Discussions about customer experience often focus on consumer-facing (B2C) companies, but what about organizations that sell to businesses (B2B)?
For B2B organizations, retaining each relationship is frequently a critical success metric, given the size of typical accounts. At the same time, B2B clients and prospects compare business interactions with their personal consumer experiences, resulting in higher expectations in B2B relationships as they relate to the ease of doing business, gaining extra value, and other experience elements.
With this recognition, B2B firms are getting on the customer experience bandwagon. Our research found that over half of large B2B firms want to become their industry leader in customer experience within three years. So how are B2Bs pursuing customer experience excellence? By building a client-oriented mindset and client-centric approaches to relationship management.
Building a client-oriented mindset
When it comes to day-to-day operations and decision-making, organizations naturally focus on the needs of their functional silos rather than clients. To overcome this, B2B firms need to build repeatable, systematic processes for gathering, analyzing, and taking action on customer insights.
Building a client-oriented mindset starts with a reliable flow of customer insights. Closed-loop Voice of the Client (VoC) programs are a core element of B2B CX efforts. While our research shows that most B2B firms are in the early stages of VoC, we discovered some excellent B2B practices. For example, given the complex nature of B2B customer journeys, VoC programs need to cover key interactions with a variety of stakeholders.
Philadelphia Insurance Companies accomplishes this with separate surveys covering contact center interactions, the claims process, and the agent's quotation experience. The surveys are collected into one database providing a complete view of key interactions. Quantitative results are combined with text analytics run on customer verbatims, which are reviewed regularly by company leaders to drive customer-centric actions.
Another way that B2B firms are becoming more client-oriented is through client advisory boards (CABs), which bring together a set of clients, sometimes in person but increasingly virtually. CABs not only provide B2Bs the opportunity to acquire more insight into customer needs and expectations, but serve as a platform to add value by sharing knowledge and promoting connections between the company and CAB members. Technology solutions provider CDW engages clients through a private online community. The company can quickly gather feedback from members on a various topics, including new product offerings, marketing messages, and customer technology usage. Clients can pose questions that result in peer-to-peer exchanges that benefit the entire community.
Building client-centric relationship management
Once companies gain a deeper understanding of clients, they need to infuse that knowledge into managing these relationships. To build stronger ties with clients, B2B firms should move toward client-centric models of account management that use client insights across the relationship continuum.
This starts by equipping account teams with a comprehensive analysis of client feedback in a format to help decision making. To acquire, retain, and grow B2B relationships, account managers need account-level experience reporting to understand what is working for each client. With that customer understanding, B2B firms can pursue three tactics for client-centric relationship management.
Insightful business development
B2B organizations that gather the right customer insights will create a differentiated experience from the start of the relationship. So as not to miss out on this opportunity, the sales team at Genworth Financial is kept informed of customer feedback through regular sales updates and webinars. In the updates, the customer experience team offers strategies to respond to opportunities or concerns uncovered in the feedback.
Colllaborative account planning
Account planning in B2B organizations varies widely in formality, consistency, and customer-centricity. By taking a structured, collaborative approach to developing in-depth account plans, companies can tap their enterprise knowledge to engage customers and grow relationships. Oracle’s Key Accounts Program provides the teams managing top accounts with tools, best practices, and dedicated advisors who coach them throughout the planning process to ensure customers’ long-term objectives are met.
Proactive intervention and support
Service issues or failures are make-or-break moments in customer experiences. B2B organizations need to use customer feedback from account managers to move from reactive responses to intervening in service experiences gone wrong as quickly as possible with robust recovery procedures. To ensure that individual escalation processes have the appropriate degree of coordination and visibility across the organization, Salesforce.com holds weekly cross-functional review calls and uses a dashboard to manage resolution timelines.
The bottom line
When the competition ignores issues, it’s easy to follow suit. But that's no longer the case with B2B customer experience. B2B firms must seize every opportunity to use customer experience to drive strong enterprise relationships.