The challenges and complexity of B2B transactions are well documented, and include the following
- The stakes are higher: The stakes are higher at every B2B touch point because B2B transactions are typically lower volume/higher value. So each individual point along the B2B continuum matters more than in a typical B2C pipeline.
- The price point is higher: B2B products and services are big-ticket items, so again the stakes are higher for each win or loss.
- B2B CX crosses functional lines: B2C can usually be boiled down to a 1:1 experience; one buyer interacting with one seller, while B2B involve a larger number and wider ranging group of stakeholders, drawn from points up and down the food chain. The customer experience must be tailored to the complexity and size of that customer audience, which involves a changing cast of stakeholders as it progresses through the pipeline.
- B2B requires more hand holding: Because of the complex nature of B2B transactions and the high level of risk, these products and services require much more hand-holding than a typical B2C product or service does.
To face these challenges head on you must first know exactly what you mean when you talk about supporting the Customer Experience. CX is not just lead generation, or sales support, or customer support, or any other single point along the customer continuum. It’s the whole enchilada:
“CX is the sum-totality of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just in a snapshot in time, but throughout the entire arc of being a customer.”
-Harvard Business Review
Given this unique and complex environment, how do you win at providing high quality CX in a B2B product or service environment?
"CX is the sum-totality of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just in a snapshot in time, but throughout the entire arc of being a customer."
- Follow good UX to win at CX: The sales and support organization must be grounded in the fundamentals and best practices in digital user experience, not by having a passing idea of what it is, but through a deep knowledge of how and optimal UX is achieved.
- Measure CX: CX needs to be monitored and measured, and those measures must be compared over time. No single measure (or small sub-set of measures) is enough. Customer satisfaction ratings and Net Promoter Scores will only get you so far. You need to be testing—early and often—and over and over again. Create a company-wide ecosystem of measurement and testing and use that data to connect the dots to inform how customers succeed and fail along the entirely of the customer journey.
- Preach the CX bible: People at all levels across the organization have to commit to CX. Providing a high quality customer experience is not a top-down endeavor, but rather a roundtable of success. Make sure everyone across the organization understands how critical CX is and the part they play in making that happen.
- Strike a balance between face-to-face and digital tools: The key to accomplishing this delicate balancing act is to understand which touchpoints need which types of support. Know what to use and when.
- Provide more self-serve tools and information than you think you need: B2B sales cycles are very focused on hand-holding because of the complex nature of the transactions, the high level of risk and the higher price tags than in typical B2C environments, but in a the modern digital world people are used to having more self-service tools at their avail. In fact, they demand them, and when they aren’t available it can make or break the relationship you’re trying to cultivate.