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In these rapidly digitalizing times, B2B companies would do well to remember that even in business to business matters, the customer is still king.
When we talk about CX, customer-centric strategies, and customer-care journeys, we usually have B2C (business to consumer) companies in mind. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that B2B businesses need to start prioritizing customer experience; after all, a happy customer is a loyal customer, regardless of whether the customer is an individual consumer or another business.
A key way to stand out from the pack in a globalized and oversaturated marketplace is to put customer-centricity and experience at the heart of your business strategy. According to McKinsey, substantially raising customer-satisfaction through significant improvements in operational performance can lower customer churn by 15%, and increase the win rate of offers by up to 40%. One way in which B2B companies can improve customer interactions - which are often even more of a ‘pain point’ than price - is to provide self-service tools for their clients. A study in the McKinsey Quarterly indicates that 86% of B2B customers would prefer using self-service tools, rather than talking to a sales representative.
A major roadblock that has prevented innovation in B2B e-commerce, in comparison to B2C e-commerce, is that B2B client/supplier relationships are typically more complex than the transactional nature of most B2C customer journeys. Whereas individual consumers are only a few clicks away from a new pair of shoes magically appearing on their doorstep, B2B customer journeys typically involve many decision makers on both sides. As well as a degree of customization and joint innovation of the product, and an ongoing relationship between two businesses - either in the subscription model, or because goods and services need to be repurchased. Because of the complex nature of many B2B journeys, implementing fully digital, automated self-service should be part of a trifecta of different approaches to improve customer experience. In addition to self-service, B2B companies can also improve CX through improved human interaction and digitally enabled services such as a live chat and joint web shopping with sales rep.
Penguin Strategies CEO Perry Nalevka says that self-service checkout provides a better user experience for companies selling complex B2B solutions, as ‘most of us prefer to do our research online and then make the purchase at our own pace. At most, we have a sales call to answer a few last questions.’ An important element of B2B self-service is price transparency, as more information on pricing means more trust with your buyers.
The digitalization of the global economy has been an ongoing reality for some time, and has only been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to McKinsey more than 90% of B2Bs have transitioned to a virtual sales model during COVID-19, and digital interactions are now twice as important as traditional sales interactions. Preference for self-service has grown steadily over the past few years, but has doubled in 2020 compared to 2019. Now that much of the workforce is stuck at home, it is more important than ever for B2B businesses to have as much information and as many options available online as possible.
The sales rep is not going to be replaced by computers anytime soon - B2B customer journeys are often extended, complicated, and collaborative, and will probably still need the human touch for a long time to come. However, B2B buying has been in the process of ‘consumerizing’ for a while, and this has only been further exacerbated by the pandemic. Buyers are no longer willing to accept subpar CX from B2B businesses, and providing outstanding digital experiences will make sure you stand out from competition. Through a combination of traditional, person-to-person relationships, digitally enabled services, and self-service, B2B businesses can deliver the speed, transparency, and expertise that customers will value right now, and in the exciting post-pandemic future.