Why does B2B customer experience get the short shrift?
I recently sent out a tweet about B2B customer experience asking people to brag about their company or the work they’re doing.
The silence was deafening.
I even sent the tweet out again a few days later and still came back with nothing. It’s not often that you can’t find at least one person willing to brag about the good work they’re doing.
Frankly, I’m not all that surprised. When it comes to customer experience it’s almost as though B2B doesn’t exist. Just take a look at Bruce Temkin’s recent loyalty ranking report where retail dominates the top 20 (garnering all but three spots). The 2011 Experience rankings are nearly the same.
Of course business customers have experiences with the organizations who serve them, and B2B leaders acknowledge the importance of it in driving performance. So what’s going on here?
I think there are a few factors contributing to the lack of acknowledgement.
First, there seems to be a misperception about how B2C and B2B customer experiences are vastly different.
Whether an organization is consumer- or business-facing, any customer experience follow the same steps. Like their consumer counterparts, B2B experiences start with a person who has a triggering need, problem or desire they would trade something of value to have solved. Customers learn about options, try them out, buy and use the product to solve a need and then evolve to a new need over time. Scorecards are the same, too. For customers, it’s about if and how well their need is solved. For business leaders, it’s about solving enough needs so well that the organization will meet or exceed revenue and profit goals. These are some of the 7 truths common to every customer experience.
But, even though B2B and B2C companies share the same customer experience steps, the execution at each of those steps is indeed different. B2B leaders must accommodate more stakeholders. More often than not, business customers aren’t alone in the shopping, decision-making, or after-purchase use and evaluation. They take in the advice, opinions and suggestions of many influencers. In fact many of those involved in the experience don’t consider themselves customers (even though they most certainly play influencing, input or veto roles). We often define “customer” as a single individual who hands over the money to procure a good or service, those who buy on behalf of their organizations. But that’s not complete in the case of B2B customers. Because of multiple stakeholders, B2B buyers invest more than their company’s money. They invest their own reputation or political capital. They act to serve, or protect others. They are simply “more.”
Added to the multi-layered, multi-stakeholder customer experience is the fact that B2B firms more often often sell through retailers, wholesalers, brokers, or independent agents of some kind, creating a more complex "multi-channel" selling model than most consumer leader live in. This means they control only a fraction of the entire customer experience. At best they can merely influence the rest of the process.
I hope that B2B customer experiences start getting more attention. The social, or community interactions of these experiences are easier for us all to see, and some good things are happening. I see blogs like Social Media B2B following how businesses like MarketingProfs, Hubspot, CME Group, and Cisco are using social tools to engage their customers. Let’s hope it’s only a matter of time before we have a bunch of great blogs touting the B2B customer experience.
All that said, I want to return back to my original tweet. I’d love to hear about some great B2B customer experiences. Do you have any you want to brag about? A few you’ve been a part of?
A blissfully twisted career path and a passion for the link between customer experience and financial performance. Gets excited when actions align to a target experience "front domino." More about Linda.
Customer experience can drive better financial returns. Leaders tell me that they know this intuitively, but need proof of the payoff, as well as a map showing how to translate a target experience into the actions across their organizations that generate those returns. So Domino is the first how-to book on customer experience. Read and find evidence that customer experience can be a path to better profits. See the gaps and opportunities between the customer experience you have and the one you want. Provoke conversations in your team, area or whole organization about the actions that link customer experience to the financial reward you deserve. Learn more.