With all the things B2B companies must do to be successful, customer experience has never been much of a focus. However, the mindset of companies in the space is changing with new technology and opportunities. Although most B2B companies realize that customer experience is important, fewer than a quarter of companies actually emphasize it. The companies that put effort into creating a strong customer experience see higher revenue growth than their peers, showing the importance of prioritizing customer experience.
In order to build the best B2B customer experience, companies should focus their effort on four principles:
Invest in digital systems. With new technology so readily available, customers don’t shop like they used to. Companies need to realize this and tailor the technology so that it best meets the needs of their customers. Digital systems make it easier to solve problems on the go and to always be available to customers whose businesses are always open. Financial technology start-up Kabbage leverages new technology to approve small business loans in just seven minutes—a huge improvement over the 20 days it takes a typical bank. By simplifying the loan application process for web and mobile, Kabbage allows customers to apply for loans within minutes from anywhere in the world, which relieves a huge pain point for small businesses.
Leverage data. As the world becomes more connected, there is a growing amount of data available about customers. That data can show things like customer trends, preferences, and demographics and can provide B2B companies with the full picture of their customers’ business needs. The companies with the best B2B customer experiences aren’t afraid of new data and technology—they welcome it and harness the data to better understand their customers and meet their needs. American Express Merchant Services leverages customer data through a program called Recommendations that uses micro-targeted data to look for spending patterns of customers and identify other services or merchants they might like. The key to the program’s success is the strength of the data, which allows for extremely personalized and accurate recommendations; instead of recommending all customers who bought a new car use a certain type of gas station, the program drills deeper to provide each customer a targeted recommendation. The program is extremely helpful for B2B customers because it provides them new customers and takes away the pain of having to find new business.
Customize the experience. A strong customer experience personalizes the sales process to empower customers. No two customers are the same, and brand representatives need to be aware of who they are interacting with instead of using a one-size-fits-all sales approach. An employee interacting with a small business will have a different approach than someone working with a large company because the customers have different needs and things they are looking for in the buying journey. B2B customers have a lot on their plates, so they want simplicity. HP tracks its customers’ ink usage to automatically replace cartridges just before they run out. The simple effort by HP can help its customers’ businesses run more smoothly and seamlessly, which is the goal of every B2B company. Customized experiences also help the sales cycle move more quickly, which is something nearly all B2B customers appreciate. The average B2B sales cycle is about 10 months, but customers would prefer if it were around 6 months. By focusing on each individual customer with targeted approaches, the cycle can be shortened for even happier customers..
Use omnichannel to see the big picture. Because B2B customers are typically involved with brands for the long term, customer experience needs to encapsulate the big picture. Over the course of a sales cycle, customers might interact with the brand through multiple channels—they could start with an informational phone call, then move to an in-person or on-site visit, followed by a purchase on their website and reaching out via social media after a sale. In fact, the average B2B customer uses six different channels as they make a decision. Customer experience happens in many places, which means companies need to create a consistent omnichannel experience. No matter how customers interact with the brand, they should be treated the same and have the same experience. The customer experience and the sales cycle aren’t separate things—they are intertwined to create a cohesive, enjoyable experience throughout the entire journey.
Investing time and resources into customer experience can lead to huge rewards for B2B companies by driving growth and creating lifelong, loyal customers.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, author of More Is More, and keynote speaker. Sign up for her weekly newsletter here. Go farther and create knock your socks-off customer experiences in your organization by enrolling in her new Customer Experience School.