CX in B2B: Catching up with our B2C counterparts

Following Qualtrics' acquisition by SAP in January and its purchase of the Temkin Group last October, CX expert Bruce Temkin chats to Mary-Anne Baldwin about its place in B2B.

Even though it seems the B2B industry is paying more attention to the customer experience, we’re a long way off our B2C counterparts, but how far have we progressed?

Successful adoption has multiple waves. What we’re seeing now is the second wave of an adoption. The first wave is when there is a group of people that naturally see value in something and adopt it. These people were working really hard to get leaders to just understand it.

Following this, a broader audience adopt CX – this is the second wave. That means there’s a lot more people getting into the mix, and team leaders are starting to push CX. Large numbers of senior business leaders are now proactively putting it as their top priorities.

In B2B there’s been a growth in  ‘customer success’. Companies are trying to move away from having account managers who are just looking to sell, instead having them as post-sales people, who can really deliver value to their clients.

Is CX in B2B and B2C similar?

The core elements of CX are the same for B2B and B2C. For years, we’ve used the same approach. The core things for B2C are good UX design, understanding customer journeys not just interactions, and getting feedback at both a relationship and transactional level. All of those things are the same for B2B. But B2B has more complexity on top of those things. That has to do with the different personas in an account, as opposed to B2C where it’s just a single person.

Should CX be driven from the top-down or bottom-up?

Driving this change is a mixture of top-down and bottom-up. From the top-down, we have to establish a vision and set of operating principles, but if we were to cascade that all the way down we’d have generic requirements for all departments, and it wouldn’t make sense for any of them.

What you need is to drive down the vision and principles and have every department step up. That means departments each need to identify how they can change what they can do to achieve the overarching vision.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for a leader in understanding the customer?

One is understanding the customer as a human being and what they need, the other is simultaneously understanding how your organisation operates and delivers on those needs. You need to keep both of those things top of mind.

Another challenge that comes with any organisational change is in keeping other leaders across the organisation motivated. They need to understand why it’s important, and be dedicated to committing their resources and energy.

Does a CX programme need a dedicated executive or team?

It depends how ambitious you are to change your organisation. If you want to become dramatically better you’ll need an executive to drive that change. You’re going to go over many hurdles to alter the status quo, so that leader has to be an evangelist and have a clear vision and strategy. Leading CX transformation is not easy, it requires a special type of leader.

If the ambition is not to change how the organisation operates then it probably doesn’t need an executive in charge. In that case, there should be a small team driving good CX practices across the organisation. The goal shouldn’t be to have a big strong CX team but to have a group that’s good at embedding strong practices across the entire organisation.

Given that CX is a company-wide concern, accountability and responsibility can become confused. Who has ownership of CX?

Ownership is a real problem, especially in B2B. A CX leader doesn’t have to own the customer experience to drive it. The whole organisation should own it.

How should you use your CX metrics?

There are a lot of mistakes you can make. We use metrics to reinforce an issue rather than use it as a mechanism to improve. I’m not a big fan of that. For example if you were to say ‘you’re going to improve on-time delivery by putting it in the objectives and staff bonus’, you’re encouraging bad behaviour.

You should use metrics to identify areas you can improve and align an organisation to collectively focus on customer experience.

How do you share customer intelligence with the business?

Firstly, leaders need to see negative feedback as a total gift. A really good leader recognises that their organisation is flawed, and wants to find those flaws, prioritise those flaws and improve them. You need to create a culture where you don’t suppress negative feedback but you embrace it and learn from it.

Secondly, people talk about data democracy – and I don’t believe in that. They think it means sharing everything with everyone but that causes overload. I think we need to share useful insights, not democratise raw data.

Become a CXpert: The marketer's guide to customer experience

Most B2B organisations suffer from diffused responsibility when it comes to CX. This guide will tell you why – and how – you can lead the charge.

Find out how to take charge of CX

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