B2B industries are often focused on the ‘what’ of their products and services – a ‘here’s what we’re selling and why it’s good for your business’ approach.
But centering the customer experience is just as important for B2B businesses as it is in the B2C realm. Reconfiguring your mindset is the first of several challenges you’ll meet to ensure a consistently premium B2B experience for your clients.
What is the B2B customer experience?
Your clients know what excellent customer experiences look like. They see it in their everyday B2C interactions; when they do an online food shop, use their personal banking app, or book tickets to an event.
It’s not all about the final purchase. It’s about ease of use, speed, how mistakes are handled, consistent attitude, seamlessness of customer service between different departments, and post-purchase support. And that’s what B2B customer experience should look like for all of your clients.
Outstanding B2B customer experience meets your clients’ and prospects’ expectations – whatever their needs, pain points and goals, and wherever they are on the path to purchase. And it wows them, by delivering above and beyond – as standard.
High levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty are a direct result of your clients’ experiences with your company. Everywhere they meet your company, clients must consistently encounter excellence – online, on the phone, and in person.
Why does your B2B customer experience matter?
B2B customer experience matters because it’s how you drive growth through long-lasting relationships and snowballing brand loyalty. It starts with top of the funnel awareness when prospects are researching their next purchase. Perceptions of your brand are formed as customers experience each touchpoint on their buyer’s journey. This includes online and social media presence, as well as any direct interactions with your employees.
High levels of traditional customer satisfaction ultimately leads to a sale and, hopefully, client retention. You might even manage to turn a happy customer into a full-blown brand advocate, if their customer experiences are consistently outstanding.
Of course, the opposite is also true. Your reputation can be hugely damaged by reports of poor B2B customer experiences. You don’t just lose that one customer, but end up with a damning review that adversely affects future business.
B2B customer experience matters because it has a huge impact on your business. The brilliant news is that you’re in control of what that experience looks like for all your customers.
What are the current trends in B2B customer experiences?
Your clients aren’t operating in a vacuum, they’re influenced by what’s happening in the global, digitized world around them. It’s important to stay aware of broader trends in customer experience so you keep your strategy up-to-date.
Here are 3 current trends, from your clients’ viewpoint.
It’s all about your customers’ preferred method of communicating, not yours. This means getting granular about things like: the type of content your clients prefer, whereabouts online they consume it, and what device they’re using. You need to talk to your clients and prospects where they already are – not expect them to come to you on the one channel you prefer.
Thankfully, this doesn’t mean ‘be everywhere’. It means getting reliable insights from professional research to illuminate exactly the right messaging and channels for your different audience segments.
The pre-purchase research phase is particularly important for your B2B buyers. Prospects want to find answers for themselves as they start their path to purchase.
For you, this means investing in top of funnel assets including:
- Knowledge hub
- Explainer videos
- Chatbots to signpost the way to the right information
Supporting prospects at this early fact-finding stage immediately establishes positive brand perception by having just the right information at the precise moment they need it.
Being treated like a human being
People want to know they’re valued. Your B2B customers need to feel like you care about their custom. They’re not just a cash cow, but a valued client that’s treated like a real human being. Their B2B customer experience should be the start of building a trusted relationship, not a cold financial transaction.
There are all kinds of ways to show this during your clients’ experience on their buyer’s journey.
- You can listen to and solve their actual problems, perhaps with your next feature.
- Take any issues seriously and get them sorted quickly.
- Thoughtful post-purchase packages are just one way to show that you’re putting effort into keeping their business.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the myriad of possibilities when you’re aiming for first-rate B2B customer experience. But it really boils down to three simple considerations. Put yourself in their shoes and ask:
- Would I like to use this?
- How would I like to be treated?
- What would be the sprinkles of joy on that?
How to improve the B2B customer experience for your clients
Now to switch focus from your clients’ perspective to yours. What can you do to improve the B2B customer experience for your clients? Here are some possibilities for you to ponder.
Listen to the voice of your customer
You’re B2B. That means multiple customers in one team, each with their own buyer’s journey. You need high quality research data to understand each of their experiences and map every journey. You need to ask the right people the right questions.
This type of insight gets you into your customers minds:
- Why do they love you?
- What do they most value in a supplier or partner?
- What would tempt them to use another vendor?
- Why do they choose one vendor over another?
When you really hear your customer’s voice, you can design the perfect customer experience for them. Just remember this isn’t a ‘one and done’ situation. Embedding a brand health tracker within your research cycle will keep you ahead of any changes in attitudes that could affect customer experience.
Personalization for each buyer persona
Use actionable buyer persona research and message testing to personalize each touchpoint for the different members of your buying teams. This ensures excellence at every stage by adapting to the nuances of their different needs, pain points and aspirations. It also means that you’re right there at every stage of their buyer’s journey with exactly what they need to guide them in the right direction.
Despite being a usual part of B2C customer experiences, having entirely digital buyer journeys is not the norm in B2B industries. Perhaps this user-friendly simplicity is something you can tap into? Is it something your customers would value?
Unified team focus
It’s no longer just the sales team’s responsibility to provide the top-tier customer experience that closes the sale. Every department needs to have a customer-centric mentality and inter-departmental teams are the answer to issues that prevent an exceptional B2B customer experience.
- How do we create the right experiences for B2B customers with different levels of complexity?
- Can we speed up our sales process by eliminating reworking issues before they happen?
- How do we elevate our offering by giving customers one point of contact during the whole sales process?
These are all difficult questions that you need multiple experts to answer and action. A top-down commitment to customer centricity unifies focus across departments and enables creative answers.