Are Business Customers Really Different from Consumer Customers?


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Last week, Ronni Marshak’s attention was drawn to a useful post in Customer Think, entitled, “B2B versus B2C – Debunking Five Customer Experience Myths” Since Ronni spends a lot of her working day helping businesses understand the customer experience needs of both business and consumer customers, she resonated with the points that author/consultant Tim Carrigan was making. So, in this article in our “How to Think About CX” series, Ronni expands on the five customer experience myths that Tim raises.

Consumers and Business Customers Are the Same People!
People are people. When they want to get something done or fixed, or to understand how something works, they rely on the same modus operandi as business customers that they rely on as consumers. If they are the kinds of people who like to talk things through with an understanding person, they’ll reach for the phone first. If they’re the kind of person who prefers to self-serve and who regards direct contact as a last resort, they’ll rely on your web site, on content you provide, and on useful forum posts. They may even reach out via Twitter.

Customer Experience Strategies Should Be Designed for People; Not Companies
If you’re in charge of marketing or customer experience or sales for a company that sells only to businesses, you may be relying too much on your direct sales force and/or your channel partners to meet your customers’ needs. Remember that the customer experience that’s associated with your brand and with your products surrounds those products. It extends far beyond the products themselves and it doesn’t have a lot to do with how good your salespeople are.

The good news about having business customers is that you often have fewer actual end-customers to connect with than do companies who sell products to hundreds of millions of consumers. The bad news about having business customers is that B2B procurement processes and internal bureaucracies often thwart your and your end-customers’ attempts to have a real relationship.

Some Quick Tips for B2B CX
Here are some insights we’ve gleaned over the years that might come in handy:

1. If you’re selling technical products, bring your smartest tech experts to the first sales call! (Most companies try to insulate their experts from sales—this just prolongs the sales cycle.) By putting your top techies in front of customers, you win their trust, they feel respected, and your technical experts learn a lot more about customers’ real context.

2. When you’re providing evaluation units, doing demos, or trials for business customers, make sure you understand their migration/adoption/acceptance criteria. If you can’t show customers how your new product or service can meet all their criteria to be quickly adopted by their end-users and meet all certification or regulatory requirements, you’ll lose traction.

3. Make your customers feel smart for dealing with you. Everyone wants to be a hero. They need to look good to their colleagues and bosses. Don’t ever put them in a position in which they look bad or feel stupid (usually because they lack an important piece of information or your product/service doesn’t do something that’s critical to their business).

4. Provide proactive, predictive support and don’t make customers pay for it. This seems counter-intuitive. After all, maintenance and support contracts are where many B2B companies make most of their profits. But requiring customers to opt into the support required to make them successful is just bad business. Bundle the support into your products. In fact, ideally, make your products intelligent enough that they’ll “phone home” and report anomalies so you can be proactive in providing needed support. Where you can make money is from the patterns you can detect and the improvements you can make because you’re monitoring in real time how your products are performing in real conditions. If you can show customers how to optimize their operations or their decision-making, they’ll pay more for that intelligence than they will for maintenance contracts.

5. Foster peer communities of expert customers within and across businesses. We’ve gathered great insights for our clients by simply bringing together all the end-users, administrators, and support personnel whose jobs are impacted by their products/services together in one room (sometimes it’s a very large room!). Many suppliers assume that their business customers don’t want to discuss how they’re using their products with competitors. That’s actually not correct. Almost everyone who is using a valuable product or service actually wants to know about better tips and tricks, work-around, and services they may not be taking advantage of. Your customer community is often your best loyalty-builder.

~ Patty

Does B2B Customer Experience Differ from B2C CX?
A Customer Is a Customer
By Ronni T. Marshak, Executive VP and Senior Consultant, Patricia Seybold Group, July 12, 2012

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patricia Seybold
With 30 years of experience consulting to customer-centric executives in technology-aggressive businesses across many industries, Patricia Seybold is a visionary thought leader with the unique ability to spot the impact that technology enablement and customer behavior will have on business trends very early. Seybold provides customer-centric executives within Fortune 1 companies with strategic insights, technology guidance, and best practices.


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