B2B customer experience: Top 3 trends and drivers for 2017

06 Feb 2017

  • Customer Experience

By: Andrew Haussegger, Founder & CEO, Green Hat

Why is Customer Experience (CX) getting so much airplay in the world of B2B right now?

In the 2017 Green Hat/ADMA B2B Marketing Report, B2B marketers raised CX as the major challenge in 2016 and CX optimisation as one of their top three objectives for the year ahead. 95% rated it as critical.

B2C Experience has set the bar for B2B

At the end of the day, the B2B buyer is a consumer as well. Their B2C experience is generally more streamlined and pleasurable than in B2B. B2C vendors like Amazon and Apple start their product development with CX in mind and work back from there. B2C companies know they have a short timeline (minutes at most, often seconds) to wow the consumer. They therefore have no choice but to be engaging, timely and personal, backed up by great service.

These consumer experiences set the baseline for what digital and offline engagement should look and feel like in B2B. This becomes even more relevant as digital-savvy millennials assume the majority of decision-making roles in business. Customers will begin to abandon B2B sellers in droves if their experience doesn’t match up with what they now consider as the new norm.

Customer Experience delivers a competitive edge

B2B marketers know it is significantly easier to get a new order from a current customer than a new prospect. To this end, CX is becoming a competitive differentiator and can become more important than product and price over the next few years.

B2B customers who continue to be delighted with their provider’s product or service will be prepared to pay more for the privilege, even if the offering is not as feature-rich as some competitors. Best practice B2B firms align their sales, marketing and service teams to ensure a consistent customer journey and reinforce CX as a compelling value-add.

Customer Experience starts before becoming a customer

Whilst most of the talk around B2B CX is about the experience of the current customer, there also needs to be a focus on the experience of the prospective customer. This experience starts well before the buyer buys anything – a journey that could be many months or years.

The prospect experiences the brand as they educate themselves online, engaging with peers who have similar challenges and exploring solution options. Regardless of how complex this process is to map, the seller is compelled to understand and influence their buyer’s journey from the very first touch.

This is a critical time for the B2B seller. This activity is giving the buyer their first experiential insight into the seller. The astute buyer is evaluating the quality of their content, digital engagement, personalisation and how well they are transitioned from online to human interaction. Before signing on the dotted line they will ask: Is the seller using the data they have gathered about me in my engagement? Are they nurturing me with contextual content? Are they showing me relevant offers to my buying stage - not trying to sell me something when I'm not ready? Are they listening and responding?

The 2017 BMR shows Best-in-Class B2B firms understand their buyers. They develop buyer personas, map the customer journey and map content that supports that journey. With all eyes on CX, taking these steps can help transform a B2B business into a customer-centric one with customer experience at the core.

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