Invest Wisely In B2B Customer Experience

According to new research from Accenture, the overwhelming majority of B2B organizations are spending more on initiatives to improve their customers’ experience but the study, based on a survey of 1,458 sales, service and customer executives of B2B companies, suggests that 76% may be wasting up to half of their investment on ineffective customer experience initiatives that have resulted in little or no return.

The survey also uncovered a major shift: the consumerization of B2B interactions. Business customers are acting more and more like every day consumers, and are expecting the same type of experience they get from any company, which includes a more personalized and customized approach, similar to the way marketing and sales departments tailor messages toward their individual consumers.

The report defines “customer experience” as: marketing and sales campaigns, lead follow-up, account management, quote/order management, solution shaping, contracting, customer support, preventive maintenance, SLA definition and monitoring, planning and performance management, sales effectiveness, and multi-channel customer interaction.

Customer experience (CX) is widely recognized as critical to growth, and recent Accenture research reveals that for more than half of B2B companies around the world and across industries, nearly half of their CX investments are ineffective.

According to the report, 55% of the companies surveyed have experienced little, flat or negative growth in their effectiveness in retaining customers. In fact, there are material differences between what we have identified as masters of customer experience that are “playing to win” from those companies that “play not to lose,” with masters yielding up to twice the return on their customer experience investments. In other words, for a majority of companies, 48% of their customer experience investments, at best, are being used ineffectively or, at worst, are outright wasted when compared to masters, says the report.

In the next two years, according to the study response, B2B Customer Experience-related considerations will fundamentally transform:

... Selling to business customers

            Yes 79%

            No 21%

... Supporting/Servicing business customers

            Yes 73%

            No 27%

B2B executives believe their business customers are increasingly exhibiting “consumer-like” behavior in terms of how they view, interact with and buy from their suppliers; the customers know more about the services offered, expect more customized solutions, and are more price sensitive including their knowledge of the market, higher expectations and greater price sensitivity, the report says.

85% of B2B supplier executives consider the overall customer experience they provide in sales and service to be ‘very important’ to their strategic priorities, and 70% recognize that, over the next two years, customer-experience related considerations will play an even larger role in the overall corporate strategy.

As a result, 43% of B2B supplier executives say they intend to increase spending on improving customer experience programs by 6% or more over the next fiscal year. However, 55% of the respondents admit that their customer experience programs had achieved little, flat or negative return in terms of retaining customers, and (52%) building global revenues.

The study shows that B2B companies can typically be grouped into three broad segments according to their ability to plan and execute customer experience programs that deliver annual revenue growth: 

  • Masters: This group prioritizes customer experience and excels at both defining and executing a customer service strategy, which helps them generate an average 13% annual revenue growth. Only 24% of the companies represented by the survey would qualify as Masters, according to the analysis
  • Strivers:  Characterized by moderate CX performance, across either strategy, execution or both, Strivers are represented by 48% of the companies represented by the survey. The results achieved by these companies in customer experience help to deliver an average of 6% annual revenue growth 
  • Laggards: According to the report, companies in this group, which represents 28% of the survey sample, produces a negative average annual revenue growth figure of -1%, partly due to large performance gaps in their customer experience strategy and execution capabilities

The study found that Masters are more aggressively investing time and money in improving their customers’ experience than Laggards, and outperforming Laggards in several ways:

  • 92% of the Masters companies have embedded customer experience delivery as a formal end-to-end business process that connects how customers interact and engage across sales, marketing and service functions, compared to just 46% of Laggards
  • 91% of Masters link performance reviews, compensation and bonuses to customer experience outcomes for their sales and service workforces, compared to less than half 42% of Laggards
  • Masters are also more likely to place responsibility for delivery of the customer experience in a centralized function that directly manages several other functions, 64% vs. 36%
  • Executives in the companies categorized as Masters were nearly four times more likely than Laggards to say that they will increase their customer experience budget by more than 6% in the next fiscal year – 78% vs. 20%

Robert Wollan, Senior managing director, AccentureStrategy, Sales & Customer Services, concludes by noting that “… the… gap between the Masters and Laggards is… dramatic… to get back on track… give CX leaders control over, or close proximity to, the P&L… one of the predictors of customer experience performance… (and) fostering true collaboration across internal and external sales, marketing and service stakeholders, and external partners… “

For additional information about the study and Accenture, please visit here.



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