By Paula Courtney, CEO
The Verde Group
Creating consistently great customer experiences is a challenge. Knowing which of those experiences will lead to revenue and share growth is even more difficult.
CX challenges are difficult for any business, but particularly for B2B manufacturers. As reported in MIT Sloan Management Review, “More than 80% of business purchasers surveyed by Salesforce want consumer-level customer experience, and two-thirds have switched vendors to get it.”
B2B manufacturers endeavor under several unique customer challenges:
Multiple Customer Types. Manufacturers typically serve both dealers/distributors and end users, with differing – and often conflicting – requirements and expectations
Value Chain Complexity. How do you integrate those conflicting CX requirements without disenfranchising your distribution channel? How do you best serve end users through an intermediary?
Switching Barriers. Long-term contracts or high replacement costs can produce the illusion of short-term customer loyalty. How can B2B marketers understand the true impact of their CX strategies on customer consideration, spend and retention?
Cadence of Interactions. B2B manufacturers can go years without interacting with an end user directly. This raises the stakes greatly for when they do interact and begs the question of how to create additional value-added interaction points that raise customer equity across the value chain.
Even if you’re able to thoughtfully and creatively figure out these challenges for your B2B organization, it still requires a lot of courage and effort and processes to perfect CX in a way that will grow revenue for your company and help it accrue more market share.
Effective CX strategies can help address the challenges B2B organizations face.
Four Problem-Solving Strategies for B2B CX Challenges
#1 Consider all of your customers.
To have the kind of CX that makes your organization a market leader, you will need to coordinate CX strategies and processes that address, respect, and integrate all customer requirements for all customers — from dealers and distributors to end customers. That said, not all customers need to be treated equally and your strategy will need to focus on the customers and customer experiences that are most critical to your company’s current and future market success.
#2 Create a seamless CX across channels and distribution partners.
To properly manage customer relationships when you’re working with dealers, wholesalers, and other partners, your B2B business will have to put in extra effort to understand how to service them better as well as how to work with them effectively to service your shared end customers. If your business also has a hybrid model (your customer base consists of dealers as well as end users), this also must be integrated into your strategy. The bottom line: What’s best for the end user has to be the organizing rationale for all the strategies and choices your organization makes.
#3 Arm your employees to be successful.
Empower employees to serve customers based on their unique needs. Encourage employees to address and resolve customer issues immediately, when possible. As Candace Troupe discussed in her article, “Better EX May Be the Key to Delivering Great CX,” great employee experiences often drive great customer experiences. “Employees need some latitude to figure out how to resolve customer problems and make them happy in a way that drives positive business outcomes. This means not always being boxed in and rigidly playing by the rules all the time.” Happy employees are engaged and will understand expectations around driving a positive CX.
#4 Identify the highest ROI CX opportunities.
Because B2B CX challenges are so complex, there are unfortunately no low hanging fruit or silver bullets to make life easier. If your organization can really begin to understand its multi-channel, multi-faceted, multi-customer CX complexity, with often lumpy and elongated sales cycles, you’ll be halfway there in building the right platform for CX success.
That said, no company says, “We’re going to spend the next six years developing our CX strategy before we launch it.” You’ll be way too late. Instead, you’ll need to find short-term gains as early wins that get stakeholders enthusiastic while focusing on the long-term systemic improvements that can sustainably and materially improve customer experience for your end customers.
If you can design and build a strategy that blends all of these strategies together, one based on ROI and one that makes more money and grows market share by positively changing customer experience (short- and long-term), you’ll have a persuasive strategy that will allow for buy-in from your organization. Once that happens, you can begin making the necessary cultural changes your B2B company will need to become more customer centric.
The Verde Group is a customer experience consultancy, creating value by employing a proprietary research methodology that is based on a fundamental principle of human behavior: Individuals are far more likely to take action in response to negative events than positive ones.