How B2C Influence on B2B Customer Experience (CX)
The buyer’s journey of B2B is completely different and more complex than B2C
Engaging with B2B customers and developing a greater B2B customer experience strategy requires a deeper understanding of their requirements, and knowledge of their organizational structure. This is vastly different from the simpler interaction you see with B2C, where the motivation to purchase is often instinctive and impulsive.
Set out to impress all the stakeholders
Building a B2B relationship is not a simple, quick transaction like with B2C. However, some strategies to introduce brand loyalty will certainly be similar. A B2B relationship could span years of intensive collaborative work, with a whole range of business stakeholders.
For example, in the initial sales phase, it is common to encounter an element of fact-finding and market analysis. Managers will be investigating what possibilities there are in the marketplace. At this stage, there is likely to be very little in terms of detail on actual requirements. The objective will be strategic, with some initial interaction with senior management and the project team.
It is vital to show an understanding of the organization during this discussion in order to stand out from your competitors. Review the customer’s core values and business activities, then tailor conversations accordingly. With B2B there will never be a one size fits all approach.
It is important to strengthen the relationship with an organization early. This will be fundamental when you later encounter other departments such as procurement, the legal team or the operational team. It can only make the delivery or implementation of the service easier. Spending time, face to face if possible, doing discovery is time well spent. It will only improve the perception of the business as a responsible and thorough supplier, especially if the next stage of engagement is with an entirely new set of individuals. Showing them that the groundwork has already been done will develop trust and reassurance.
Then what are the B2C customer experience strategies that B2B can steal?
Consistent Omnichannel Experience
The age of the office desktop computer and individuals working 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, is over. Business users want worldwide services through any device when it is convenient for them. With the preference now being self-service, offering a seamless omnichannel experience not only makes it easier for the customer, it is likely to improve customer retention.
“According to a survey, 75% of international businesses prefer to buy again from businesses that offer consistent omnichannel experiences.”
Meeting Expectations of Immediacy
With expectations changing fast, how does a B2B organization meet these needs without the huge cost of 24/7 human availability? It is all in the design, and businesses need to design their UX in a manner that delivers value for users earlier, faster, and more clearly.
This is already happening where healthcare providers are giving online appointment via live video. Across the world governments are increasingly under pressure, increased by the speed of news media and social sharing, to respond to issues and inquiries quickly and transparently.
Messaging platforms like Facebook Messanger to Intercom enable companies to communicate with their customers in real-time or by automated messages.
“We at MarketJoy interact with our customers in real-time or reply them as the earliest possible by using the messaging app, Intercom. Our proactive customer experience enables us to get maximum leads through chat than form.”
Immediacy goes hand in hand with the omnichannel experience. Often the first time a B2B customer will interact with you is through social platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They will expect this interaction to be human, natural and quick. First impressions count.
Get it right and by the time the B2B customer has arrived at your website, they will already view the business in a positive way. Here is where other technical advances can continue the B2B journey. B2C is the master of the chatbot, B2B could be too. With blended AI and machine learning, chatbots are becoming more intelligent.
Anticipate B2B Needs, Be Proactive, Be Personal
As the practical barriers to communication fall away, being reactive to customer needs is no longer enough. Increasingly, B2C customer service teams are proactively anticipating customer needs and are getting in touch before an issue occurs. The result is that more customers are converting to loyal advocates. When more than 60% of business customers consider third-party sites and feedback from business peers and social channels more important than conversations with a salesperson, the value of a loyal advocate is huge.
Interactions and Brand Ambassadors
Yet to get it truly right, B2B should not fall into the trap of a one-size-fits-all approach. Without knowing the customer it will be impossible to offer a personalized experience that also gives surprise and delight.
Every interaction with the brand is important. With the user experience no longer simply confined to digital mediums, designers are having to change their approach to design and rethink a brand’s personality, actions, and signifiers in the context of invisible interfaces.
When the only interaction is through voice, such as through Google Assistant, Siri or Alexa, for example, the brand tone of voice is the only representative of that brand’s personality. This is all important for UX designers who strive towards delivering a holistic brand experience. They need to make sure they allow for a seamless transition through channel and medium.
