(This article was first published on Forbes)
In our modern world, customer experience is key. In fact, customers are willing to pay up to 16% more for a better customer experience. More than price or product quality, experience will soon be the biggest differentiator for getting customers, even in the B2B space.
A shifting landscape means B2B buyers now have the power. The space is getting more competitive, so if a customer isn’t happy with the service they are receiving, they can take their business elsewhere. That means B2B companies need to focus on creating a great experience where customers choose to do business with them.
In many organizations, the CMO owns customer experience. Here are some things to keep in mind when establishing your organization’s experience.
Know Your Customers
Before you can create a quality customer experience, you need to know who are you are working with. The sad reality is that in the B2B world, it’s likely people aren't that excited to do business with you. One study found that 59% of B2B buyers would rather do research online instead of interacting with a sales rep because they think reps push their own agendas instead of actually trying to solve the customer’s problem.
B2B buyers are also under a lot of pressure. They are responsible for spending their company’s money wisely and for choosing a product that will increase efficiency and revenue. That’s a tall order, and they face a lot of noise as they search for the best option. They experience anxiety as they research and make a purchase, and that anxiety lingers after the purchase has been made. With that in mind, it is important to create a customer experience that helps ease customers’ fears and makes their jobs easier.
Understanding the unique needs and pressures of each B2B buyer is critical. You should also take advantage of the wealth of data available to know things like what industry the customer works in, their geographic focus, where they are in the customer journey and what their growth goals are for the future. Without this foundation of understanding, you won’t be able to deliver a successful customer experience.
Have a Customer-Centric Vision
Customer experience is built from every interaction a customer has with your company. Everything from a phone call to a billboard or web ad contributes to their perception and overall experience. Creating a customer-centric vision that permeates through the entire company is key. Every interaction the customer has should be positive and make them feel like they are valued.
A good customer experience must be intentional. It takes effort from everyone in the company to know the role they play in building trust with customers and meeting their needs. Customers can tell when a company is focused on them or just focused on making sales and earning money. Set the tone within your organization to put customers first. Empower your employees to take action to meet customer needs and do what they think is best to solve problems and build relationships. Customer experience isn’t successful unless it comes from everyone in the company.
Offer Personalized Experiences
Just like a B2C customer walking into a retail store doesn’t want to be sold the same pair of shoes as everyone else, B2B buyers don’t want to be pushed a one-size-fits-all solution. With increased competition, B2B companies run the risk of simply becoming commodities. The best way to fight against this is to add value with personalized service.
Personalization needs to happen at every point in the customer journey. From getting to know the customer to establishing strong communication to offering the best product recommendations, personalization is at the center of it all. Customers need to know they are valued and appreciated, and that comes from taking the time to know them and creating offers that actually meet their needs.
B2B buyers are often pulled in multiple directions and appreciate when companies can simplify their offerings to what matters most. The best customer environment is simple, intuitive and flexible. B2B buyers will appreciate a company that can wade through all of the material and options and provide them something that matters to them personally.
Use New Technology
Customers already use new technology and find information on the internet, so B2B companies need to match that with their own use of technology. Taking advantage of things like automation, AI and machine learning not only helps create a more seamless customer experience but also provides a competitive advantage.
Use customer data to automate as many small tasks as possible. Use chatbots to connect with customers any time they want. Create an algorithm to predict when customers will need follow-up equipment. Build a digital system that streamlines communication. Use a database to generate tailored product recommendations. The possibilities for new technology usage are endless and can be adapted to the needs of each company and customer. Keep a pulse on new technology developments so you can always stay ahead of the curve.
Educate and Advise
One of the biggest complaints from B2B buyers is that sales reps are too pushy and not useful. In many cases, buyers do much of the research on their own to avoid the sales rep as long as possible. To change this stigma, B2B companies should focus on proactively filling an advisory role. B2B buyers are five times more likely to engage with a sales rep who provides new insights about their business over someone who tells them what they already know.
Instead of just selling to customers, marketers should focus on educating and advising them. The most successful B2B marketers are the ones who ask questions about their customers’ needs and take the time to educate them on the best options. This can come in a number of formats, such as establishing yourself as an industry expert with valuable content or providing one-on-one service to make key product recommendations.
Providing advice can ease customers’ purchase fear and anxiety and create a long-term, trusting relationship. Customers who know they can come to a sales rep for their honest advice instead of just a sales pitch want to keep coming back to the company.
Offer Post-Purchase Support
The customer experience doesn’t end when the purchase has been made. In B2B, customers want to have companies they can turn to instead of having to find a new supplier every time they need something new. One of the keys to building those long-term relationships is through post-purchase support. Service means more than just making sure customers are happy with their purchases, although that is part of it. It also means helping customers find ways to work more efficiently with their new products and to constantly meet their needs.
Post-purchase service includes staying in touch with customers and knowing their changing needs as their company grows and evolves. It also means providing troubleshooting assistance and continued education to use the products to their full potential. Providing trusted post-purchase service ensures the relationship with continue.
Customer experience is crucial in the B2B space, and clearly there are many facets involved. Staying on top of customer needs can help companies continue to refine the customer experience to stand out from the competition and create loyal, satisfied customers.
This post is written by Blake Morgan
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, author of More Is More, and keynote speaker. Sign up for her weekly newsletter here. Go farther and create knock your socks-off customer experiences in your organization by enrolling in her new
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