B2BxCX—Common Challenges and Recommendations (Part 3)
Part 3 of 3: Experience Recommendations
In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, I shared themes I see across CX friction points and internal business challenges. Together, these act as hurdles that often contribute to the disparity in B2B customer expectations/preferences and the experiences that B2B organizations are actually delivering.
In this final installment, I’ll share themes I’ve noted across customer experience recommendations I’ve shaped with and for B2B organizations to help address customer experience gaps. Of course, the details and designs that accompany recommendations like these vary for individual industries and organizations, but the general ideas ring true across them all.
Common B2B CX Recommendations:
- Reimagined Digital Sales Tools
While it’s important to have a great digital experience for B2B customers, it’s even more important to provide great tools for Sales to facilitate the administrative parts of their job and allow them to focus on relationship building. The specific tools to be included vary, but the goals will generally be to expedite more transactional interactions and provide the intelligence needed for sales to easily show up as a strategic partner to their customers.
- Optimized/Scalable Service Model
Providing direct access to expert consultants to support more complex sales can both improve the customer experience (fewer steps to get the information they really need to make choices), and also reduce Sales’ administrative workload. Keeping Sales informed will support rich conversations for them with customers and potential customers. Digital tools can enhance this model greatly, getting customers to the “right” expert quickly and supporting them in collaboration.
- Digital Marketing as a Strategic Business Partner
Ensuring that a B2B Digital Marketing team has the right tools in place, connected in the right way, is important and helps show ROI. More important, though, is designing a program to allow their partners (Sales, Merchandising, and Ecommerce) to use the data collected to empower them in interacting with customers, managing vendors and increasing orders, respectively. This shifts Marketing’s role from one of fulfilling requests and measuring success to one of partnership in growing the company’s business.
- Comprehensive Offering Education and Support
Providing the right information and tools, especially as more products join the Internet of Things, can ensure that both Sales and service partners (installation/implementation, maintenance) can grow their businesses more easily. For Sales, this means staying informed about newer products or those in categories beyond their expertise. For service partners, this means offering ease across ever-expanding product lines. For both, information to help them predict customer needs is critical.
- Customer Co-Creation and Innovation Tools
For large, established companies in particular, co-creating the future of offerings with customers can both increase customer loyalty and decrease the likelihood of being disrupted by competitors. Being explicitly considered and consulted as an offering evolves is a very good customer experience. It also ensures that companies continually refine their understandings of customers’ contexts and enables ongoing identification of new opportunities to serve them.
- Reimagined Recruiting
As great customer experiences are dependent on the quality of the people serving them, finding the right talent is critical to all companies. Whether due to shifts in a company’s offerings or shifts in recruits’ expectations, recruiting practices may need to be rethought both to attract the right candidate and guide them through the right processes to ensure a mutually good fit.
As with the relationship between the customer frustrations and business challenges, these recommendations don’t map directly to any of either. Each of them, depending on the specifics of its design and implementation, can be shaped to help address multiple frustrations and challenges.
When I take a step back and consider all of this together, what I notice is that in the B2B world—perhaps more so than for other types of businesses—the customer experience cannot be truly excellent unless the employee experience is excellent.
Most directly, an excellent employee experience ensures that final recommendation theme, Reimagined Recruiting, doesn’t lead to a revolving door of excellent hires. And excellent employee experiences, beyond benefits and pay, often come down to a feeling of making a difference for customers. The first five recommendation themes here are all, fundamentally, about creating a great employee experience. Each of them points to providing the right tools and processes to allow each individual employee’s talents to be used effectively to serve the customer. They all suggest finding ways to collaborate effectively and operate as a single team—including service partners—with customer experience excellence as the goal.
This doesn’t mean that we ignore tools for and interactions with customers. Of course, these are critical as well. And, as McKinsey indicated in their article, customers are clamoring for more access and new ways of doing business. Improvements to customer interfaces are implied within each of the recommendation themes (except for Comprehensive Offering Education and Support, and even that one likely extends, at least indirectly, to the customer). But alone, customer-facing tools are not enough. It’s what’s behind the scenes supporting them that truly makes a difference.
Now, the one challenge we noted in Part 2 that isn’t addressed here is supply chain. I haven’t personally done any work directly in this space yet, but the approach we take to identify ways to make it as easy as possible for customers to do business with an organization can also be applied with suppliers. By considering suppliers “customers” of the services required to sell their products—in addition to the fact that many of them are very real customers of ad placement—and addressing their friction points, B2B organizations can become their preferred partners. And through doing so, I expect they can avoid at least some of the fallout when supply chain troubles occur.
B2B businesses, and the relationships they have with their customers, are complex, and they’re all unique. I’d love the opportunity to reinforce or reimagine the customer experience for your B2B organization—or extend the work of customer experience strategy to your vendor relationships, and begin to uncover the themes that live there!
Outside of the common challenges and recommendations I explore in this series, I’ve also learned that 4 key deliverables form the backbone of any compelling CX strategy. For a deep dive into each one, and how they all work together, be sure to check out our CX strategy webinar.
Photo Credit: JJ Ying | Unsplash
Kat Kollett is the Director of Customer Experience Strategy, leading the CX Strategy team. She brings a multidisciplinary, user-focused approach to innovations in brand, digital, analog, environmental, and interpersonal experiences, and helps clients apply those innovations to meet their strategic objectives.