Every business worries about customer experience, but B2B businesses face a much harder challenge than B2C companies when it comes to interpreting CX. Consumer-oriented customer experience has decades of research behind it, while B2B CX is still getting its footing. Applying B2C measurements to your B2B business won’t get you clear results — you’ll need a strategy that’s designed specifically for the complexities of B2B.
The challenges of B2B customer experience
B2B customer experience ratings are significantly lower than B2C ratings — less than 50% satisfaction compared to 65%-85% for B2C. And it’s not surprising. Retail businesses have only one person on the other end of a transaction, but B2B customers are a whole lot more complicated.
In a business-to-business deal, you’re involved with any number of stakeholders, teams and personalities to account for. There’s a much greater distance between you and your end user. Plus, B2B services are often complex — a single product can have various facets. To put it simply: the customer journey is a lot more complicated. Untangling the web of customer touchpoints for your particular business can be a formidable task.
Pair that with business expectations rising to meet consumer expectations for quick and seamless interactions, and you could find yourself in a tight corner.
Strategies for improving B2B CX
Here are a few specific strategies for measuring and improving the B2B experience for your customers.
Map every customer
To get a better understanding of your customers’ experience, you first need to map all of your customers. This means the people who are actually purchasing your product as well as their supervisors, the end users and any third parties involved in the customer journey. And you’ll need to do this for each persona. It’s going to get complicated, but the more insight you have into your customers, the better you’ll be able to tailor your CX strategies.
Create tracks to improve journey mapping
Once you’ve mapped each customer in each persona, you can start to create tracks, which means building a hierarchy of customer journeys and divvying them up between more and less complicated journeys. This will help you know where to focus your efforts (and how much effort it’s going to require).
Tracks can be separated into categories like a complex journey, a standard journey and a simple journey, but figure out a set of tracks that makes the most sense for your business.
Work closely with channel partners
When you have channel partners, your customer journey is even more complicated. It’s important to remember that channel partners are just another branch of your business and to treat them with the same attention you do the rest of your company. Focus on maintaining excellent relationships with your partners and providing them with the same level of training that internal departments get.
You may even consider investing in a partner relationship management (PRM) solution to facilitate an open, beneficial relationship and customer success across the board.
Democratize content creation for a fluid content experience
Good content connects the dots between your brand, your product and the customer experience — and a consistent content experience will go a long way in keeping B2B customers happy.
Democratizing access to content production, or making sure everyone at your company can create on-brand content, will ensure your customers are regularly getting content that resonates with them. It’s a clear way to improve your CX while also bolstering marketing efforts for future prospects.
Metrics that matter in B2B CX
You’ll need at least a handful of different measurements to get a good sense of your customer experience. Since there are so many steps in the B2B customer journey, it only makes sense that you need multiple metrics to get the full picture.
Net Promoter Score (NPS) is widely used to measure customer experience for B2C companies, and it can be useful for B2B experience too, with a few adjustments. You need to use a larger sample size (at least 1,100 scores) to get an accurate measure, and looking at the average score will give you more insight than dividing scores into promoter, passive and detractor. B2B scoring just isn’t as straightforward as B2C.
OSAT (overall satisfaction) and CES (customer effort score) ratings can help round out NPS scores and give you insight into certain aspects of your customer experience.
Tracking importance will also help you further narrow the usefulness of CX metric scores. Importance looks at how useful your product or service is to a business right now (absolute importance) and how useful it will be in the future (importance trajectory).
B2B International cites six pillars to measure for an understanding of the true quality of your company’s CX.
Commitment: How dedicated your company is to the customer experience.
Fulfillment: How quickly you follow through on what customers really need.
Seamlessness: How easy it is to buy and use your product.
Responsiveness: How quickly you react to and resolve problems.
Proactivity: How often you get ahead of problems before they start.
Evolution: Your efforts to make your CX better.
Looking at your customer experience from as many angles as you can will help you identify what needs to be improved so you can put a plan in motion.
Examples of B2B CX done right
If you’d like some real-life examples of nicely done B2B CX to get your wheels turning, take a look at what IBM and Salesforce are doing.
IBM consistently ranks as one of the top valued B2B brands in the world. Among a host of CX initiatives, the company employs customer success experts to help clients optimize their IBM Cloud accounts. Going above and beyond in customer support has proved to be a smart strategy for the technology giant.
Salesforce offers one-on-one time with experts via adoption services, advisory services and success plans to keep customers happy. And the company is even a thought leader in the CX field, penning loads of content about how to improve customer experience — a great example of a fluid content experience.
Customer experience is inarguably one of the most important elements of your business. And while B2B CX can be complicated to measure, you’ll reap what you sow here — so don’t hesitate to get down to it and tailor a CX strategy for your company.