Why CX matters for B2B companies, too
We understand the importance of great customer experience for B2C brands. Without paying attention to the crucial task of optimising the customer experience, B2C companies risk being replaced by their harder-working, more attentive competitors.
But when it comes to B2B deals, we may forget that the same realities apply. In all commercial transactions, one party is the producer (i.e. the supplier) and one is the consumer (the buyer). It doesn’t matter if this buyer is an internationally recognised business looking to find a better source to cater to all their office supply needs, or an individual looking for a mobile phone for a loved one – they’re looking for someone to provide what they want, and when and how they want it.
In any case, money is transferred from the buyer to the seller, motivated by the belief that they’re getting more than their money’s worth.
For example, a £100/month software subscription can be a bargain or a terrible deal, depending on how much value users get from it. This same rule applies if you’re selling a £10 set of car seat covers, a new car for over £10,000, or a £1,000,000 mansion.
Deals are done when both parties believe they’re getting more in return than they’re giving.
With this in mind, it’s obvious why paying attention to the experience of your customers is important for a B2B business.
We can argue that that typical “consumers” (i.e. individuals) and business clients consider ‘value’ differently. As a general rule of thumb, business clientele are focused on increased productivity, optimised processes, better client retention etc: if your offering gives more to their business than it financially takes away, they’ll be interested.
On the other hand, individuals can be more motivated by personal desires and emotions. They may be concerned with the status they get from owning something (i.e. a luxury vehicle), the satisfaction or pleasure they gain from it, or other “soft” benefits.
In both cases, customer experience matters. Indeed, our expectations for B2B CX are set by our increasingly positive B2C experiences. Whether we’re dealing with individuals or other businesses, we want a straightforward and rewarding process. We want to feel helped. This, in and of itself, is how to deliver value to your customers.
Some of us enjoy the process of walking around the supermarket, picking out what we want to eat that week, queuing up and paying for everything, then driving home. But many of us don’t like any of this. We’d prefer to stay home and have someone deliver (and perhaps even put away) our food – exactly what we want, when we want it. The desire to streamline the shopping experience has led to most major supermarkets – including Tesco, Sainsburys and ASDA – offering home delivery services (and Waitrose even trialing an unpack and put away service).
Similarly, cast your mind back 20-30 years. The process of arranging B2B deals was very different. You met with suppliers in-person, signed written contracts, and faxed documents from office to office for approval. Maybe you could order via phone – for repeat orders, at least.
Today, ordering via phone is the slow choice. The inception of online ordering systems, 24/7 live support chat, and the omnipresent email has helped to make some aspects of business faster, easier and cheaper.
Get The Competitive Advantage
But still, business can be complicated. In an increasingly global marketplace, traditional competitive edges (price and product) have dulled, leaving your business wide-open to attacks from all sides. The reality is that very few domestic firms can compete on price with companies based in well-developed, low-cost regions of the world.
As such, it’s important to find an alternative and sustainable way of differentiating yourself from the competition. Rather than participating in a zero-sum race to the bottom, forward-thinking businesses should seek to establish themselves as a market leader in customer-centricity.
By focusing on delivering a great experience for your customers, you can stand out from other businesses in your industry that are more focused on getting paid than offering their clients something truly valuable.
Position Your B2B Business to Win
Businesses have more complicated decision-making processes than consumers. While a consumer may have the luxury of only thinking about themselves, a business must incorporate the opinions and needs of many stakeholders before they can settle on a way forward.
Protracted internal negotiations mean that few people are present in the decision-making unit (DMU) from start to finish. The sales cycle is longer, meaning your clients will need more time to consider what you’re offering. Couple these two things together, and you have many touchpoints in your relationship with the client – more time to impress, but more time to make mistakes, too.
And above all else, deals in the B2B space almost always involve a lot more investment than B2C transactions. With more money at stake, businesses are slow to commit unless you’re able to prove you can meet their needs.
In an era of ever-increasing complexity, businesses are becoming more and more interested in finding “trusted advisors” rather than simple suppliers. Merely being able to provide the goods isn’t enough anymore. To succeed in the long run, you’ll have to possess the knowledge, relationships and experience to attract – and keep – your clients.
Offering a great, frictionless customer experience is integral to gaining the coveted status of trusted advisor. By being there to solve your customers’ problems, you’ll find that you gain and retain more business.
Whether you’re in the B2B or B2C space people still buy from people. Many marketers and CX professionals today talk about B2H (Business to Human) or H2H (Human to Human) marketing. Regardless of the label attached to it, the point is clear: business is about human connections.
Pay attention to experiences that create value in the eyes of your clients. A streamlined efficient process may be most attractive to the overworked professionals you’ll deal with.
Focusing on delivering a great customer experience is a far more sustainable business strategy than focusing on price. Don’t shout to be heard in a crowded room. Find a room you can be the leader in, then work to lead it. You may never be able to offer a cheaper service than your international competitors, but you might offer a better service. Be more attentive to your customer’s needs – whether that’s making the process of ordering easier, delivering faster, offering more comprehensive support, or something else.
Finally, remember that few businesses are interested in dealing with mere suppliers these days. They’re more concerned with finding partners they can build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with. Trusted advisors that can help to solve problems and meet their needs. Offering this value is key to delivering a great customer experience. Getting there can be a challenge, but if achieved, will set your business ahead of less sophisticated competitors, cementing a place in your industry for years to come.
Enjoy this blog? Read our related posts and free downloadable materials:
Download our handy infographic: How to create powerful CX data dashboards
Read our paper that considers How Marketers can Improve the Customer Experience
And finally, if you’d like to understand more about how to make your data go further, visit:
Eye CX for Customer Experience Professionals
Eye Trackit for Market Research Professionals