The 7 Things B2B Customers Demand From Suppliers
Many CX experts predict that by 2020, the customer experience will overtake price and product quality as the key brand differentiator. Much has been written about Business To Consumer (B2C) customer experiences, but I want to share some love for Business To Business (B2B). If 40 is the new 30, then B2B CX is the new black.
I am in the process of writing a book on B2B customer experience opportunities and have spent many hours absorbing research from industry experts and best in class companies. Also, the majority of my career has included leading B2B customer operations teams. Pooling all of this knowledge together resulted in the following list of 7 standards that B2B customers demand from their suppliers.
- Understand THEIR business B2B customers expect you to listen, understand who they are, what their business does and to tailor communications and experiences to their unique needs. It is not enough to understand your products or services, you must know how your business customers actually utilize them to obtain value.
- Understand OUR business B2C sales are typically a standard, repeatable product offering, and as a result, easier to deploy and service. B2B offerings tend to be more customized, and therefore more complex. B2B customers expect suppliers to demonstrate deep credibility and competency in the products and services that they sell and support.
- There is nothing worse than contacting technical support, after spending an hour on the self service website, then speaking to someone who knows less than the caller does. This does not mean that every employee in your company has to be a technical expert. But any customer facing team member, must know where to go to get what they don’t have. This could be from an internal knowledge base, his or her supervisor or from a more senior employee.
- Consistently deliver With B2B, service failures not only impact the business customer (i.e. the supplier’s customer), but may also impact their end customers or consumers. In addition, unlike most B2C purchases, B2B suppliers and customers usually have a written contract in place that stipulates what must delivered in order to receive payment, avoid penalties or bypass any legal problems. Delivery in B2B is not just about making a customer happy. It is also about maintaining the health and welfare of the customer’s business and the supplier’s business.
- Be proactive B2B customers expect suppliers to anticipate customer needs and strive to resolve issues BEFORE they occur. Many B2B products and services are mission critical to business operations, e.g. payroll, crm, order taking etc. These B2B customers can not afford to be down for any extended length of time. Focus your attention on issue prevention, versus just issue resolution.
- Be responsive B2B suppliers must act with urgency to answer questions and resolve problems quickly and accurately. B2B customers do not have time to wait on hold for 5 or 10 minutes to reach someone. B2B customers have many projects in play at once, not just yours. B2B employees rely on their mobile device for constant communication. Therefore, B2B suppliers must leverage the latest technology and the appropriate staffing levels, to deliver on what is expected. See item #3.
- Continuously adapt and improve B2B providers must demonstrate flexibility and willingness to change, especially based on feedback from B2B customers. They must continually maximize value and minimize customer efforts, in the delivery of products and services.
- Communicate effectivelyThroughout all of these steps and processes, suppliers must keep customers informed of what happened, what is happening and what’s next. B2C transactions generally have one or two key decision-makers while B2B have multiple. These may include stakeholders and/ users from technical, to legal, to purchasing to C-Level. Also, a single B2B customer may be spread over multiple locations or geographies. So, B2B communication can be complex.
- There is one thing that makes B2B and B2C customer experience exactly the same.. that is we are interacting with humans. When you communicate to a B2B customer, it is not to an entity, it is to a living breathing being. Therefore communication must be clear, compelling and with empathy, as appropriate to the message. (For more on this topic, check out Temkin’s free ebook, “Humanizing the customer experience” )
Why is all this so important? Studies have shown that happy B2B customers are more loyal, are more likely to recommend and spend more over time. By improving the B2B customer experience, you can have a major impact on people and business success. Go for it!
What do you think? Did I miss any critical items? Please add them to the comments.
© 2019, Marci Reynolds. All rights reserved.