B2B customer relationships as we knew them are a relic of the past. Today’s business buyers are also savvy consumers who are better informed and more demanding than ever before. They now expect to engage with you in a way that is consistently easy, pleasant, and relevant – no matter how and when they choose to do so. Most buying experiences today are based on how the customer feels they are being treated, so it’s vital for companies to get the experience right.
It can also be rewarding. Research suggests that 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience, and customers who are fully engaged represent an average 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth compared with the average customer.
Learn how to create a great experience for B2C *AND* B2B customers
However, the biggest challenge for B2B companies is delivering a superior experience every time a customer interacts with you. The buying journey no longer moves in a neat linear progression from awareness and interest through to purchase in a carefully choreographed series of steps directed by the salesperson. Instead, the customer is now firmly in charge and their journey is organic and unpredictable, spanning any number of channels and touchpoints. It can start anywhere and go in any direction – even backwards and in loops – and every customer journey is unique.
And it’s not just about personalization. Slapping a name tag on my luggage and having a flight attendant remember my name are examples of personalization. What we need to move toward is individualization. Contextual, relevant engagement which makes the customer feel like an individual rather than a person.
What if that same flight attendant also knew that it was my birthday and put a banner up above my seat, or had a record of my favorite pre-flight drink and had it ready at my seat upon boarding. Individualized customer experience…that’s where we should strive to get to, regardless of our business or industry. Oh and by the way, this happened. It’s just a shame that United Airlines didn’t take notice!
The trouble is, most companies have spent years investing in technology and processes to support the old model which divided marketing, sales, commerce and customer service into silos with separate processes, tools, and goals. If yours is one of them, don’t worry – you’re not alone. According to the CMO Council, 73% of marketers view customer centricity as critical to the success of their business and role at the company – but only 14% say customer centricity is ranked high within their organization.
So where do businesses like yours go from here? How do you build a 21st century model for customer engagement and create a great customer experience? How can your customer-facing teams work together to deliver great customer experiences?
Do you know your current strengths and weaknesses?
The first step in how to create a great customer experience is to measure where you are now. Although there are lots of different models, definitions, and terminology out there, the general consensus is that a typical B2B customer journey comprises a number of phases from awareness to advocacy. And each phase offers opportunities for your customer-facing teams – individually or collectively – to engage customers to influence their behaviors and decisions.
Establishing an objective benchmark of your performance at each stage of the customer journey will enable you to identify your current areas of strength and focus on where you can improve. This will provide a baseline to measure and compare performance improvements going forward, but creating a great customer experience won’t be easy and will require a significant re-engineering of your structure, systems, culture, and ways of working.