B2B marketing professionals have become increasingly sophisticated in their efforts to identify and quantify the business impact of their marketing spend. Yet when it comes to initiatives to improve the customer experience, while the overwhelming majority of B2B companies are spending more to keep pace with rising customer demands, many are struggling to translate this investment into sustainable business results.

Accenture’s global survey of nearly 1,500 sales, service and customer executives of B2B companies found that the results of customer experience investments have been mixed, at best. More than half (55 percent) said they have experienced little, flat or even negative growth in customer retention. In fact, potentially 48 percent of customer experience investments at a majority of companies are being used ineffectively or, worse, are outright wasted.
In contrast, Accenture has identified masters of customer experience that are “playing to win” and have achieved business growth, vs. those “playing not to lose”.

So why are so many B2B organizations failing to generate effective ROI? Given that most agree that customer experience is set to play an even bigger role in overall corporate strategy, it’s important to look at what lies behind this wasted spend. Our analysis points to three key factors:

Failing to walk the talk: Companies might proclaim customer experience to be a priority, but many don’t follow through with their customer experience strategy and operational capabilities. Unsurprisingly, these companies yield half the return on their customer experience investments as the companies that are playing to win.

Throwing good money after bad: Another key issue is not grasping what customers really notice and value while continuing with those investments that are not aligned to critical metrics. At the same time, some companies are not effectively combining digital and traditional channels to improve the customer experience. Put simply, these companies are failing to make the customer experience central to their day-to-day operations.

Poor collaboration and accountability: The survey also reveals a lack of collaboration among marketing, sales and service leaders, as well as between the company and external channel partners, when it comes to driving results from customer experience programs. A lot of companies also reported a lack of real accountability for customer experience results. Not only did those companies not value collaboration, they also failed to incentivize or nurture it.

Improving ROI
On a more positive note, our analysis uncovered important insights about a group of companies from whom other organizations can learn as they strive to deliver a customer experience that helps drive revenue growth. These ‘Masters’ are playing to win.

Start at the top: Creating a chief customer officer role should not be considered a silver bullet. Rather, leaders across relevant functions need to understand and build consensus on what customer experience means for their company, and then incorporate it into the business strategy. Proximity to the P&L is often a key indicator: The closer the person who is ultimately responsible for the overall customer experience is to direct P&L ownership and accountability, the greater the impact on the business.

Operationalize customer experience: The most effective customer experiences are those that are implemented and operated with the same rigour as other critical operations. This involves continually reassessing which strategic and operational capabilities are worthy of investments, executing consistently across functions and channels, measuring and sharing performance and striving for continual improvements based on the right metrics and customer feedback.

Help digital natives to stay digital: It’s critical that companies enable customers who are born digital to stay digital. Too many lure customers in with the promise of a digital experience but then frustrate them by forcing them down an analog path. For example, they might use digital marketing for customer acquisition, shift them to analog channels for setup and ordering, and then expect customers to use digital channels for self-service.

Creating and delivering an effective customer experience is clearly not an easy task. However, our study shows that the financial rewards are there for those B2B companies that don’t just talk about customer experience but master it. Now it’s time for the rest to catch up and understand that now, more than ever, they must start playing to win.

Rachel BurtonRachel Barton
Rachel is a managing director at Accenture, leading its Customer Strategy practice. As an experienced board level operator working across industries, Rachel has a proven track record of results delivery and helping clients respond to the fundamental change that consumer behaviour, digital and innovation is driving.  Rachel was named as one of Management Today’s “35 under 35” most influential women in UK business and leads Accenture’s relationship with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.

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