According to McKinsey, the pressure to deliver exceptional customer experiences is growing: 73% of B2B executives said that customer expectations for personalized experiences and end-to-end solutions are significantly higher than even a few years ago.
As they consider your offerings, B2B customers are under considerable pressure because they’re choosing for their business as a whole: the stakes are raised, and so is the need for cost-effective, reliable, and easy-to-use solutions. The customer experience should put the user’s fears to rest with a clear process and transparent information, where and when they’re looking for it.
Although it may take more time and planning to reimagine the customer experience, it’s worth it for B2B marketers—PWC found that businesses that emphasized the customer experience could command up to 16% higher prices with greater brand loyalty. By understanding your customers’ needs and crafting a stronger customer experience, you can attract more customers, lower operational costs, and strengthen customer loyalty.
1. Understand the customers’ perspective
According to PWC, 65% of consumers believe an enjoyable customer experience is more influential than advertising. Instead of looking at isolated touchpoints like social media marketing or a website landing page individually, it’s important to consider the journey as a whole to boost your customer experience. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes: When businesses find you, what are they looking for? What are they hoping to achieve? Are they choosing between your readymade packages, or hoping to create a custom solution?
PWC found that nearly 80% of customers say that speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service are the most important components of customer experience. Instead of trying to improve disparate channels one by one, think of your customer experience as a chain of events. Understanding the big picture of the customer experience will allow you to see how individual touchpoints form a larger narrative, so you can address gaps in the journey.
2. Personalize customer experiences
Part of the challenge for B2B businesses is there is no one-size-fits-all customer. B2B business solutions have to keep in mind both the ultimate end-users and the company stakeholders involved in the decision-making process, which can come from many different departments and levels; according to Accenture, on average seven people are involved in each B2B buying decision.
Adjusting the experience to the specific needs of a customer can help them sort through all of the available offerings that are part of the more complex B2B sales relationship. The marketing team’s emphasis should be on getting to know the customer throughout the sales process and gathering data to help understand their business.
According to Forbes, B2B buyers are five times more likely to engage with a sales rep who provides new insights about their business over someone who tells them what they already know. Especially when making a larger investment, customers want reassurance that they’re working with an experienced, knowledgeable partner. Position yourself as an industry expert throughout the sales process by educating and advising the customer with thought leadership content, like whitepapers and blogposts, or personal interactions.
3. Boost your digital presence
In 2018, your online presence is an essential part of the customer experience. According to Accenture, 94% of B2B buyers conduct online research at some point in the buying process. Especially with B2B services that require a greater investment of time and money, customers are looking for easy-to-navigate online presences.
What customers value most aren’t the flashy graphics or trendy, eye-popping visuals: prioritize simplicity and functionality. Through testing and iteration, multidisciplinary teams of sales experts, graphic designers, and developers can create customer-centric experiences that are intuitive and easy to navigate. Seamless websites and UX design invite the user deeper into your website and encourage them to spend more time on your page. Use your website to create custom landing pages and experiences for a range of customers in different stages of the decision-making process.
A Forrester study showed that 59% of buyers prefer to do research online instead of interacting with a sales rep because the rep pushes a sales agenda rather than helps solve a problem. By offering advice, instead of pushing to close sales, you can establish your business as an invested partner and gain the customers’ trust. In addition, elegant web design can present complex information to customers in clear, easy to understand ways—like interactive graphs, videos, and animations—and close the gap to improve the customer experience for those resistant to speaking with reps.
Digitization isn’t always the answer. Many businesses want to maintain personal interaction, instead of automating systems, for certain aspects of the customer experience. When choosing packages, for example, working with a sales rep instead of an online platform might alleviate some of the stress of finding the right fit. Digitize simple, routine interactions and keep others personal, such as decisions that require input from more players and internal teams.
4. Optimize all brand channels
According to Accenture, 61% of all B2B transactions start online, and 58% use social media as a research channel. Your brand should look and feel the same across channels, in person and online, for consistently excellent experiences. A cohesive brand guide and unified design across digital platforms ensures that your customers are getting the same experience wherever they first access your brand.
For each B2B interaction, design a range of human to digitized touchpoints that can be combined to deliver an enjoyable customer experience. For example, to reach customers who are choosing between several service providers, offer educational blogposts, interactive demos, video testimonials, etc. By opening up multiple points of interaction, your customers can curate their experience to best fulfill needs.
The customer experience doesn’t end at the point of purchase. Create an on-boarding process that will help customers get the most out of your offerings for your business. Be available to address changing or ongoing needs as your customers’ businesses grow and evolve. Troubleshooting and responsivity to problems as they arise is key to both improving the customer experience and identifying pain points to address for future customers.