b2b customer experience recommendationsIs business-to-business customer experience management (B2B CXM) a watered-down or a souped-up version of consumer experience management? Does the answer differ when the business you’re selling to is a manufacturer versus a professional services company? Or when your company provides specialized industrial goods, ingredients or components for customers’ products, enterprise software versus desktop software, or business services? All these questions are worth exploring. They’re important questions because customer scenarios differ in each case. Ideally, how you manage customer experience custom-fits your customers’ needs, preferences, and circumstances.

This series of monthly B2B CX articles explores the nuances of business customer experience. The questions above will be addressed in future installments.

Universal to most B2B CXM scenarios is the existence of a “village” of people who influence B2B buying decisions. This single fact means a lot. If the purpose of customer surveys is to accurately monitor customers’ likelihood of rebuying, then you must gain an understanding of each influencer’s expectations and sentiment.

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A logical follow-up to this is the need to integrate the viewpoints of the “village” to paint a realistic picture. In consumer situations, there are usually only a couple of viewpoints to integrate for any purchase: husband and wife, parent and child. But for B2B situations, you may be grappling with integrating the views of the user, purchasing agent, plant manager, and gatekeepers for IT, safety, facilities, and quality, among others.

And another commonality among many B2B relationships is extensive post-purchase interaction. This may be related to a complicated deployment such as enterprise software, or peer-to-peer, such as engineers from the supplier and customer companies meeting to work out usage details, or a customer appointee who interfaces with multiple locations of the supplier company in a single morning.

Here are 3 keys to getting B2B customer experience management right: capture the whole buying decision equation, integrate influencers’ inputs to paint an accurate picture, and ensure post-purchase customer experience consistency.

1) Capture the Whole Buying Decision Equation: Why try to tie CX to financials without fully understanding who’s driving what?

DO THIS: Identify all parties within a customer account with the power to kill a buying decision. Characterize each party’s expectations and design your customer-listening portfolio to keep a radar on their sentiment. Quantify the consequences of meeting or missing each party’s expectations.

b2b customer experience influencers
From the ClearAction Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Benchmarking Study

NOT THAT: Assuming that whoever signs the contract or transacts with your service organization is a spokesperson for their company, or that a series of transactions represents the customer experience that can be reasonably tied to bookings.

2) Integrate Influencers’ Inputs to Paint an Accurate Picture: Simplification of the complex picture is essential for tackling the issues and formulating better strategies to capitalize on opportunities.

DO THIS: Weight and nest the parties’ inputs for more realistic linkages to bookings. Make your customer intelligence reporting compelling: consider show the parties’ interests through flow-charting, cause-and-effect diagramming, activity network diagramming, or interrelationship diagraphs. Make sure action plans reflect inputs from all influencers.

cx intelligence

From the ClearAction Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Benchmarking Study

NOT THAT: Assuming that averages and bar charts convey what’s needed to be actionable and effective. Don’t ignore the opportunity to get valuable insights from your dedicated sales team. And don’t let the account teams obscure insights that can help the rest of the company help them.

3) Ensure Post-purchase Customer Experience Consistency: Why work so hard to manage perceptions but ignore these vital touchpoints?

DO THIS: Make it easy to capture informal comments. Then stream informal feedback to relevant groups throughout your company. Establish cadence & methodology for originators to prevent issue recurrence. Motivate actions and follow-through on informal inputs. Set the stage for streamlined re-purchase decisions: share actions and progress to proactively influence rebuying.

customer experience touch points
From the ClearAction Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Benchmarking Study

NOT THAT: Assuming that inconsistencies will naturally work themselves out, or aren’t important to building trust and relationship strength. Waiting to send a survey when you’re already getting a goldmine of insights that you can work on right away to be more proactive in influencing repurchase decisions.

B2B CXM has parallels with consumer experience management, but there are definite realities in B2B CXM that should be addressed in order to make the most of your efforts and investments. Experiment with these 3 B2B “musts”, or better yet, design them into your B2B customer experience management from the beginning. As the graphics above show, you’re likely to stand out from the crowd in your industry in doing so, and these methods may be an important customer experience differentiator for your company.

Note: The concept of “Do This, Not That” is borrowed from the popular book “Eat This, Not That“, where the weaknesses of common practices and myths are brought to light and sensible replacements are recommended.

Originally published as an Advisor monthly column on CustomerThink.com as part of a monthly series: Optimizing Business-to-Business Customer Experience.

For more information, see B2B Customer Experience Management

Images purchased under license from Shutterstock.