New Research Tracks Progress on B2B Customer Experience

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In 2013, Walker Information published the results of a study regarding the emerging importance of customer experience for B2B companies. Customers 2020:  The Future of B-to-B Customer Experience focused on how B2B companies should be preparing to meet changing customer expectations. In this research, study participants said they expected customer experience to surpass product and pricing as the key business differentiator by 2020.

Last fall, Walker published the results of a new study that was designed to take a fresh look at some of the issues addressed in the 2013 research and examine how much progress B2B companies have made on the customer experience journey. Customers 2020:  A Progress Report was based on a survey of more than 400 customer experience leaders and influencers, and on in-depth interviews with 22 senior business executives. Survey respondents represented a range of industries, company sizes, and job titles.

The 2017 research identified three core dimensions of B2B customer experience:

  • Personalization – “Customers want to do business with companies that know their individual and company needs and are willing to tailor the experience to meet those needs.”
  • Ease – “Customers don’t have time on their side and place a real premium on simplicity.”
  • Speed – “Customers can’t afford to wait around while their business issues are being considered. They value companies that provide real-time response and proactively anticipate their future needs.”
Walker’s research found that B2B customer experience professionals believe that customer expectations have risen across all three of these dimensions and will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. In the 2017 study, Walker asked survey participants to rate the level of customer expectations for personalization, ease, and speed at three points in time – in 2013, today (2017), and in 2020. The following table shows the percentage of survey respondents who said customer expectations were/are/will be high.

Walker’s research also revealed that most B2B customer experience professionals don’t believe their company is fully prepared to meet customer expectations for personalization, ease, and speed. As the following table shows, less than 10% of survey respondents said their company is very effective at delivering on the three critical components of B2B customer experience.

The findings of the Walker study aren’t particularly surprising. Walker’s research suggests that while the expectations of B2B customers are high and rising, those expectations are also primarily utilitarian. What B2B customers really want is to do business with companies that are fast, responsive, and easy to work with. 

Even personalization has a practical dimension. When a company understands my interests and needs, and has a complete picture of our existing relationship and previous interactions, I don’t need to “reintroduce” myself at every new encounter.

Top image courtesy of Zach via Flickr CC.

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