At MCorp, we’ve conducted customer experience research with thousands of customers for dozens of companies. Across the range of business buyers and retail consumers, we’ve heard from high net-worth investors, Gen-Y shoppers, baby boomers and small company CEO’s, and everyone in between.
And in the last few years, we’ve seen that the ways customers interact with and think of companies – and the experiences they expect in return – is changing. In some cases, dramatically. Yes, technology is a big piece of this change. (You can see our thoughts on that here, in our on-demand thought-leadership webinar titled “Disruptive Technologies vs. Customer Experience.”)
But a bigger, interrelated piece is around customer expectations. Think about what your expectations are as a consumer when you deal with companies like Amazon, Disney or Virgin America. How are they met?
Across the board, we’ve seen that customers aren’t just comparing the experience of dealing with you to the best in your industry – which they are, of course – but they’re comparing you against the best experiences in the world.
- If Apple can make my mobile computing experience easy, why can’t you?
- If Virgin America can let me tailor my in-air experience (delivering food, music, movies, television when and how I want it) why can’t other airlines?
- If Amazon can get me books – heck, anything – in two days for little or no cost, or Zappos will take 10 pairs of shoes back – and pay for the shipping – why can’t you?
Why should a B2B distributor care what Amazon does with retail customers?
While the trend we’ve seen emerging in the last few years has sobering implications for all companies, the shock has been (and will be) greatest for companies that sell to other companies. Why? Today, not only customers bring expectations from experiences like these with them when they shop for other consumer products, business buyers are increasingly bringing these expectations to work as well.
It doesn’t matter that you sell software, or cars, or that your customers are consumers or business buyers. Customer expectations of experience are based on their perceptions of what experience should be. And just as those expectations are getting higher every day, the level of patience with and forgiveness of poor experiences has dropped to near zero.
This should alarm all organizations – even companies such as health plans, utilities and telecom service providers, which often act like they’re insulated from outside competitors.
For some of these near-monopolies, not everyone has an option today. But as touchpoints, customers and your competition get smarter, new options continue to arise – and eventually they will for everyone, from international phone calls and TV on your computer to alternative power providers delivering “green electricity” over the entrenched utilities infrastructure. As that happens, smart, unfettered customers will leap at the alternatives.
And it’s not just consumers that are intolerant of what they perceive as stupidity or indifference on the part of the companies they interact with. Nor are consumers the only ones plugged into social media, highly aware of competitive options, and willing and able to tell others of their bad experiences. Today, B2B buyers are much more comfortable demanding more. After all, they’ve been conditioned to expect it.
As a consequence, no matter what business you’re in, not only are you in unexpected competition to deliver on customer experience against companies like Amazon, Apple and Disney, but any missteps on your part will be broadcast more widely, with greater amplification, across more channels, than ever before.