CX has revolutionised the way B2C companies do business in many industries. These days, if you’re not putting customers at the forefront of everything you do, you’re unlikely to remain competitive.

The transformation in B2B industries has been less profound so far. According to McKinsey & Company, while today’s B2C companies typically achieve CX ratings between 65% and 85%, B2B companies average less than 50%.

There are a few reasons for this.

The customer journey in the B2B sphere is more complex. In contrast with B2C transactions, it often involves enduring personal relationships, multiple decision makers and stakeholders, collaboration on product development, and customisation of products and processes to meet clients’ needs.

As a result, developing and implementing an effective CX strategy can be more challenging. Mapping customer journeys is difficult, due to their complexity, as is gaining insights into how clients feel about your brand, given the number of decision makers involved.

Although CX poses greater challenges in the B2B sphere, the dividends make it worthwhile.

Research by McKinsey & Company shows that in B2B industries, an effective CX strategy can reduce customer churn by 10% to 15%, increase revenues by up to 15%, while reducing cost to serve by 50%. This all adds up to higher profits. Another benefit is improved employee satisfaction. The result of people finding greater meaning in their jobs when they’re making clients happy.

Given the benefits, leading B2B companies are increasingly turning to CX for competitive advantage.

The impact of Covid-19

The trend towards embracing CX among B2B companies is set to accelerate.

The pandemic induced recession has rendered many industries more cutthroat, as businesses fight over a shrinking pie. Improving CX is one of the best ways to differentiate yourself from competitors in this ultra competitive environment. Those that fail to implement an effective customer experience strategy risk being left behind.

Complicating the issue is the forced digitisation of almost all commercial relationships brought about by Covid-19.

While digitisation is a hallmark of an effective CX strategy, in both B2B and B2C sectors, it needs to be done carefully. If not, it can be counterproductive. This is especially the case for B2B companies, which rely heavily on personal relationships.

The fundamentals of an effective B2B CX strategy

While there are greater challenges to developing an effective CX strategy for B2B companies, the fundamentals remain the same.

It starts with a better understanding of your customers and how they feel about their interactions with your organisation. Touch points, as we call them.

These touch points encompass the entire customer journey. From first contact with the sales team to after sales care, dealing with unexpected events and re-ordering, among other things.

Often, it is the touch points businesses think about less where customers feel they are being let down.

Improving customer service at every touch point requires a deep understanding of the sentiments of key decision makers. How they feel about your brand and what they want from you. This cannot be discerned from standard operational data, such as sales figures. Qualitative research is a must.

What B2B customers want

Having mapped out customer journeys, and equipped with insights into how decision makers feel about you, the next step is to act on what they tell you.

While this differs from one company to another, generally, the three most important pillars of an effective B2B CX strategy involve improvements to:

(i) Speed and efficiency in the buying process;

(ii) Ease of completing tasks throughout the customer journey; and

(iii) Consistency of service across all touch points.

The first two pillars are commonly addressed through digitisation.

B2C companies are standard bearers here. Many have developed easy to use apps and online platforms for hassle free ordering, 24-7 responsiveness and fast, seamless customer service.

Research shows B2B customers also want these options. 60% say they prefer accessing product information, inventory availability and delivery details online, while one in three want the availability of online ordering.

However, given the complexity of B2B customer journeys, fully automating the process is rarely possible. Nor is this something most B2B customers want.

McKinsey & Company give the example of a chemical manufacturer that digitised its entire ordering process only to find customers were dismayed by the prospect of losing their relationship manager. In response, they tweaked the process, continuing with online ordering, but retaining relationship managers, who were available to offer support.

As this suggests, improving customer experience through digitisation in the B2B sphere requires careful calibration of online and human interaction. While customers want increased speed and efficiency, they don’t want it at the expense of personal relationships. This is an important point in the current climate, where companies are inevitably moving away from personal contact with clients.

The third pillar – consistency – requires embracing a customer centric culture.

The need for genuine cultural change is even more important in B2B industries, given the complexity of customer journeys and the number of decision makers involved. Under these circumstances, ensuring consistency across touch points demands buy in across the entire organisation.

Like all forms of cultural change, establishing a customer centric culture starts at the top. It is impossible to achieve without the involvement of the CEO and senior management. The need for CEO involvement in an effective CX strategy is discussed in detail in my last blog.

CX – the next frontier for B2B industries

Improving customer experience is the next frontier for leading B2B companies. Without an effective strategy, you’re likely to be left behind.

For expert advice on how to develop and implement a winning CX strategy, contact nlighten today.


B2B_Joey Pather

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View the previous nlighten article by Nathalie Schooling: Customer experience and the CEO of the future

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