B2B Customer Loyalty Isn’t What it Used to Be: Here’s How Companies Can Adjust Their Strategy

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The B2B customer base has shifted dramatically in just a few short years. While brand loyalty and high switching costs used to be reliable drivers of B2B customer retention, it doesn’t hold the same weight for today’s generation of tech-savvy, agile customers. With many B2B organizations still grappling with lingering effects of the supply chain shortage, customers are more willing and able than ever to switch to a competitor if a supplier isn’t meeting their expectations.

Before the age of instant internet access, B2B customers were much more hesitant to switch vendors even if a company wasn’t fully meeting their expectations. Researching competition and estimating the cost of taking your business elsewhere was much more difficult before people had the power of Google at their fingertips. But customer loyalty out of necessity, ignorance, or fear can no longer be presumed when the competition is just one click away. To stay afloat in this emerging customer landscape, sales professionals must find new and innovative ways to retain customers.

Customer experience is key

For the modern-day customer, a company’s competitive differentiator is no longer what they sell but how seamlessly they sell it. People expect the same effortless technological experience when interacting with enterprise sales as they do when shopping with Amazon, for example. In fact, 74% of millennial B2B buyers have left a brand for a better, more consumer-like experience offered by a competitor. The burden is now on B2B sales teams to make the buying process as agile, personalized and efficient as possible. Creating a seamless buying process requires things like customer-specific prices that are visible and consistent throughout all sales channels or providing predictive recommendations of additional products and services the customer is likely to need based on their buying behavior. Investing time and resources into creating an exceptional buying experience will help companies promote loyalty among customers and differentiate themselves from competitors.

There is also an increasing number of customers who prefer to do business through digital channels. Self-service portals, in particular, are growing in popularity. People like the ability to do it themselves through round-the-clock, chatbot-enabled services, while sales reps may only be available during certain hours. Leaders should ask their buyers how and in what channels they prefer to do business and ensure their organizations emphasize those preferences.

Using technology to streamline inefficient processes

A large portion of customer loyalty depends on how easy it is to do business with a company. A study by Gartner found that only 9% of customers reported being disloyal when they had a low-effort experience, compared to 96% of customers when they had a high-effort experience. However, creating an effortless customer experience is easier said than done, especially with many companies still operating with manual, outdated systems to process and leverage their customer data.

Customer data is one of the most powerful tools a company has when it comes to securing loyalty, but it can be rendered useless if it’s not easy to access and operationalize across the entire organization. With well-organized and accessible data at their disposal, sales reps can elevate the customer’s buying experience with personalized insights and recommendations. For instance, sales reps can use customer data to see which products a customer routinely purchased last year but may not be purchasing much of this year. Or, when it comes to self-service, companies should create portals where customers’ previous orders are conveniently available to either ‘repeat’ or be used as a starting point to create the order they currently need. To provide customers with the personalized, seamless experience they expect, it’s absolutely essential that teams and self-service infrastructure have the data-driven insights needed to make informed decisions that are consistent and aligned with the buyer’s expectations.

Becoming more deeply in touch with your value proposition

Finally, to earn sustained customer loyalty, sellers must also become more deeply in touch with their differentiating value proposition. This means digging deeper than surface-level marketing lingo and rattling off some accolades. Maybe it’s a patent or product quality the company possesses, a service level distinction, or superior application knowledge for how their products are used. Whatever it may be, sellers must be able to communicate how their company is best equipped to provide customers with a solution that meets their individual needs.

Sales reps should also do more than simply push customers toward generic revenue-driving promotions, but direct them to solutions that actually solve their problems and earn the add-on revenue as a consequence. Leveraging predictive models that anticipate the unique needs of buyers and incorporate them into sales conversations is a powerful way to do this.

Conclusion

As technology continues to advance, switching brands will only become easier, and customer loyalty will be harder to maintain. To navigate the ever-changing B2B customer landscape, companies must be armed with the resources and tools needed to provide an exceptional, effortless buying experience tailored to their customers’ individual needs.

Barrett Thompson
Barrett Thompson serves as general manager of commercial excellence at Zilliant - the leader in end-to-end price and revenue optimization and management. In his role, Barrett leads the Business Solutions Consultant team, aligning Zilliant solutions to customer needs and promoting pricing and sales best practices to customers. Over the past two decades, Barrett has built and delivered optimization and pricing solutions to Fortune 500 businesses in numerous industries. Barrett is a frequent speaker and author on achieving rapid, sustainable profitability improvements through pricing science.

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