Why B2B marketers must offer customers a B2C experience
Put quite simply, buyers expect it. Why should personal interactions as an end consumer be so different to professional purchasing? It is no longer an excuse that it is more complicated, despite this being true.
The current and emerging B2C customer experience trends should apply when dealing with a B2B buyer. Yet many operating in the B2B market do not approach their own customer experience strategy from a B2C perspective.
Make Complex B2B Sales Simple for Products and Services
Just because the needs of B2B are complex, doesn’t mean that the sales process itself needs to be. There will already be many blockers to a B2B sale that need to be overcome, so creating more through a poor process has to be avoided.
Know Your Data
The creation of a single customer view is now the norm for B2C. Yet only 17% of B2B companies take a fully integrated approach to data. This means that there is a less informed decision-making process. Rather than using analytics, there is more of a ‘gut feeling’ approach.
Customer behavior data can be used to profile and target products to those customers most likely to purchase. Not only this increases sales opportunities, it also gives relevance to the communications the customer is receiving through data-driven personalization.
“No longer are customers served marketing communications that mean nothing to them. Without an integrated approach to data, this is not possible.”
B2C retailers have also invested heavily in digital and their e-commerce platforms to simplify the purchase journey. Yet this is still not the case for many B2B organizations.
It is worth remembering that when B2B consumers go home after work, they become B2C consumers and are hyper-aware of the services available to them.
Companies not ready to embrace a B2C approach will be left behind as buyers vote with their wallets. When most business customers are willing to pay as much as 30% more for a product or service that offers an improved customer experience, being left behind will hit a company where it counts: the balance sheet.
Simplicity is Key
“A 2014 Forrester report shows that B2B buyers expect to view product information, analyze activities, take delivery and return or exchange products across all channels through one source. A striking 68% surveyed noted the importance of being able to see purchasing activities across all channels.”
To make this happen, do the research and ensure that the basics are perfect, then add the surprise and delight elements to the journey.
Automate Where Possible
With automated decision making, chatbots and personalized content, there is no reason why a B2B site should not be offering the automated and customized contracts and the ability to reorder products.
Legal details and invoicing should be easily accessible and formatted for easy sharing. Executive summaries of a service or product and its benefits should be readily available. Investing in e-commerce platforms and building a highly personalized customer portal will only build further trust in the brand.
How to kickstart your journey to delightful customer experience?
B2B Customer Experience Best Practices
If 70% of business customers believe technology will primarily replace human interaction between themselves and their vendors’ salespeople in the next 10 years, then it is time to get started now.
1. Get the Whole Organization on Board
From the very start of this journey, it is important to make sure that the whole culture of the organization is aligned with a customer-centric goal. From the front line operational teams to the highest levels of management, everyone has a part to play in delighting B2B customers. This will strengthen brand reputation and build stronger relationships with them for the future.
2. Communicate and Be Proactive
Nothing lets customers know they are valued more than listening and being responsive. Sometimes this will be critical feedback, and being able to accept and act on this quickly is vital.
In the age of immediacy, taking days to respond to the simplest of enquires is simply not good enough. Take it one step further and anticipate customer needs before they occur. Be self-critical, carry out UX testing regularly and identify the pinch points. If it is customer loyalty you are looking for, this is how to get it.
3. Put the Customer First
An organization cannot claim to be customer-centric if it does not have a grasp of what the customer actually needs and takes steps to meet those needs. Listen to your clients, and for the longevity of the relationship position yourself as a partner who will help them achieve their goals. Make their journey with you seamless and easy. By taking the time to understand their business you’ll be able to go the extra mile and might even surprise them.
4. Don’t stop now
This approach to B2B customer service is a lifetime commitment to an organization. Once the project is complete and you are delivering excellent service, it needs to be maintained. And that means growing as your customers grow and evolve.
B2B customer interactions, while a more complicated journey, are being driven by B2C experience. Spend the time, effort and resources on meeting and exceeding those expectations and your organization will go from strength to strength.