Focusing on People in B2B Customer Experience Strategy


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“Businesses are made up of people, and people have emotions.” This focus on people has guided the customer experience strategy of industrial freight provider Maersk Line and many other business-to-business companies. Rene Bomholt, former head of customer experience at Maersk Line, shared these stories for the 3rd Annual ClearAction Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Best Practices Study:

CX Strategy & Deployment
Customer Trust: With 50-some country organizations around the world, everyone on the front line at Maersk Line was working to please customers according to their own interpretation, but not really with a common goal of how to do it. A session was held with top management to determine the kind of emotions they want to invoke, tying into company values and history. They wanted customers to feel trust, cared for and pleased in every interaction. That became the mantra which provided a common aspiration for customer experience success.

Playbook: Showing people what a customer experience means makes them reflect on how they as consumers act on their own experiences. In 3-day sessions held by Maersk Line, managers received a playbook of 24 solutions that each country organization could pick and choose from. The playbook included simple suggestions such as how to talk to customers without using jargon, and posting customers’ pictures on the Maersk office walls to emphasize people connecting personably. Despite the traditional tops-down culture, the playbook was rolled out with a train-the-trainer approach on a voluntary basis. Most country organizations did sign up for it, but some had other pressing priorities and didn’t feel it was right for them. A clear divergence in customer satisfaction scores emerged, and the non-participating countries saw that and began closing the gap. Now the company is seeing upward trends globally.

CX Employee Engagement

Most B2B companies (85%) are engaging employees in customer experience management, and the number of companies reporting that they are well-established or perhaps world-class in these areas has increased since 2011. Nearly half of participating B2B firms are using customer metrics in performance reviews, presenting customer feedback to all employees and executives, and expecting action on survey results by owners of CX key drivers.

Employee-Related Tools for Customer Experience Management

Customer Experience Management Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement CX

The 2011 B2B CEM study indicated superior business results for presenting customer feedback to all employees and all executives.

Recommendations: Remember the adage: “What gets measured and rewarded gets done”, and use metrics wisely to motivate customer-focus throughout your company. To maximize your customer surveys’ return on investment, educate all employees and partners about their impact on front-line professionals and touch-points. And design your voice-of-the-customer tools so that their output can be used to help as many employees across your company as possible to focus their jobs on making things better for the people in your customer companies.

Bringing Customer Experience Management to Life
Customer Mirrors: Observation of customers at their work site is a program that Maersk Line calls “Customer Mirrors”. While the company had mapped their own internal processes, they know they need to have a clear picture of the processes their customers go through. Employees visit the customer to see how they interact with the company, observing without a specific problem in mind. For the people dealing with the company on a daily basis, what do they actually do? How easy is it for them to find the appropriate person to deal with? What is it like for them to navigate the company’s website and fill in forms? While the focus is on observing, a bit of problem-solving is typical when customers request it. Findings are posted in the offices to provide a Customer Mirror for all employees to look into and learn from.

Employee Trust: “If we want customers to trust us, then we first need to let our employees trust us,” decided Maersk Line. To manage emotions of trust internally, Human Resources plays a big role in the customer experience program, stressing the cross-functional aspect of operations. A big part of it was making everybody aware that they actually had a role to play — not just the customer-facing people: they’re only as good as their ability to get through internally to get problems solved — otherwise nobody wins. The countries with the best success are the ones that really embrace cross-functional coordination.

Cultural Change: Close relationships with customers matter a lot. Daily transactions are important because that influences decision-makers. Maersk Line experienced a cultural change when they realized that the people who are recipients of daily transactions recommend upward within their organizations about who to buy from next. Since these decisions are impacted by so many other factors besides trying to deliver good services within Sales and Service, the company’s operational execution is a huge priority as well.

Inspiring stories about the progress of business customer experience management can be found throughout the 2012 best practices study, featuring companies such as Ciena, Citrix, LexisNexis, Orange, SunTrust, Symantec, tw telecom, and others in business services, building materials, remarketing, and semiconductor industries.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Lynn Hunsaker

Lynn Hunsaker is 1 of 5 CustomerThink Hall of Fame authors. She built CX maturity via customer experience, strategic planning, quality, and marketing roles at Applied Materials and Sonoco. She was a CXPA board member and SVAMA president, taught 25 college courses, and authored 6 CXM studies and many CXM handbooks and courses. Her specialties are B2B, silos, customer-centric business and marketing, engaging C-Suite and non-customer-facing groups in CX, leading indicators, ROI, maturity. CX leaders in 50+ countries benefit from her self-paced e-consulting: Masterminds, Value Exchange, and more.


  1. Some interesting things about ways this best practices study is being used:

    A graphic from 2010 ClearAction B2B CEM Best Practices Study is featured in new book by Accenture consultants: “Selling Through Someone Else: How to Use Agile Sales Networks and Partners to Sell More”

    You may be interested to see how 4 customer experience practitioners are using the B2B CEM study as a reference tool (experts from Symantec, Orange, Sungard, Merck): Linkedin.

    To see more graphics, check out the Pinterest page ( and the Slideshare file: (

    The 2012 report is now available for Kindle / iPad / iPhone / Android / Blackberry / Mac / PC — this is the Kindle digital format only Amazon. (Apps are free.)


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