At first glance, it might seem that delivering a great experience is easier for business-to-business (B2B) companies than for consumer-facing firms (B2C). B2B companies typically serve fewer customers, and a small pool of relationships can be mistaken for a smaller challenge compared with the millions of customers typical in the B2C world.
But the reality is very different.
There might be fewer of them, but B2B customer relationships are often highly complicated. They involve many combinations of people on both sides talking to each other at once — often across multiple business units. And if these conversations aren’t all managed properly, rather than make your customers feel like they’re dealing with your company — you’ll make your customer feel they’re dealing with several different organizations.
In fact, a recent Medallia study found that the difference between a poor experience and a great one in a company with a subscription-based revenue model can be the difference between keeping a customer for only one additional year — versus for six years.
That’s a lot.
So how can you make evaluating and improving your customer experience feel less like untangling a complicated knot — and more like a natural extension of your existing daily business operations?
Here are 3 ways you can make managing your B2B customer experience simpler:
1. Give all teams insight into individual and overall customer experience performance.
Employees need to know how they’re performing against your overall customer experience goals. Otherwise, they’re flying blind. Offering them personalized reports covering both the positive and negative aspects of their performance makes the process feel much more like a check-in, rather than an attack. This also gives them day-to-day visibility into the customer issues that need their attention most.
These reports don’t just benefit sales and support teams, either. When aggregated and summarized effectively, they also allow managers and executives to see which workers, teams and even divisions or groups need extra coaching. They highlight painpoints that might be in billing, delivery or even in the product. And they even help identify high-performing teams that can share innovative best practices organization-wide.
2. Use a system that automatically drives consistent feedback collection across customer relationships.
Collecting feedback consistently is too complex of a task to handle manually, especially if you’re reaching out to people beyond your key contacts. Manual collection also makes it hard to establish the right cadence. Regulate how you get feedback — so it doesn’t happen too infrequently, making your account managers blind to new problems that might then get worse, and doesn’t happen too much, so that your customers aren’t willing to participate.
It’s also important to not just collect feedback after transactions. You need to understand the overall health of the relationship. Your customer’s ultimate perception of you is informed by many interactions over a period of time. If you don’t engage directly with people across your customer’s organization about your performance, their thoughts might get lost by the time you speak with your key contact.
3. Give employees access to all of this information across multiple platforms, and in real time.
Listening to the Voice of the Customer shouldn’t be inconvenient for your employees, who are often on the go. Make customer insights accessible wherever they are — especially on mobile devices. Mobile access, in particular, helps your employees review customer data right before important customer calls and meetings. And make sure the information is always complete up to date. Real-time access gives employees a better chance to wow your customers by fixing problems right away.
Of course, these best practices are just a few of many. And implementing them across a complex organization is another challenge entirely. If you’d like to learn more about that challenge, check out our playbook for key account management below.Photo credit: Pauline Gesta
Great article Michelle, thank you. I think transparency of customer information is key to offering great customer service for B2B customers. The reason I argue this point is because you can have several individuals within one customer group and each maybe using your product or service differently and therefore have different issues, experiences etc. It is important to have a holistic customer view of all interactions, to focus customer retention activities and priorities of the customer. Having this knowledge will also assist with the understanding of customer experience and feedback forms, which could vary from one extreme to the other based on different user experiences. Most good CRM systems (http://www.max.co.uk/crm-for-you/crm-for-your-job-role/crm-for-customer-service) can offer a knowledge bank which can dissimilate customer information and feedback and help organisations target effectively with their customer loyalty campaign.