By Paula Courtney,
CEO – The Verde Group
Most CX practitioners realize that creating consistently great customer experiences is not easy. And knowing which of those experiences will lead to revenue and share growth is even harder.
But while great CX is a challenge for all, it is a particularly knotty issue for B2B manufacturers, who labor under a number of unique customer challenges:
- Multiple Customer Types. Manufacturers typically serve both dealers/distributors and end customers, 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 customers 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 customer directly. This raises the stakes greatly for when they do interact, and begs the question of how to create additional value-add interaction points that raise customer equity across the value chain.
The reality is, however, that 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.
Now, let’s dive deeper into some key takeaways and effective CX strategies that can help address the challenges B2B organizations face. Here are four worth taking seriously:
#1 Consider all your customers
To have the kind of CX that makes your organization a market leader, you’ll need to knit together a CX strategy 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 zero in on 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, dealing with dealers as well as directly with end customers, this also has to be integrated into your strategy. The bottom line here: what’s best for the end customer has to be the organizing rationale for all the strategies and choices your organization makes.
#3 Build a strategy for continuous engagement with your end customers
As we mentioned earlier, you may only have direct access or interact with your customers once a year or once every five years. So it’s important to understand how you can extend your CX interactions beyond what customers need at those particular moments. In other words, CX has to be more than “I sold it, I serviced it”. It has to be a continuous and ongoing relationship. This ultimately comes down to a marketing challenge – for example, updating and informing customers on what they should know about the products you’ve sold them by becoming an educational partner. By creating value over time, in between major interaction points, you’ll build more authentic loyalty and create more effective barriers to switching.
#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 can ever say “we’re going to spend the next six years developing our CX strategy before we launch it.” The initiative will be dead in the water before it begins. 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 knits all this 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 something persuasive that can get buy-in from your organization. Once you do, you can begin making the necessary cultural changes your B2B company will need to make to become more customer centric.