After winning Silver at the UK Customer Experience Awards 2015 in the Hospitality/Leisure/Charity category, B2B International certainly have a few useful tips to share about what makes an award winning practice. CXM Editor, Marija Pavlovic, interviewed their Chairman, Nick Hague, to find out more about the ongoing trends and tricks in the B2B world.

Your company offers numerous services revolving around market research with B2B focus. How does one create an impressive customer experience in that field?

Creating an impressive customer experience in a b2b marketplace is the same as in a b2c market; with a lot of hard work, continued effort and willing from management upon high.

Creating a differentiated customer experience is all about providing a tailored, all-inclusive experience to each individual customer at each touch point the customer interacts with the supplier. The added advantage in b2b markets is that often personal relationships hold stronger sway and therefore it is more important to help build the customer experience and get closer to a customer. Due to the fact that b2b markets often have smaller number of customers it is a lot easier to talk, visit and develop a position of trust; often with multiple decision makers in the decision making unit.

Also, it is true to say that until recent years, many b2b companies have fallen into the ‘commodity trap’ whereby they often compete on price as opposed to developing a differentiated position based on service.

Things are starting to change now but those companies that do start to ‘think like a customer’ instead of a supplier are creating experiences for their customers that have only been akin to b2c markets in the past and they are reaping the rewards.

Last year, you won Silver at the UK Customer Experience Awards 2015 in the Hospitality Leisure/Charity category and were a Finalist in the Insight & Feedback category. What did that feel like and what effect did the award have on your staff?

Just getting through to the finals again after reaching the finals in 2014 was amazing but going that one step further and winning Silver was fabulous.

Not only was it great for our staff and our clients staff but it meant so much more because we did miss out in 2014 and getting the Silver was great to show recognition for all the hard work that both us, as the agency, and our client have put in to developing the customer experience program we have in place and taking it to another level.

What do you think is the essence of an award-winning practice? What made your CX stand out?

We were given some good, constructive feedback in 2014 when we narrowly missed out and came 3rd in our category. We took this on board and not only developed the CX program in place but we knew what the judges were looking for and so were able to show clear progress in terms of NPS shift but also financial growth for our client.

A lot of differentinitiatives had been put in place over the course of 2015 both on the research side and in the implementation side by our client and so we were able to share in our CX showcase lots of innovation which I believe made our CX entry stand out.
Do you have any advice for future nominees?
My advice for future Customer Experience nominees is to make sure that you have a story so as to capture the judges attention as there is a lot of tough competition out there.

However, a story isn’t enough unless it is backed up by figures both in terms of measurable feedback from customers but also tangible, financial numbers on how your CX efforts have impacted your business.

We witnessed some interesting changes on the market and it is clear that customer experience becomes “the new marketing”. What are your predictions for 2016, what will be the next big thing companies should focus on?

My predictions for 2016 are that customer experience will evolve and become even more intertwined with other forms of measurement and experience programs as it cannot sit siloed from other parts of the business.

Many companies have realised the connection between employee engagement and customer experience but it goes beyond that. The customer experience needs to be integrated within the brand experience as well as the value that is been generated in the bottom line financial figures of an organisation. Therefore the predictions for 2016 and beyond are already been seen by some companies in that it is a holistic process that requires primary feedback from customers and employees tied in with competitive data in addition to internally held data such as OTIF delivery measurement, number of customer visits, quality defect counts and customer complaints.

Therefore the role of a CX Manager needs to evolve and either employ or become more of a data scientist in the future to understand what the ‘big data’ means.

Which current CX trends or tools do you find most useful in the world of B2B?

The use of NPS in measuring customer experiences is well documented and indeed it is a useful metric that allows companies to track change in advocacy and loyalty of customers over time. That said, in B2B markets, asking someone if they would recommend a company to someone seeking a supplier might result in that person losing their competitive edge and so they may give a low recommendation score even though they are highly satisfied and loyal to that brand. Also, as already discussed, in b2b markets customer bases often number in the 100’s rather than the 1000’s and so comparing results on low sample sizes can mean that results aren’t robust and volatile in reporting month on month.

Therefore in b2b markets you do need to be wary of the pitfalls of using NPS and that is why we have developed a number of other metrics and tools that can be used alongside NPS as the total customer relationship cannot be fully understood by just one question.

What basic CX tip would you give to any business today?

A world class CX program never stops and the key learning is that you need to continually monitor and improve to endeavour for best-in-class. However, you can only do this if you have buy-in from senior management but also that you have a dedicated CX team in place as it requires hard work from the entire company.

The main thing to remember is that great customer experiences are hard earned. It doesn’t come quickly and experiences are earned in small servings across many touchpoints over time.

Thank you for the interview, and once again, congratulations on the award.

NickNick Hague
Chairman at B2B International

Nick Hague is a founder member and director of B2B International, which was set-up as a specialist b2b research agency in 1998. He has vast global experience helping clients across every industry sector to develop their customer experience strategies. Nick is a regular writer on CX best practice and has written many white papers and had a couple of books published in the field of market research.

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