Every day, customers receive personalized experiences from B2C brands. They get tailored recommendations from Netflix, great contact center support from Discover and innovative tech solutions from Apple. But when they go to work and interact with B2B companies, it’s a different story. More than product or price, companies now compete on experience. B2C companies realize that customers are willing to pay more for a great experience, so they prioritize providing convenient, personalized experiences. But the same can’t be said about the B2B world—until recently.
B2B companies have an average customer experience score of less than 50%, far lower than 65%-85% for B2C companies.
Many B2B companies say that customer experience is a priority, but their actions don’t match their words. But the tide is slowly changing. Especially with the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and its impact on global industries, B2B companies are starting to see the value of investing in customer experience and the advantage it can give them over the competition.
The new focus on customer experience in the B2B world falls into three categories:
Customers interact with companies through multiple channels, often to solve the same problem. They may start by looking at a company’s website but end up calling the contact center and later communicating via chat or email. No matter how customers interact with brands, they want a consistent experience. A true omnichannel experience starts by uniting data within the organization to create a strong understanding of what each customer needs. Many B2B companies have cut spending in the wake of the global pandemic but still crave convenient digital experiences. A recent survey from McKinsey found that B2B companies see digital transactions as two to three times more important than traditional sales interactions going forward. In the post-COVID world, a strong omnichannel experience with digital offerings is not only expected, but crucial.
Zurich Insurance Group unifies data across its employees to create a consistent and data-driven experience. Agents have a dedicated online portal, smartphone app and tablet app that allow them to have connected information on customers and quickly see a complete view of customer activity. Agents and employees can also use the omnichannel portals to search for updated information on policies and regulations to provide consistent and accurate information to all customers. A strong internal omnichannel experience drives consistency in the external customer experience.
Customer experience starts with employee experience. When employees are engaged and empowered, they naturally want to provide better service for customers and go above and beyond to build great experiences. Companies that prioritize employee experience have strong cultures and established feedback loops to continually listen to employees and apply their suggestions. The goal of employee experience is to provide tools for employees to work in the best way possible. Many companies have shifted to remote work in recent months, a trend that could continue long term as employees and companies realize the benefits and cost-savings of a remote workforce.
Software company Adobe is known for a culture that celebrates both employees and customers and is regularly voted as a top place to work. The company hosts “experience-a-thons” that give front-line employees the chance to test new products and provide honest feedback. The idea is that employees can point out potential issues and offer fresh perspectives. Adobe also encourages employees to get additional training through school, conferences or training and helps pay for continual learning. Adobe employees have tools and know they are valued, which drives a strong customer experience.
Just like each customer in the B2C space is unique, each B2B customer also has its own situation and preferences. B2B customers want personalized experiences with companies that understand their unique circumstances and can act as advisors instead of strictly salespeople. These relationships are especially important because COVID has changed business models and plans. Personalized treatment can help strengthen long-term relationships as companies pivot and adapt.
GE Additive walks alongside its customers as partners through their entire buying journey. At customer experience centers in Pittsburgh and Munich, B2B customers can see the manufacturing products in action and work with representatives to find the right applications for their businesses. GE’s service isn’t a one-size-fits-all pitch for its customers, but personalized collaboration to truly understand the needs of each business and help customers succeed. That personalized service extends to after the sale and provides customers with a trusted advisor who has their best interests in mind.
The B2B space has long been behind the curve when it comes to customer experience, but many companies are starting to wake up and realize the power that comes from investing in customers and employees. How companies operate is continually changing, as evidenced by the global pandemic that turned most industries on their heads. In order to stay relevant, B2B companies must offer amazing and innovative customer experiences. B2B has to keep waking up to the need for a strong customer experience.