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6 Keys to creating a great B2B customer experience

B2B companies are witnessing a shift in the sales process from brand-driven to consumer-driven sales. Where outgoing marketing messages were once the primary means by which a customer learned about a business or product, nowadays, prospects glean that information from myriad sources, most notably each other.

From photos to product specs to pricing information to reviews, consumers can discover everything they need to know to make a purchasing decision with a simple web search. This customer-driven, online intelligence has been part of the B2C odyssey for several years, whereas B2B companies have maintained tighter control of their messages and information. However, with the growth of third-party review sites – such as G2Crowd, Software Advice, Capterra and various B2B App Marketplaces – B2B companies are now participants in the online comparison-shopping trend, much like their B2C counterparts.

What does the consumerization of B2B sales have to do with customer experience? In a word, everything. As business customers take more control of the sales process, a great customer experience has become more important than ever….and if you fail to deliver a good customer experience, it will be on display, easily accessible by prospects researching your product.

B2B companies can't usually compete on price in the same way B2C companies can. That's one reason the overall experience a customer has with a business is so valuable. In a June 2015 survey conducted by Avanade, business customers indicated they are willing to pay as much as 30 percent more for a product or service that offers an improved customer experience.

Here are six ways B2B companies can ensure an excellent customer experience:

  1. Create a top notch and focused customer success team. To build long-term relationships, ensure your company has a dedicated customer care team responsible for ongoing education and adoption, one-on-one training, issue resolution and ongoing usage tracking. In addition, feedback from this team as to which feature or training has the biggest or least impact on customer retention can provide valuable insights for product development and process improvement.
  2. Define the customer journey. Often, B2B companies overlook the importance of the post-sale experience. Help satisfy new customers by mapping out the ideal customer journey from day one to day 90. What educational materials can support the customer through the first 30 days? Which features should a customer be using at day 45 to achieve his goals? At what point should the customer experience team check in? Each of these steps provides an opportunity to guide the customer along the path to success and satisfaction.
  3. Track customer usage data. Many companies capture marketing data to determine which campaigns or messages resonate with prospects and drive conversion, but there's a lot to be learned from current customers, as well as the customers that leave. Through exit surveys, focus groups, Net Promoter Scores and other data, your company should be looking for usage-patterns, such as spikes or drops when a new feature is introduced or following a specific webinar. This data can determine what's working and what's not to prevent customer departures and improve overall satisfaction.
  4. Exceed expectations. Humans go into nearly every situation with preconceived expectations. They expect to haggle at the car dealership, for instance. And they generally expect long wait times and delayed responses from customer service. To avoid meeting prospects' low expectations, work hard to blow them away with fast, informative, helpful interactions at every turn. Make doing business with your company as easy, seamless and pleasant as possible. Many of today's most successful "new breed" of companies have embraced and leveraged their "delight the customer" posture to win and keep customers….owning market share in the process.
  5. Encourage customer reviews. Think your product or solution rocks? Confident in your customer service? Tell the world, but let your satisfied customers do the typing. Not only do 61 percent of consumers read reviews before making a purchasing decision, research shows customer reviews are also one of the most effective ways to increase retention rates for B2B companies.
  6. Knowledge is power. Everything around the customer journey should be tested, measured, and revised as necessary...from marketing messages, to signup flow, retention, impact of pricing, trial conversions, post sale behaviour, customer adoption/usage, why customers buy, stay, grow, leave, refer their associates, etc, etc.... Without data, you will be "flying blind", forced to take educated guesses which is a recipe for mistakes and miscues, and oftentimes worse.

Delivering a great customer experience is just one part of the larger B2B sales puzzle, but it's one very important piece. After all, not even the biggest marketing budget or most winning sales team can counter the negative impact of a poor customer experience shared online for all to see.

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