Let’s face it, customer experience has not always been the number one focus for most business-to-business (B2B) companies. However, the mindset of these companies is changing as new technologies are developed and opportunities.
Although most B2B companies now realise that customer experience is important, fewer than a quarter of companies actually emphasise it. The companies that put resources into creating a powerful customer experience see higher revenue growth than their competitors, showing the importance of focusing on customer experience.
To build the best B2B customer experience, companies should focus on four areas.
The first is digital transformation. Now that new technology is so easily available, buying behaviour has changed. Companies need to realise this and tailor the technology so that it best meets the needs of their customers. Digital systems make it easier to solve problems on the go and enables companies to always be available to customers with 24/7 businesses. One financial technology start-up, for example, leverages new technology to approve small business loans in just seven minutes – a huge improvement over the 20 days it takes a typical bank. By simplifying the loan application process for web and mobile, the start-up allows customers to apply for loans within minutes from anywhere in the world, which relieves a significant pain point for small businesses.
Second, companies should use big data. As the world becomes more connected, there is a growing amount of data available about customers. That data can show things like customer trends, preferences, and demographics and can provide B2B companies with the full picture of their customers’ business needs. The companies with the best B2B customer experiences aren’t afraid of new data and technology; they welcome it and harness the data to better understand their customers and meet their needs. One company has created a service that uses micro-targeted data to identify consumers’ spending patterns and then identify other services or merchants they might like. Not only does the service provide consumers with highly personalised and accurate recommendations, but it also provides B2B customers with new customers.
Third, B2B companies need to find ways to personalise the sales process and tailor the customer experience. No two customers are the same and brand representatives must always be aware of who they are interacting with, rather than using a one-size-fits-all sales approach. An employee interacting with a small business will have a different approach than someone working with a large company because their customers will be looking for different things on their buying journey.
B2B customers have a lot on their plates, so they want simplicity. Microsoft partner HP, for example, tracks its customers’ ink usage to automatically replace cartridges just before they run out. HP’s simple effort can help its customers’ businesses run more smoothly and seamlessly, which is the goal of every B2B company. Customised experiences also help the sales cycle move more quickly, which is something nearly all B2B customers appreciate. The average B2B sales cycle is around 10 months long, but customers would prefer if it were around six months. By focusing on each individual customer with targeted approaches, the cycle can be shortened for even happier customers.
Finally, B2B companies must use omnichannel to see the big picture. Typically, B2B customers are involved with brands on a long-term basis, so customer experience needs to encapsulate the big picture. Over the course of a sales cycle, customers might interact with the brand via multiple channels – they could start with a phone call, then move to an in-person or onsite visit, make an online purchase and finally reach out via social media after a sale. In fact, the average B2B customer uses six different channels as they make a decision on a purchase. Customer experience happens in many places, which means companies need to create a consistent omnichannel experience. No matter how customers interact with the brand, they should be have the same quality experience. The customer experience and the sales cycle aren’t separate things; they are intertwined to create a cohesive, enjoyable experience throughout the entire journey.
Investing time and resources into customer experience can lead to significant rewards for B2B companies by driving growth and creating life-long, loyal customers.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and the author of More Is More and free e-book The Power Of Customer Experience For B2B Companies
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