Although the customer experience spotlight often highlights the successes (and failures) of business-to-consumer (B2C) companies, Temkin Group’s research continues to show increasing CX attention and activity among business-to-business (B2B) organizations. We surveyed 148 large B2B/B2B2C organizations and found that they are:
Raising their CX ambitions. While only 4% of these organizations see themselves as industry CX leaders today, 57% of them want to deliver the best CX in their industry over the next 3 years.
Coordinating their efforts. Nearly 60% of large B2B/B2B2C organizations have significant, coordinated CX efforts underway across their company; with one-third having more than 10 full-time employees on their centralized CX teams.
Making the most out of listening. Over 70% of these organizations report that their Voice of the Customer (VoC) program has had significant, positive impact on their CX efforts. They are also seeing positive results from reporting on CX metrics and making customer-focused process improvements.
Despite this ambition and commitment, B2B organizations are in the early stages of CX maturity. In fact, less than one in eight firms have reached the two highest stages of maturity.
The road ahead won’t be easy. When we asked those same organizations to rate the effectiveness of their efforts across a variety of CX capabilities, less than half felt their CX team effectively liaises across the organization and even fewer reported their teams were effective in internal communications, change management and culture change, and process analysis and redesign. And to top it off, 70% reported “other competing priorities” as a top obstacle to their companies’ CX efforts, followed by limited funding and conflict across internal organizations.
The Roadmap for B2B CX Success
Any organization that wants to become more customer-centric should start by mastering Temkin Group’s four customer experience core competencies: Purposeful Leadership, Compelling Brand Values, Employee Engagement, and Customer Connectedness. When building these competencies, B2Bs need to consider how they can bolster efforts across a number of key activities: sales and account management, implementation/project execution, support and issues resolution, partner alignment, and product management and innovation.
As part of my recent research, I interviewed with a number of B2B organizations and uncovered a variety of ways they are building these competencies in their CX efforts, including:
Johnson Controls Power Solutions uses its leaders to engage hard-to-reach customer executives. Many B2Bs find it difficult to gather feedback from the senior-most leaders of their customers through traditional survey methods. Johnson Controls introduced its Top 2 Top Executive Engagement program to fill that gap in understanding. Johnson Controls executives are provided with a simple set of CX talking points to weave into meetings with like-leveled peers at their customers’ organizations. Following these meetings, executives use a mobile application to respond to a short set of questions, adding specific comments from their conversation. These questions generate a set of metrics that align with what is measured in the company’s other VoC programs.
Kronos keeps implementations on track with mid-project feedback. Complex implementations are the name of the game for many B2B organizations, so if the project doesn’t go well, it sets a negative tone for the entire relationship. B2Bs cannot wait until the work is “done” to ensure their clients’ expectations are met; instead they need to proactively monitor these experiences. For engagements that meet a set of defined criteria, Kronos conducts 30-minute phone interviews as key implementation milestones are passed. This process is designed both to drive action at the account level and to identify performance and process issues that require improvement across the board. When the milestone interview indicates an unhappy client, alerts are sent to the appropriate engagement owners for follow up. The CX team monitors follow up activities to ensure corrective action is being taken. To keep leaders focused on CX improvement, the CX team shares a one-page email summary of each interview with Kronos senior leaders and executives, along with access to the audio recordings of the interviews.
Thomson Reuters captures stories from employees to highlight how they help customers succeed. Storytelling can bring the “real” customer experience to life, especially when stories are told through the eyes of employees. Thomson Reuters’ issued an open invitation to employees to share their own CX stories through a campaign called Show Us Your CX Moves. The campaign includes a simple three-question story template that employees can use to shape the content of their own short written posts or videos about customer experience as they define their “CX move.” To kick-off the campaign, the CFO and CMO posted their own videos to the intranet site. And each quarter, the CEO creates an introduction to the CX Moves video content.
Innography taps into its customers to bring a customer-centric view to product improvements and innovation. Customers who feel involved with a company can be a valuable resource when developing new products and services or determining ways to better serve them. Innography offers a variety of opportunities for customers to get involved and share their input, including three customer advisory boards. These boards participate in virtual and in-person meetings and discuss their needs and trends affecting their businesses. Often the company will take ideas generated by these advisory boards and feed them into its online customer community for broader input. The online community, named Zipline, offers all customers opportunities to submit, comment on, and vote for ideas, along with asking questions and interacting with each other and the company in other ways.
While any organization can improve parts of its operations, customer experience differentiation requires more than a veneer of customer-centricity. For long-term success, B2B organizations must put all four CX core competencies to work!