Thinking B2B: B2B marketers are getting CX all wrong
by Warren Moss (@warrenmoss) The general commoditisation of B2B products and services is even more reason for marketers to apply good customer experience (CX), because it’s a real way to differentiate, boost sales and support stronger relationships.
In the B2B world, CX is an holistic experience. When a company financial director is standing at a braai and someone mentions something about a B2B supplier, that’s part of the CX — and it’s one that can’t be controlled. The CX is the overarching experience, much of which may be controlled by the marketer — but a whole other layer is organic and, therefore, can’t be.
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In B2B, there’s a much-higher customer lifetime value (CLV) than in B2C, purely because the cost of B2B products and services is much higher. Because the CLV is higher, there’s greater potential value for a business, per customer, which is a core reason that much thought and application need to go into building proper CX.
The B2B sales cycle is also longer: there are multiple decision-makers involved in the process, buyers are more educated, there’s more thorough-vetting and a higher risk because of the cost — and all of this needs to be considered by CX planners.
Customer journey mapping
For starters, B2B marketers need to look at customer journey mapping as something that’s not just for buyers but, rather, for all stakeholders. Customer-centricity is critical to any business but, since the B2B journey is more complex, it requires a deep understanding and proper mapping.
For example, say your business supplies washroom dryers, hand sanitiser and other office bathroom products. Your customer is the facilities manager but your user is the people who work in the building — and they play a major role in the CX journey. In the context of CX, it would be irresponsible of the supplier to ignore those stakeholders in the mapping process because, if they give the facilities manager negative feedback about the product, then the manager may be forced to find another supplier.
With that in mind, it’s important to offer users the chance to give feedback, and then act on it when it’s received. When mapping CX for brands, we need to include, as an input, what the user’s experience (UX) is. Whether using surveys, interviews or other data-gathering techniques, receiving feedback and using it to make enhancements and changes is fundamental. You can’t create a product or service once and expect it to continue to deliver in every situation and context. Building a mechanism that generates feedback and allows the B2B business to use it to inform decisions is best practice.
A consistent experience in communication is also vital. B2B businesses put so much effort into selling to customers, ensuring they have a great experience and feel supported every step of the way. But, once customers have made the purchase, they’re usually handed over to another team to ‘onboard’ them — and this is often where things fall over because that team doesn’t have a CX plan and ‘buyer’s remorse’ kicks in.
B2B companies should be providing CX planning and journey mapping for the entire process, not just sales. There are simple things, such as updating customers about when services will arrive, which go a long way to improving CX. People don’t mind waiting, as long as they’re told they’re going to wait, and how long they’ll be waiting for. Mike Stopforth, Beyond Binary director and marketing guru, always says that Happiness = Expectation – Reality. If a customer expects a rubbish experience, and they get it, they’re grudgingly fine. But, if they expect a slick experience and have a terrible one, they’re really unhappy. This is why transparency in communication is critical.
The final fundamental is the idea of benchmarking within CX. Benchmarking allows us to assess performance and see where we stand against others. It’s important to create measurement metrics and keep on benchmarking ourselves, using data and reports to see how we’re performing. The metrics are important: if you’re meeting your benchmark, it doesn’t mean you’re doing well — it could mean that your bar is set too low. CX needs to be constant: if a tactic changes, the benchmarks still need to measure the entire CX journey.
Keeping an eye
Simply keeping an eye on the whole CX process and adjusting the experience accordingly may make a major difference to a business — yet it’s amazing how often it’s neglected.
Warren Moss (@warrenmoss) is the CEO and founder of Demographica, a multi-award winning full service agency that specialises in the B2B category. He has been chairperson of both DMASA and Assegais, as well as the only African to judge the B2 Awards, which recognise the top-performing B2B marketers in the world. Warren contributes the regular “Thinking B2B” column, which looks at the latest trends in B2B communications and explains why it is fundamentally different from B2C comms, to MarkLives.com