As consumers we are used to fast, easy, and convenient digital experiences from the likes of Amazon, Netflix, and Uber. Unfortunately, similar experiences in our B2B lives are few and far between.
While many B2B companies now have customer-centric strategies in place to deliver a decent Customer Experience, they still lack a digital maturity that would see them compete with their B2C counterparts and deliver a truly great or exceptional Customer Experience.
B2B companies need to embrace digital transformation and start to redefine the Customer Experience and how they create and deliver value.
The Six Pillars of Great Customer Experience
So what does a great or exceptional Customer Experience look like? B2B Customer Experience experts Nick and Paul Hague, authors of the recently published B2B Customer Experience: A Practical Guide to Delivering Exceptional CX, believe it’s built around six key pillars:
- Commitment: being enthusiastic about satisfying customers and making them feel valued
- Fulfilment: understanding and delivering on customer needs
- Seamlessness: making life easier for the customer
- Responsiveness: Timely response, delivery and resolution
- Proactivity: Anticipating customer needs and desires and striving to resolve issues before the customer feels pain
- Evolution: continually seeking to improve the Customer Experience
A digital-first approach to Customer Experience can go a long way to helping a b2b brand perform well against these pillars. A great digital experience is seamless from start to finish and across all touchpoints. It delivers relevant and personalised content at exactly the right time in the journey. And it provides instant, real-time access to all the information and support that might be needed.
Create a seamless digital customer journey
B2B buyers are completing around 60 percent of the purchase process before engaging with suppliers. The vast majority of this initial research is happening online and more importantly, on a smartphone. In fact, Google data shows that 50 percent of B2B search queries today are made on smartphones1.
The growing influence of mobile on the B2B buyer journey is creating a big opportunity for digitally mature brands to deliver a far superior Customer Experience than competitors.
The leading brands take a mobile-first approach when designing the Customer Experience; developing a fully-optimised mobile website, creating mobile-friendly content, and using mobile search queries to inform content creation.
To make life easier for customers ready to purchase, technology can be used to optimise the ordering process. Online product configuration tools can be designed, as well as simple self-service tools for reordering products.
Integrating other touchpoints such as social media, review websites, mobile apps, and location data into the customer journey will also add to a seamless Customer Experience.
Deliver relevant and personalised content
Advancements in technology mean it is now easier than ever before to gather masses of customer data from multiple sources. Collating this data gives marketers the ability to build a more complete, holistic view of individual customers and accounts than was previously possible and therefore deliver highly personalised and targeted content and campaigns.
For example, content can be personalised on an account or individual level, or by industry sector, geography, specific personas or stages in the buyer journey. These smaller, segmented lists can be used to send highly targeted email campaigns, to serve dynamic landing pages to website visitors, and to create personalised user journeys to guide prospects through the buying process.
Data-driven marketing tactics such as personalisation and account-based marketing (ABM) will benefit hugely from the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the coming years by automating the process of data collection, content creation, and audience targeting. This will help brands deliver what customers need at the moment they need it, creating value and enhancing the Customer Experience.
Provide access to instant, real-time information
Responsiveness is one of the most frequently mentioned reasons behind excellent customer service. B2B buyers want immediate responses to enquiries across a variety of mediums. They want quick deliveries with real-time tracking. They want regular status updates on orders. By investing in digital transformation, B2B brands can add these capabilities to the customer journey and deliver a superior Customer Experience.
Social media sites such as Twitter have emerged as vitally important channels for customers to get in touch with suppliers to request information and support. The time it takes to reply and the quality of the solutions provided can make or break the Customer Experience. Leading brands will employ well-trained staff to respond quickly and efficiently from early morning through to late evening, and invest in social listening tools to make sure they’re not missing a conversation.
For those buyers who want quick support but don’t want to pick up the phone or use social media, instant chat facilities on a supplier’s website may be the answer. Unfortunately, while common in the B2C world, there are far fewer examples of instant chat support in B2B.
So, B2B brands willing to invest in the technology will gain a big advantage over competitors and be able to deliver a far more helpful Customer Experience. For the best possible results, it’s important to make sure there are real people behind the chat who have the power to resolve problems and offer solutions quickly, rather an automated bots who just point people in the direction of FAQs or the contact page.
Build an online community for support and feedback
B2B purchases can involve a lot of money being spent on products and services of high strategic importance to the organisation. B2B products also tend to be more complex than consumer products. So, the ability to access support and helpful resources not only in the buying process but also post-purchase is important to B2B customers.
Developing an online resource centre or customer portal gives B2B brands the opportunity to create added value for customers and enhance the Customer Experience. A portal can include support forums where customers can easily share best practice and ask for help from other customers.
They can also provide an open innovation platform for customers to give feedback and suggestions on how the supplier can improve their products, services or Customer Experience. By responding directly to feedback from customers and documenting the actions taken, B2B brands can show that they are striving to understand and deliver on customer needs and continually seeking to improve the Customer Experience.
Deliver proactive product support and maintenance
Along with Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) is another emerging digital technology which B2B brands can use to transform the Customer Experience and create a significant competitive advantage over rivals.
The IoT is simply a network of devices connected via the internet. This allows them to communicate with each other by sending and receiving data. Sensors can be placed in almost any device to connect them to a network and make them ‘smart’.
Manufacturers can take advantage of IoT by placing sensors in products to collect usage data. This data can be used to predict when maintenance may be needed and to monitor performance in order to provide the customer with support and advice on how to maximise efficiency. IoT can also be used to send software updates and improved configurations to products over the internet, giving the customer peace of mind that their product is always up-to-date and running as efficiently as possible.
Digital transformation is a powerful opportunity for B2B brands willing to invest the resources required to create added value for tech savvy B2B buyers and deliver a superior experience across the entire customer journey. Brands looking to perform well against the six pillars of Customer Experience need to embrace digital and design a seamless mobile-optimised journey, deliver highly relevant and personalised content, provide instant real-time access to support and develop a ‘smart’ product ecosystem that monitors usage data and keeps products working to their full potential.
It’s important to remember that digital transformation doesn’t remove the need for human interaction. Given that many B2B products are complex and highly-customised, customers will always require expert sales and product staff to help them make the best decision and offer support where necessary.
The best customer experiences will use digital to improve human interactions and combine it with digitally-enabled services and fully-automated self-service tools where necessary. B2B brands that tailor the journey to the unique needs of their customers will deliver the best Customer Experience.
To learn more about the six pillars of Customer Experience and how to deliver an exceptional B2B Customer Experience, B2B Customer Experience: A Practical Guide to Delivering Exceptional CX, written by Nick Hague and Paul Hague and published by Kogan Page, is out now. Find out more about the book here.