Relationships can be tricky. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the same relationship dynamics apply for B2B experiences.

Successful relationships require that we understand and respond to the needs of our partner.

If you already have a partner, they’ll hopefully have a good idea of your likes and dislikes. If you’re seeking a new relationship, you’ll be striving to understand the unique context and experiences of a potential partner and identify whether you’re a good match.

Then there’s the honeymoon period. When we enter into a new relationship, we get excited about getting to know each other, we look forward to spending time together and we plan optimistically for our future. The first few months can be exhilarating.

But after the honeymoon period, we have to face the reality of making our relationship work. Its success will largely depend on the extent to which we understand – and are prepared to respond to – our partner’s unique context and individual needs.

So it’s unlikely that you would treat your current partner in the same way as your previous partner. If you did, how would they feel? And if they did the same, how would you feel?

A Solid B2B Relationship

Too often, organisations attempt to work with each other without taking the time to understand the specific context in which the other is operating.

For a B2B relationship to be effective, employees in both organisations must be able to share their experiences and understand each other’s context. By sharing their circumstances, employees and partners reveal the context-specific challenges and constraints that are potentially having a negative impact on the end user.

When a significant part of your customers’ experience is delivered by a sub-contractor or partner, it is vital to understand the difficulties faced by employees in your partner organisation. For example, your partner may have concerns about their cash flow which is preventing them from fulfilling the promises you are making to your customers. Once you know this information, improving your payment schedule to your partner will ultimately improve the experience for your customers.

Or take another example. Employees in your partner company are constantly building up a valuable bank of knowledge through their interactions with customers. But often there is no effective way for them to feed this knowledge back to your company to influence behaviour and decision-making. Worse still, if your company does use this information to make improvements, these changes are not fed back to the partner organisation.

Evolving Response

The B2B (and B2C) interface generates much of the data that every business needs to improve its operations and decision making. But the problem is that most of this data remains isolated in people and systems.

The Perpetual Experience™ methodology specifically addresses this problem by bringing together people and data to understand the specific context of experiences. People extend the customer journey deep into an organisation and examine the context of everyone involved in a given process. Incubation hubs take these experiences and use a focused test-and-learn environment to identify marginal gains and performance improvements. By involving employees and partners, perpetual experience reveals the real, practical difficulties involved in the completion of a given task.

Relationships are continuously evolving. What worked six months (or six minutes) ago may no longer be appropriate.

We can’t just continue to do what we’ve always done and assume it will always work. Our individual contexts change every second, and so it is vital that organisations listen and respond to the changing needs and experiences of their partners if the relationship is to survive and grow.

Human beings are social creatures. We make sense of the world through interacting with others and responding to experiences. Our organisations are nothing more than collections of individuals, each with their own specific contexts, individual needs and unique challenges. Only if we listen, understand and respond to the needs of people in our partner organisations can we really know our partners and prevent relationships from becoming dysfunctional.

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About The Author

Managing Director of The QoE

Carl Lyon is a thought leader in customer experience and the author of the book Perpetual Experience™, which tackles some of the key mysteries of customer experience in its wider context. Recognising the unique challenges faced by large organisations, Carl founded The QoE in 2005. Over the last twelve years, The QoE has given Carl the opportunity to work with senior executives from large organisations and explore all aspects of customer and people experience. In the process, he has acquired a unique insight and knowledge that forms the core of his work in helping others drive improvement in customer and people experience. Carl’s communication skills, combined with an analytical approach, are key to The QoE and the consultancy that it now offers. Using the Perpetual Experience methodology, Carl helps organisations challenge their worldview by questioning different standpoints and embracing multiple perspectives. By learning from a wide breadth of issues, Carl helps individuals to develop thoughts and solutions in the context of their own working environment.