focus on the customer / user and start to really understand them.
- Optimise all touchpoints to the customer. Create trust and make it easy for the customer to come to you.
- Put yourself in the shoes of your prospects and customers and know exactly what decision-making processes look like. This is the only way you can help shape them yourself and actively influence them, for example by placing important information at the right time.
- The journey does not end with the purchase. Give your customers good reasons to stay, to talk about your company and your products (enthusiastically) and thus, for example, to use the up- and cross-selling potential.
- Give your customers a good feeling at all times! In this way, you give yourself and your company the chance of long-term customer loyalty, recommendations and additional sales.
Many will now say: we already do all that. But: is that really the case? I dare to say: no!
Many organisations still believe that they have all these processes and solutions under control. Many assume that business will remain cumbersome and sluggish, that major investment decisions cannot be made much faster than they are now. But I am firmly convinced that they will.
If we are already experimenting with letting algorithms predict the risk of an operation on a human being¹, then we are not far away from being able to have a complicated purchase decision made by software within a very short time. Idealo for business, so to speak. This is what one should be prepared for and oriented towards, also and especially in small and medium-sized businesses. Now is always a good time to start. But if companies do not take care of this until the time really comes, they will have to run behind the times.
The importance of customer relationship management
Customer relationship management (CRM) as part of the customer experience is also becoming increasingly important. Shaping customer relationships, actively consolidating them, even deepening them, will become essential. The main task will be to establish processes that ensure that customers are not only satisfied, but enthusiastic about your products and your company. And this does not only refer to marketing. Good service always shows when something doesn’t work as planned. At the latest, this is where the wheat is separated from the chaff.
Just as in the B2C sector, service will be the decisive point for the entire customer relationship. This is where all the points of a CX are demanded. This is where the difference will be made. This is where companies will win or lose. And this is probably also where the greatest untapped potential of today’s B2B providers lies:
- How confident is the support?
- How good, fast, friendly and competent is the communication?
- How solid or agile are internal processes when the unexpected happens?
- And how do organisations ensure that customers (and also interested parties) are helped as quickly as possible?
If you feel even a hint of doubt about these questions, you should move quickly into action. Because the customer will show many organisations: even if we think we are perfectly positioned, we have weak points!
All in all, there is still a lot to be done on the topic of customer experience in the vast majority of companies. Fortunately, some organisations have already recognised the enduring importance and are looking in detail at their B2B customers and their needs. Other organisations are just starting to take the first tentative steps. And many, unfortunately, don’t want to know about it all yet.
The fact is: it is not a good idea to underestimate the topic. Organisations should not hope that (potential) customers will simply come forward without being asked and tell them what their expectations are. It makes much more sense to actively ask and conduct empathy interviews, for example, which – if conducted well – will tell you a lot about your customers’ motivation. In addition, there is listening, understanding, also and especially things that are not communicated clearly and directly but on a meta-level, and also problem-solving. In combination, these four aspects are already a big step towards a good customer experience.
I am quite sure that it will be an exciting, thrilling journey that companies have to embark on here. And I look forward to each and every task on this journey, because as an absolute advocate of customer focus, I believe in the opportunity and power of change. Also in B2B. 🙂
Tamara-Jane Schickle has published another article on the t2informatik blog:
Tamara-Jane Schickle works as Product Manager and Team Leader Development at Omikron Data Solution GmbH. After training as a public administration specialist, she tried her hand at various professions in order to find something that really suits her. In 2015 she first came in contact with agile software development and that is where she discovered her passion: doing something with people and using common sense. She has been working for Omikron since 2019 and enjoys the daily challenges.