Serving business-to-business (B2B) customers is similar and yet different from serving business-to-consumer (B2C) customers.
Both types rightfully demand excellent customer experiences (CXs) on the channels of their choice.
Yet in B2B there is a much greater breadth in the size, value, and lifespans of the purchases, billing and payments, and in the lengths of customer journeys and relationships. And depending on the business, companies may also sell to and support consumer customers: just like some businesses buy from B2C sellers. While the B2B customer base may be smaller than it is for B2C, it is often made up by the higher per-customer revenue and volume of purchases over those lifespans.
I can attest to that. I began my career many years ago as a combination accounting clerk (including billing), customer service (phone, postal mail, counter), and shipping and receiving with a small company that assembled, sold, and serviced industrial sewing machines. Where the customer purchases also included needles and parts. (Yes I also helped manage inventory.)
Our clientele ranged from small tailoring shops to major clothing manufacturers and their locations varied from a few blocks away to remote communities.
We had customers that went back years: and those who were setting up their businesses. The equipment was well-made; no doubt in some cases outlasting their original buyers.
B2B experiences, like that of B2C experiences, continue to evolve. To gain deeper insights into the B2B CX, Contact Center Pipeline recently had a conversation with Dennis Reno, who is Senior Vice President and head of CX at Cyara.
Q: Outline the state of the B2B CX, both the opportunities and the challenges?
High quality customer service has always been the hidden hero of CX, driving company profits, and the contact center experience often plays a key role in how that service is delivered and received.
Over the past few years there have been rapid shifts in the world of CX. The COVID-19 pandemic brought dramatic changes to the way businesses interact with business customers as well as with consumers.
If we’ve learned anything over the past two years, it’s that the future of business is undoubtedly digital. As a result, it’s no longer optional for companies to invest in delivering better digital CX today.
Companies of the future must build a robust, digitally-driven CX that works for everyone, whether they are business or consumer buyers, regardless of their locations or languages.
Many organizations have already found success embracing these changes and these trends will only accelerate from here.
For example, remote/work-from-home (WFH) operations have leveled the playing field for businesses in a sense because they are judged on their digital presence, rather than on the size of the companies. This provides an opportunity for sellers that master the art of digital CX to excel ahead of the rest.
Q: Could you compare the B2B and B2C customer journeys?
Typically, the B2B customer journey is much more complex than that in B2C because there are multiple levels and parties that are part of the purchasing decision process. But there is crossover between the two when it comes to CX components and best practices. Both require flexibility, agility, and customizability to adapt to increased customer demands for personalized, fast interactions.
For B2B and B2C CX, corporate leaders must understand what their clients want and adjust contact center capabilities as needed.
The lines between consumers and businesses do, however, get blurred.
One example is healthcare, where insurers serve business customers, employee members, and providers, like physicians and specialists.
Q: There has been growth in the use of video since the onset of COVID-19 and its variants. Has the channel been taken up by businesses for their B2B customer service and if so, how has that impacted the CX?
As we enter the third year of the pandemic, employees and customers have become fully accustomed to conducting work and social meetings over video. In fact, some can argue that video communications have become the standard for B2B meetings.
Now that the public is comfortable with video, B2B and B2C customers alike now expect any organizations they interact with to also offer it as a means to communicate with them.
This impacts CX because organizations now need to be prepared to assist customers on whichever medium they prefer, whether it’s by phone, video, email, SMS, or chatbot.
To achieve strong CX on each of these platforms requires companies to invest more resources in digital CX than they did before the pandemic.
Q: Discuss the value of social channels/media in B2B CX?
There are approximately 4.48 billion social media users worldwide, which means that roughly half of the world’s population is using social media.
Therefore, CX on social media is no longer something businesses can afford not to prioritize. Social media channels provide companies with a unique opportunity to engage with customers in a more playful, creative (but still professional) way than traditional communication channels.
Publishing high-quality, valuable content for a company’s audience of key stakeholders, customers, and potential leads on social media is critical today as they can drive traffic to the organization’s website.
Social media also provides a platform for executives and employees to authentically engage with the public, including the business public.
It does so by providing product updates and news, educational content, and insights into the inner workings of the brand.
Equally critically, social media is an open opportunity for business leaders to get to know their customer base better.
By doing so they gain an understanding of their pain points as well as the positive impacts of their companies’ products or services on these customers.
Q: What are your recommendations to B2B contact centers in providing an excellent CX?
More and more organizations are understanding the value of delivering a high-quality CX and investing in improving their CX assurance processes.
To design more effective customer journeys, companies need to not only understand the end-to-end paths of their customers but ensure that every segment of their experiences is functioning as intended through customer experience monitoring and CX assurance.
I recommend B2B contact centers adopt the following two strategies to ensure they are providing excellent CX.
1. Move contact centers to the cloud for increased agility. Doing so enables companies to deploy cloud-based CX technologies that can be updated and improved on a regular basis.
Unlike a traditional on-premise contact center—where IT was only able to make updates to CX software a few times a year because it was such a heavy lift—cloud-based contact center technologies enable IT teams to easily implement updates gradually over time.
2. Test and monitor to speed up root-cause analysis. Consistent CX testing and monitoring can help contact centers keep an eye on every aspect of the customers’ journies. Whether the CX software is still being designed, getting updates, or in production and actively servicing customers.
Modern CX testing and monitoring enables organizations to collect and aggregate call data for every agent on an ongoing basis.
They give these businesses a holistic view of data that can be used to uncover issues, determine root causes, and fix such issues as these arise in real time.
With this method and tools companies can then continue to provide an excellent experience to their customers.