Customer Experience was long considered a priority solely for B2C companies. There are several reasons for this – not least of which is that the complexity of many B2B buying processes and relationships makes CX look “hard”.
So… why is customer experience important for B2B companies? A better question would be, why wouldn’t it be? After all, B2B customers might be businesses, but actual people at those businesses are making the decisions.
People are people, whether they’re buying for themselves or on behalf of an organization. So it makes sense to provide those people with the best possible experience. And B2B companies are increasingly viewing customer experience as a vital practice and a key differentiator.
Challenges of bringing customer experience to B2B
B2B definitely brings some additional challenges. For one thing, a purchase decision typically requires more than one person – sometimes several people. How do you target one person when they comprise only a fraction of the buying team?
You may have a sales and service process that is much more heavily focused on relationships. I’ve known B2B companies where buyers skip all the channels available to them and simply call their sales rep for every need – what can a CX practitioner do with that?
B2B companies tend to have smaller customer bases than B2C, making things like recommendation engines harder to prime. Scaling CX efforts can be trickier.
The complex B2B buying process
And seriously, the B2B buying process really can get complicated in a hurry. A B2C buying process might be “customer goes to the store, tries on outfit, buys outfit at counter” or “customer goes to website, orders product, receives product”. (I’m simplifying a little, but only a little.)
A B2B buying process could look like, “sales rep contacts buyer to set up sales meeting, sales team meets with three members of buying team, buying team confers amongst themselves, decides to buy, asks for approval from two levels of management plus finance, finance asks them to hold off for a few months or get the cost down, buying team negotiates with sales team, they reach an agreement, agreement goes to buyer and seller legal teams for a few rounds of markup, final contract is signed, product or service is delivered over a period of several months, with a warranty period of support built into the contract” – and now I’m exhausted just from typing that all out. And another customer may have a different process entirely!
How on earth are you supposed to put THAT B2B buying process salad into a tidy customer journey map? How can you possibly bring customer experience methods and activities to a B2B company in a way that accomplishes anything?
The answer is…
Pretty much the same way you do it for B2C. You determine goals, set up a governance structure, learn everything you can about your customers and how they prefer to work with you, then identify, design, and execute targeted improvement initiatives.
In fact, some of the things that make CX more complex for B2B can also form strengths. That sales rep relationship? Is a phenomenal source of input and feedback. The smaller customer base? Means you can put a little more effort into each customer.
You may generate more journey maps, or more complicated journey maps, and you will need some creative solutions for enhancing your customer experience across multiple buyer personas. That just makes for a more interesting challenge!
At the end of the day, customers are people. Whether B2C or B2B, customer experience is about helping people get what they need more easily and efficiently. So stop wondering whether you should implement customer experience for your B2B business, and start asking how!