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Why B2B Companies Should Be Addressing Customer Experience

Why B2B Companies Should Be Addressing Customer Experience

The term “Customer Experience” (CE) can elicit skepticism within some B2B companies.  Most B2B products, services, and solutions lack the “sexy” nature of consumer offerings, leading some marketers to believe that devoting resources towards the “experience” is a misappropriation. Accenture has found that, “Nearly half of B2B firms agree that customer experience is a competitive differentiator, yet they invest as little as 1 percent of their annual revenue in it.”

What is the reason for this strange dichotomy? If so many businesses feel CE can set their company from the pack, why would they not make a concerted effort to do so? Tim Carrigan from Customer Think raises an interesting theory:

“We tend to use Starbucks, Apple, Costco, USAA, and some of the other award-winning or mass-appealing B2C companies as our examples because they are so broadly familiar…. That leaves the B2B folks often scratching their heads while trying to find the parallels and application of what they learned in an article about Zappos to their own industry which can be anything from manufacturing to any of the professional service industries.”

The combined lack of understanding and devotion of resources means that CE problem many B2B companies will continue to struggle with in the future.  In an interview with Forrester’s Peter O’Neill, Maersk Line’s VP of Sales and Customer Experience, Jesper Thomsen, cites “top management buy-in and involvement” as the most important facet in developing a B2B CE strategy.  It is important to remember that CE is not its own entity: it is a set of standards and values that will have a holistic impact on your company.

Thomsen goes on to say that, “For [Maersk, one of the world’s biggest shipping companies] it hasn’t been about redesigning everything we do, but rather to accept a gradual change of our mindset and processes.” You are not going to need to reinvent the wheel.  Rather, CE is about establishing a more consistent brand and manner of interaction.  A B2B sales process often involves meetings and discussions with several different individuals from the prospective buyer.  Transparency throughout the process, combined with a degree of standardization for interactions with people in different roles, will have a significant impact on your close rate.

It is important to remember that CE should not be ignored once contracts are signed and money is exchanged. John Aves, chief executive of customer experience company CP2 Experience, notes that, “B2B companies often have fewer, larger, customers so the possible impact of an unhappy customer is often much greater.”  If your post-purchase interactions with customers are vastly different from during the sales process, you will not only lose repeat business, but also a possible brand evangelist.  As we’ve discussed before in this space, the continued emergence of social marketing makes CE more important than ever.

What do you think? Is CE something worth investing time and money into? Have you found CE to be a significant differentiator for your company in terms of closing sales? Has a negative CE had residual effects on your business’ development?

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