As the end of the year approaches, it’s time for the all-too-familiar projections for the coming year. It’s the time where everyone considers what the new year will hold and predicts trends that are worthy of attention.
Walker’s December webcast focused on this as its theme but added an interesting twist. In addition to considering what’s changing, we equally emphasized what isn’t changing. The focus was primarily on B-to-B and this blog serves as a brief recap of the broadcast.
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The format was simple: host Steve Walker highlighted three key trends – personalization, ease and speed – that emerged in Walker’s latest feature report as the most important expectations of customers in the future. He then invited contrasting commentary from two veteran CX advisors:
- Sonya McAllister shared her perspective on what is changing and why CX professionals need to take note. This is based on her extensive CX work with dozens of companies and her involvement in Walker’s study.
- Megan Burn explained what’s not changing – those things that are simply innate human behaviors that CX leaders should understand. This is based on her experience as an industry analyst and her specialization in the study of human behavior.
The expectation for personalization is rising rapidly. Customers want to work with companies that know them and address their unique needs. Prolific personalization in B-to-C has made it difficult for B-to-B companies to reach this high standard. Sonya cited how too many B-to-B companies rely on their account managers to manage customer interactions. However, they can’t be everywhere, so B-to-B companies need to fundamentally adjust the way they serve their customers. Megan cited the rise in depersonalization, but stressed the need to recognize customers as humans, not numbers. Companies need to constantly ask, “What would I feel like in this situation?” That approach fills a basic human need which will likely never change.
Customers want to do business with companies that are easy to work with. Like personalization, expectations are sharply rising and most B-to-B companies admit they aren’t keeping up. Sonya cited this issue as a lingering issue with B-to-B companies. Ease of doing business has long been a common driver of customer loyalty. However, the urgency to make progress is building as innovative new companies are finding ways to disrupt entire industries by developing easier ways to do business. Megan added that, when you come right down to it, ease is about a lack of anxiety. Better communication and improving the way we set expectations can go a long way to making things seem easier, giving the customer more confidence in how they work with a company.
Customers are more impatient today. Now that we can get almost anything within a day, B-to-B customers are expecting the same speedy service they get from Amazon, Zappos and others. Sonya acknowledged the trend for speed but also challenged that some are sacrificing ease for speed. CX professionals need to ensure the entire experience addresses all of these trends. Megan added that speed often translates to responsiveness – having the feeling that somebody’s paying attention, working on what is needed and getting it done as quickly as they can.
In the wrap-up Q & A portion, both stressed the need for B-to-B companies to catch up or be left behind. If nothing else – pick one and make progress.