The Big Hidden Killer of B2B Customer Experience


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B2B companies are still in honeymoon when it comes to CX (Customer Experience). Whether or not you agree on this, it is certainly an equivocal ‘yes’ when it comes to B2B companies making CX a competitive advantage.

B2B companies are lucky in a way that they deal with a reasonably finite set of customers unlike B2C companies. They don’t deal with the diversity of channel partners as in B2C, variety of customer profiles & temperaments, frequent changes to customer service policies, shorter shelf life products, high attrition of customer facing associates, etc.

But the odds against B2B companies are complex customer journeys, multiple stakeholders, outcome dependent on relationships, impacted by their customers’ processes, etc.

Today technology enables everything. But you will be surprised to know that the single biggest bottleneck for B2B companies to deliver superior CX isn’t the availability of real time information, technology, analytics capabilities, market intelligence, etc.

I’m associated with many companies in IT, ITES, OEMs, commercial financial services, infra, pharma, industrial products, etc. One thing that comes out clearly when we talk about improving CX is “Lack of Ownership”

Here are the top 5 issues that come in no specific order:

  • No ownership of outcomes for end-to-end process
  • Lack of coordinated effort
  • Passing on responsibilities rather than being accountable to clients
  • Silo mentality (more focused on self-KRIs)
  • Cohesiveness & coordination issues

So it is something internal and well within the reach of any organization to accomplish.
If there is one thing that B2B companies need to do to improvement CX, then it is to find out ways to build what I call as ‘Individual Ownership and Joint Accountability” (IOJA).

Let’s examine the real reasons for this issue:

    Too many priorities:
    This is probably one of the most abused phrases. But the catch is in deselecting what is not important rather than selecting what is important. Of course, everything we do is important, but is it urgent enough and that too right now? Our inability to deselect is an inhibitor for creating ownership.
    Conflicting priorities: Functions exist to help the clients. Unfortunately, they have become an object of power & strength. Stone walls built around functional boundaries prevent smooth flow of information and ownership. Conflicting functional strategies and disgraceful loyalty to their function play spoilers.
    Ownership for failures: Let me be very open about this. A way to wade off failures is by keeping the ownership fairly broad and undefined; And all of us do it.
    Missing sense of value: When I have no idea how the data I’m entering in the bid management system will help the company gain deal, I rather fulfill what I have been instructed rather than go beyond the defined boundaries to win the bid. Have you ever wondered, why this month’s shining entrepreneur was a dumb seat warmer last month when employed? It’s all about a sense of value for what we do, what we represent & what we care for.

    Your process, your client’s process & their client’s process: Working with clients means that B2B companies have to work through client’s processes too. This makes it doubly difficult to comply with your processes as well as client’s. On a separate note, processes both at our end and client’s end are created to help someone, may be ultimate user client or consumer. Two decades ago we were driving people to talk the language of process and live by it. But now we realize that the same process mindset is a culprit when it comes to delivering superior CX. People not only find excuses in the name of process but are genuinely bound to comply and thus knowingly create unhappy clients!

This list is bottomless, so I’m going to stop here and talk about what we can do to build “Individual Ownership and Joint Accountability”.

What is IOJA?

Here’s a simple example to define IOJA. Your 4 year old kid goes to a play school. One fine day, let’s for the god’s sake, assume she injures herself. Who owns this failure? Is it you or the school? You handed over the kid to the school and so it’s the school’s problem and you don’t have to worry because this injury didn’t happen under your supervision! In fact, you will let the kid know that the school teacher is responsible for her injury and you could have done nothing to prevent it. Right:-)

As a parent we know that whether the kid is in our sight or not, we retain the Accountability for her well being, at all times. And the school should (ideally) know that they have to take the Ownership for the well being of the kid under their supervision. That’s what we mean by Individual Ownership and Joint Accountability.

Functional leaders in an organization should have joint accountability though individual ownership might reside with one function. It’s like a game of football or any other sport, where one player compensates for the pitfalls or misses of his/her team member rather than pointing fingers in the play ground. Of course they might huddle it out off the ground. But at that moment, they play by what is right for the team as a whole and how they can individually contribute and cope for the loss. Huddling is out off the ground is what we call as “Catch-Ball” technique. There are a variety of tools that can enable IOJA and Catch-Ball is one such technique.

Building a culture of IOJA
Organizations can end up preaching this concept with no results. I’d rather work on systematic approach to build IOJA rather than work on just behaviors.

In designing an approach for IOJA, we have to appreciate that strategic processes, business processes and transaction processes are different and needs different treatments. At transaction level, it might be clarification & empowerment that matters. At business processes level, it will be transparency and orientation towards common objective but at the level of strategic processes, it’s more of relationship between leaders, attitude towards the vision, WIIFM and cost of failure.

If you plan well, ownership issue can be systematically addressed to build a culture of superior CX in B2B setting.

Nilakantasrinivasan J
Nilakantasrinivasan J (Neil) (born 1974) is an Indian author, consultant and guide, focused on the subject of client centricity, B2B client centric business growth, business transformation & analytics. He is the author of 3 books, The Client Centric Protagonist, The Master Book for Lean Six Sigma & A Little Book for Customer Experience. He founded a professional services firm Canopus Business Management Group ( More details are available at


  1. Another thing that we have found across B2B companies, is the lack of understanding how important the effort score is. Majority of them forget that businesses also case about the amount of effort that it takes them to get a service from their service provider. At the end of the day, even companies want to do business with other companies that is easy to do with business with.


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