New research by Accenture Strategy has recently come out about B2B firms and how they perform from a CX perspective. As published in DestinationCRM, the article begins morbidly with, “Less than a quarter (23 percent) of business-to-business (B2B) firms have implemented customer experience (CX) programs that lead to substantial annual revenue growth.”
The article also gives several reasons for the lack of growth from both internal and external factors. New competitors with superior experiences are winning out, but also the fact that customers are more self-sufficient these days make the need greater to adjust to the modern customer.
“But for many of the companies, the barriers have been internal. Only 32 percent of those surveyed say they have the resources, skills, and tools they need to provide the experiences B2B customers require. These executives trace the deficit back to complications with their CX processes, a lack of support from C-level leadership, and a failure to integrate across the organization.”
If a B2B company wants to impact the bottom line by improving the customer experience, they first need to measure it. And in order to do that effectively, recognize that B2B customers are rarely ever 1 person.
This simple fact opens up a world of customer experience complexities and implications for how a B2B company should measure their CX. And because we ourselves are consumers first, it’s easier to fall into the trap of using B2C techniques and methodologies to do B2B CX work. It’s familiar and easy find a free website that will tally up the responses and pop out an NPS.
But, because a B2B customer is comprised of a group of people, the rules have to change to accommodate more players. Market research style surveys will not provide the info needed to understand is an account is successful. It might say how 1 person, or the sum of all respondents feel about their success, but that won’t move the needle. And only using 1:1 methods won’t scale and drain resources. Change your CX approach to really make and impact on revenue and customer success.
To truly move the needle when measuring CX/CSAT/NPS in a B2B company, consider these fundamental differences for B2B:
- The people within 1 account group will have different roles, which will dictate how they interact with your product. This requires B2B teams to segment the analysis and engage separately with the Buyers, End Users and any Influencers within the account. Buyers and Influencers might not even be using your product firsthand, so asking them for product input will be of little help. How to win: Tailor relevant questions to these different people based on role and segment your analysis for true account-level granular insight. Find out which customers are the best fit and which titles tend to love you most.
- Segmentation is totally different in B2B – its not so much about geography or demographics like in B2C, it’s more about verticals and monthly recurring revenue (MRR), which complicates the analysis even further. Now, there can’t just be an emphasis on the segments (as in a 1:Many analysis) but more granular into the individual accounts. Customers that spend more money with you deserve more of your time and resources. But a good chunk of your overall revenue may add up from all the smaller accounts. So B2B teams need to focus in on how the general Strategic Account segment feels about the value your product brings, and also how each individual account perceives you. Compare each account’s responses with other customers within the segment and get a true apples-to-apples benchmark for trends and outliers.
- B2B customer experience isn’t “owned” by 1 department: The best companies at this are then able to actively send the insights to other departments, increasing the ROI of any feedback work. For example, once you know who is “with you” and who isn’t, Sales and Marketing can then approach the right people for case studies, upsell opportunities, and better yet – who not to approach. Instead the CSM or AM can go find a solution to whatever is stalling their journey, strengthen the relationship and share that info with Product.
- Increased expectations and political agendas are a factor in B2B purchases. Consider that your product bolsters someone’s career and their ability to do their job better. And they expect you to deliver. Longer buying cycles affect both sides. Marketing and Sales messaging might promise something different than reality. Are you helping everyone within the account benefit or get ROI?
- The group can change at a moment’s notice. Turnover within an account can be a big factor into the success of a customer. This makes it increasingly hard for an Account Manager to really know everything about the health of the relationship. Keep the communication open between the many people within an account and your team; feedback requests can’t be a one-time annual event. Too much can happen in a year for this to be effective.
- Closing the loop is a must. Because of all the reasons stated above, there really can’t be anonymous feedback requests. There will always be a need for follow-up conversations to really understand why a customer feels a certain way and how they expect it to be resolved. A Likelihood to Recommend score is only going to tell you so much – everyone has a different view of a “good” rating and most people probably don’t expect to get a phone call in response. What an opportunity to delight and prove the value of their time and effort.
At the end of the day, people are complicated. And when you introduce groups of people into the equation, it just gets more complex. The good news is that if your team uses these B2B best practices for customer experience, you can beat the system and strengthen relationships with those customers!
Credit: Smilansky, Oren, “B2B Companies are Struggling with CX and It’s Eating at Their Bottom Lines,” DestinationCRM, Dec. 1, 2015.
B2B Companies Are Struggling With CX, and It’s Eating at Their Bottom Lines