B2C vs. B2B: How the Customer Experience Definition Became Equalized
Once, customer experience meant different things, depending on whether a company served other businesses or consumers directly. Those days are over.
Today’s customers have high expectations, zero obligation to remain loyal, and all of the options in the world. Whether you’re a B2C or a B2B, your customer experience definition, vision, and strategy will have a significant impact on your competitiveness and brand.
Consumer demands transcend the boundaries that previously existed between business-facing and consumer-facing companies.
To address the “human experience” customers desire in the professional realm, B2B companies will need to borrow key elements of B2C customer experience strategy.
A customer experience definition for everyone
Deloitte defines customer experience as “the sum of all of the interactions a consumer has with a brand, as well as their opinion of the brand.”
So, the customer experience definition includes more than the type of interactions a customer has with a business. It also encompasses the feelings a customer associates with a brand.
This applies to B2C and B2B companies. Both must stay attuned to the evolving expectations and needs of their customers. Both must provide a seamless customer journey, value in their product and services, and continued customer support.
Leaders of B2Bs have to reimagine what customer means
For B2C companies, defining who your customers are is obvious: individual consumers. For B2Bs, the answer is less straightforward.
In order to come up with a customer experience definition that’s right for them, leaders of B2B companies should expand their understanding of “customer.”
For example, the customers of SaaS providers are the companies who purchase their software. But the only way to optimize the customer experience is to broaden this definition of “customer” to include the individual employees within those companies — the actual end users.
With this mindset, B2B companies can drastically improve the customer experience by prioritizing usability. No matter the capabilities of your platform, your customers will churn if their employees struggle to use it effectively and productively.
B2B customers have the same demands as B2C customers
Once B2B companies stop thinking of their customers as accounts and start thinking of them as humans, it’s easy to see that all customers want the same things.
By fulfilling these desires, B2B companies can create greater value for their customers, differentiate their brand, and improve their margins.
Customers want personalized experiences that are relevant to their motivations and needs. Companies must provide more than simple recommendations and dive into real-time targeting and contextual guidance.
Companies will need to adopt advanced analytics tools to gain accurate insights and better address customers’ desires in the moment of need.
Trust is fundamental to creating a sustainable relationship with your customers. Unfortunately, trust in business is on the decline. According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in business fell to 48% in the U.S., a 10 percentage point decrease from 2017.
Both B2C and B2B companies should make a serious effort to repair trust with customers.
They can do this by providing honest information about their products and services that is accessible, comprehensive, and easy to understand. They can gain even more credibility by citing independent reviews of their offerings.
Just like individual consumers, customers in the business realm will only stick with you if your product fulfills their needs, brings value to their company, and helps their employees work better.
Convenience is core to the customer experience definition. It’s a must at every touchpoint in the customer journey. In the B2B space, end users may not be involved in the research and purchasing stages, but they are certainly involved in what comes next.
During implementation and beyond, you will vastly benefit the customer experience if you provide support that is always accessible and convenient.
How to put your customer experience definition into action
Leaders at the executive level are responsible for integrating their customer experience definition into the business strategy.
Doing so requires a carefully articulated vision, often a new governance model, and accountability.
Businesses need to take a deliberate and strategic approach to customer experience. It is not enough to simply list it as one of many goals. Instead, top leadership should embed their vision of the optimal customer experience in the overall business strategy, in which every department and employee plays an important role.
Your customer experience vision should be clear and meaningful. It should answer the questions:
- What does our brand stand for?
- Who do we serve?
- What challenges do our products and services help our customer solve?
Putting the right governance model in place is critical for keeping the organization responsible for upholding the customer experience vision.
Some companies elect to create a dedicated customer experience team, whose sole focus is running CX improvement efforts. Another, more holistic approach is creating a set of processes and values that promote your customer experience goals across all organizational functions.
One of the most important but most difficult parts of enacting your customer experience definition is deciding how to hold employees accountable.
After articulating the vision and governance model to support your customer experience goals, leadership should communicate what kinds of behaviors and attitudes are required of staff. This will likely be accompanied by incentives, and tying relevant metrics to employees’ KPIs.