Improving your company’s B2B customer experience has to start with the realization that customer experience (CX) is NOT customer service. In fact, we can instead say that all customer service is part of CX.
So what exactly is customer experience for a B2B brand?
Customer service is more of a single touch point along the customer journey, whereas customer experience encompasses the entire interaction from start to finish, says Kelly Okerson, Sales and Marketing Associate at mission-critical integration firm, Constant Technologies.
“It’s not just a product that you hand over and you never touch again; it needs to be maintained, sometimes it needs to be refreshed.”
Lynne Capozzi, Chief Marketing Officer at Acquia, describes customer service as being the reactive part of customer experience.
“It’s the full customer journey from start to finish, where the hope is that there is no finish. That customer journey is the entire experience. It’s not just one question, or one item or one touch, it’s the full journey that a customer goes through.”
What’s unique about customer experience in B2B compared to B2C?
Frankly, we all research and buy as individuals, even when we are professionally tasked to buy something for our workplace. So the line between B2C and B2B is becoming blurred, especially as it relates to CX.
The one big area of distinction, though, is that in the B2B world, there tends to be a buying unit or a buying committee involved in a project of considerable size.
“But even in that world of B2B, where you have buying units, everyone still wants to be treated as an individual, everyone wants to have a brand relating to them,” says Capozzi.
“They want to know that they’re understood and that their specific requirements can be met. So each individual in that buying unit, no matter how large the buying unit is, still wants that touch experience to happen with the brand.”
Another important distinction is that in B2B, there are long term long sales cycle projects that require a lot of research. So there needs to be trust and relationship building in addition to a high-touch experience.
“It’s not about just making the end user happy, it’s about working with the entire company,” Okerson says.
“So whether that’s facilities procurement, the architects who are going to be working on the space, there’s just a lot more moving pieces with B2B customer experience than with a typical B2C project. So that requires a lot more nuance.”
Improving your B2B customer experience
Sometimes thought of as “zero contact resolution,” the best CX design is when a customer’s questions are answered before they are even asked, so that no help or interaction is required on the part of the brand.
That means designing every step in the potential customer journey while being mindful of everything that a customer could possibly need or want and proactively building that into the methods, procedures, and operations of the organization, says Matthew Agronin, SVP Marketing & Growth, Ubiquity.
“It’s a lofty goal that requires the customer to be truly at the center of every aspect of your operations, with every decision on an app’s roadmap, on a website’s planned updates, or on an advertising campaign’s message to be vetted from the lens of a customer: is this simple, clear, and beneficial?”
We’ve heard directly from technology buyers that they favor fast, efficient access to information which is critical to them. If they don’t have any further questions after interacting with your website, they’re more likely to return.
Okerson says her company also focuses on “overdelivering.”
“We want to make sure to do a lot for potential clients before they even agree to work with us. Because for us, it’s about building a partnership throughout that entire experience. So that starts with the education that comes through on the marketing ends. But also, we offer free design services. So before we even signed any papers, we are willing to work with our clients on helping think about what that room could look like for them and for their needs.”
If your company deals in highly technical products, services, or information, it might be best to ensure every step of a sales funnel or customer process is handled by a specialist.
“Whether that’s the design or the installation, or the service that happens afterward, everyone in our company has a lot of experience with [our vertical],” Okerson says.
“Each team has people who have decades of experience in this incredibly specialized niche. So we just want to make sure that as we’re working with our clients, they can be assured that we have people with a lot of experience, who know how to handle these, these sensitive places.”
In the last year, Constant Technology implemented a support operation center within its company headquarters, Okerson says.
It assists the service and support team with tracking tickets. But at the same time, it also serves as another added element of the customer experience for the sales process.
“We use it as a demo center, it can be a bit difficult to procure site tours for the kinds of spaces we work in because they’re so sensitive. So in the instance, that we can’t get a fight to arrange, we can bring them into our headquarters and show them an example of what our integration can do.”