In an earlier blog, we shared our thoughts on the importance of customer reviews and referrals. One sure-fire way of guaranteeing glowing testimonials from your clients is to provide them with great customer experience (or CX, for short).
It’s something you might be more used to as a consumer. But great business to business service is certainly starting to get a lot more attention.
In fact, a recent survey by Accenture found that 90% of B2B executives cite CX as a very important factor in achieving their organisations’ strategic priorities.
It makes sense – as B2C brands compete ever more fiercely to give us the ultimate omnichannel experience, right from discovery, through to purchase and after-sales care – we begin to expect more from our business relationships too. After all, everyone is a consumer.
Where B2B differs is in the stages and processes that form part of the customer experience. Sales processes can take longer, client accounts need management and support, relationships and requirements alter as businesses and people change.
What is CX?
While customer service can describe the interaction between people (a customer and a supplier), customer experience encapsulates a lot more. It covers many different stages, such as awareness, purchasing, advocacy and support.
CX plays a huge part in customer relationship management (CRM) because, in business, you’ll often deal with a client over a longer period. Or at least, that’s the aim!
In other words, investing in customer experience breeds loyal customers.
Customers who not only come back for more but recommend you to others, becoming advocates of your products and services.
So, how do you create a great customer experience in a B2B environment?
1. Understand your customers
You won’t know what great CX looks like until you understand your customers. Once you get them – their challenges, needs and ambitions, you can put them at the heart of everything you do.
Take us, for example. We have a core principle – Freedom. But this isn’t about freedom for us – it came from a vision of an accounting and business growth support that gives our customers freedom.
Freedom from the stuff they don’t want to do. But at the same time, helping them to keep in touch with information that enables them to make the right decisions for their business.
All of our services; the way we work, and our approach to customer relationships, is based around this concept. It addresses a challenge that we believe our customers have and seeks to help them solve it.
2. Deliver personalised experiences
Understanding your customers doesn’t mean you should deliver the same experience to everyone. B2B clients still need to be treated as individuals.
From a service point of view, this means getting to know their business and even the challenges of individual roles within it. Only then can you make sure that you’re helping that customer to achieve their goals.
Rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach, you can tailor the experience to meet their needs. By doing this you’ll deliver the information and services they need in the right format, and at the right time.
Of course, this requires flexibility. And, above all, the willingness to ask questions and provide help, rather than just trying to sell everything you can.
This makes customers feel valued as an individual – a key factor in a great customer experience – which we all want really, don’t we?
3. Make the most of technology
Where customer experience has really come to the fore is with technology. Businesses must be aware of all the different channels on which they can interact with their clients.
Using CRM software to keep track of client information and workflows enables businesses to deliver on point 2 – delivering the right information at the right time, and an experience personalised to the individual.
Another recent example of technology changing customer experience is live chat, both human and bot. This allows clients to reach out and interact whenever they choose and get an instant response, without having to pick up the phone
Video conferencing tools such as Skype or Zoom enable us to have face to face discussions with clients, which are important for building trust. With business less and less limited by geographical location, they offer a more human touch without the mileage!
Technology, if implemented and used correctly, can give your business the tools needed to deliver a great experience.
4. Get feedback
If you don’t get feedback from your clients at all stages, you’ll never know which parts of the experience aren’t quite working. If you do, you’ll be able to address the troublesome processes and iron out the issues.
You need to have a full understanding of the “touchpoints” along the customer’s journey. Improving these might be a case of swifter response times, providing clearer communication and information in different formats, or just listening more closely to the client’s requirements.
The best way to gather feedback is to be proactive. Of course, if a client mentions something in passing, note it down. But, make it as easy as possible for a client to tell you about their experience.
5. Provide great customer service
Last but certainly not least, how about good old customer service?
In terms of experience, expectations might be slightly different from the consumer environment, where good customer service is often a given.
In the B2B arena, however, outstanding customer service can be a huge differentiating factor between competitors.
For us, good customer service means taking the time to understand our clients, their businesses, and the challenges they face. By doing this, we can be proactive, understand how to help them, and ultimately make their lives easier.
We also have a clear set of values. They’re customer-centric – so by sticking to them and delivering what we promise, we hope that our clients are satisfied.
So far, so good, we reckon – and a little humble brag to finish on…
We were recently shortlisted for Excellence in Customer Service at the 2019 Barnsley and Rotherham Business Awards!