Perfecting your B2B CX strategy in 2020

Much of the early best practices around customer experience (CX) comes from the B2C world — with the benefit of massive data sets drawn from decades of customer feedback. But what about B2B CX programmes? Smaller sample sizes, highly personal relationships and complex buyer journeys all make B2B CX a harder nut to crack.

At the very heart of this difficulty lies B2B customers themselves. As audiences go, they are notoriously tricky to pin down, with 57% of B2B marketers listing ‘understanding the target audience’ as their most pressing challenge. 

Given these difficulties — and differences — do we really need to treat B2B audiences all that different from B2C? Well, yes and no.

On the one hand, B2B customers have a very different decision-making process. Where consumers might make a purchase based on immediate impulses, B2B buyers have to include numerous stakeholders along the way — building consensus and pushing for the best possible business investment.

On the other hand however, the fundamentals of a good CX programme still apply, especially with the increasing consumerization of B2B commerce. More and more B2B customers are expecting the same level of experience they get from leading B2C brands such as Amazon, Apple, and Uber. B2B brands should be looking to build loyalty through positive, memorable experiences; experiences that are driven by insight and deliver real business value.

With this in mind, here are three of the ways that B2B marketers — and B2B brands — can build better customer experiences in 2020.

1. Create a customer-focused culture

As mentioned, B2B customer journeys are complex, with multiple stakeholders being involved in any one purchase decision. Given this fact, it can be easy for B2B brands to forget about the importance of customer-centricity, with a product or service’s end user often feeling distant from the actual purchase process.

But building a customer-centric culture is just as important in B2B as it is in B2C – in some ways, even more so.

Given the wide number of stakeholders at play, it’s vital that CX isn’t treated as a ‘department’ but rather as a culture that spreads throughout the entire company. This way, when different decision makers interact with your brand, they will all receive the same high-quality customer experience.

To achieve this culture, B2B brands must take CX right to the very top of their organisations, using the CEO to champion a culture of customer obsession. Far too often CX programs wind up being siloed off from wider company activities, resulting in very little impact on the customer’s experience outside of superficial niceties. Instead, rather than relying on the CX team in your organisation to champion their own importance, it’s the job of the entire management team to ensure that CX is integrated into the beating heart of the business.

One way to create this alignment is to clearly define the brand promise and translate it into engagement principles that govern the way the organisation treats its customers. The most customer centric businesses take the brand promise and engagement principles to the next level and define — for each department in the company — what it means to be customer-centric within the context of a particular role.

2. Think beyond marketing to optimise all experience pillars

Once you’ve built a customer centric culture, you’re ready to start looking for ways to optimise that culture and spread its value beyond just customer experience. At Qualtrics, we talk a lot about Experience Management (XM) being the “operating system” for a business.

By this, we mean that a seamless, high standard of experience should run through every possible touchpoint and; journey. Rather than focusing purely on CX, brands should focus on optimising all four experience pillars — CX (customer), EX (employee), BX (brand) and PX (product).

Many companies — both B2B and B2C alike — are still operating in silos, something which diminishes their ability to deliver a seamless customer experience.

The result of this divide is that, while a customer may have a great experience with the sales team, they may not receive a product that delivers that same high-quality experience. In the same way, a customer’s positive perception of a brand can be easily damaged as a result of disengaged employees providing poor after-sale support.

It’s this intricate web of factors that must be optimised if B2B brands are to deliver a genuinely effective B2B CX strategy. 

3. Incorporate ‘X data’ into your approach

One of the biggest differences between B2B and B2C customer journeys is the varying degree of personal service required. While personalised experiences are increasingly vital in business-to-consumer brands, building a personal relationship with the customer has long been a mainstay of the B2B world.

B2B customers need to know that they’re buying into a brand that they can trust. For brands, that means getting to know those customers inside and out.

To achieve this takes data. But not just any old data. Any brand can throw facts and figures around their B2B interactions and transactions, but real value comes from insights that look beyond the obvious.

To start with, this means looking beyond “operational data” (O-data). That’s things like sales data, marketing data, finance data — tangible records of tangible activities. Most companies do pretty well collecting and using O-data. But O-data is no longer a competitive advantage. Companies need X-data.

X-data is the experience data, the human factor data — the beliefs, emotions and sentiments. In the highly personal world of B2B buying, such data is invaluable for creating a truly tailored customer experience.

Take for example a B2B customer that is coming up for renewal. A sales rep could look at O-data which suggests healthy monthly usage. Taking this O-data at face value, it would be easy to assume that everything is working perfectly.

However, if we were to dig deeper — segmenting by user type and seniority — it becomes clear that NPS drops among one group of key decision-makers. Running text analysis on that particular group, you can start to understand the underlying sentiment behind that frustration. You can also pinpoint exactly where this niche is feeling let down, identifying, for example, customer support as a key source of frustration. Digging even deeper into this analysis, you could even see that it’s support for the mobile app — not your product’s website — that’s proving a key area of concern. The point is that you should never settle for one type of metric. Such high level O-data cannot provide a complete picture, you need to dig deeper and combine this insight with more qualitative analysis. X-data plus O-data is the best way to achieve this true insight.

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