CX

The CX Issue

Navigating the modern B2B marketing landscape

Volume One / Issue 5

ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS SATISFIED?

In B2B marketing, it can seem like the priorities of customers are always evolving and that businesses are constantly playing catch- up. In fact, 57% of B2B marketers list ‘understanding the target audience’ as the top challenge within their roles. This is why it can be difficult to master one crucial element of a successful business: customer experience.

Customer experience, or CX, is more than a box for companies to tick. CX is a continuous challenge, requiring businesses to evolve with their customers, understand their changing needs, and apply these findings to the very core of their values as a company. But how can businesses understand and relate to the experiences of their customers?

The first step in exceeding your customers’ expectations is to know those expectations.

Roy H. Williams

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What would you want?

Regardless of the size of a company, every person within it is a customer. From weekly shops to new cars, we all spend our money somewhere, and we therefore all have our own experience of what it’s like to be a customer. When you think of your most positive recent purchases, what comes to mind – the products and prices, or the ease, efficiency and empathy of the process?

Humans are drawn to the emotive aspects of a relationship, and the vendor/customer relationship is no different. In fact, research from American Express found that 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience. Being able to align human behaviour with the goals of the businesses, therefore, is the key to a successful CX strategy.

However, as with anything involving human behaviour, this is by no means a one-size-fits-all blueprint. People have different needs and expectations, and your customers may be entering the sales funnel at different stages. For this reason, a good CX strategy can never stay still; it must shift not only with large-scale consumer trends, but also with individual customers. This may seem daunting, but the reward is well worth the challenge if your company is up to it.

CX VS. UX: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

In order to create and optimise effective CX strategies, it is first important to understand what differentiates CX from other elements of business strategy, especially user experience (UX), as the two are often confused.

UX is based on the digital touchpoints a customer encounters during their journey, ensuring a streamlined, customer centric experience through the development of responsive websites, intuitive interfaces and well-connected apps. It involves coordinating and managing these touchpoints, so they’re delivered to different customers in the most personally relevant and value-creating ways.

CX, on the other hand, refers to the sum total of customers’ perceptions and feelings resulting from interactions with a brand’s products and services. It spans the lifetime of a customer’s relationship with a brand – from discovery, to research, to purchasing, to customer support and aftercare. Essentially, customer experience is the result of all your efforts as a customer-centric organisation.

In UX, the ‘user’ refers to the data a customer creates during their journey, whereas the ‘customer’ in CX refers to a person. Crucially, CX looks at the buyer’s journey from the perspective of the customer, not the business.

Simply put, UX is the what of a customer journey – the number of clicks, accessibility, ease of navigation, while CX is the why, exploring a customer’s needs, expectations and reactions.

There is only one boss.The customer.

Sam Walton

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A STEP ABOVE THE COMPETITION

Arguably, customer experience often has nothing to do with the product a customer is buying. Why, then, is it so important to a business strategy, and how can it directly affect sales?

If you are not taking care of your customers, your competitor will.

Bob Hooey

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Here, the answer lies in competition. Especially since the emergence of the internet, customers are inundated with products, many of which could perfectly suit their needs. If you had to choose between two products, one with a customer journey which made you feel understood as a buyer, and one which felt generalised and impersonal, which would you prefer? The truth is, a positive experience results in returning customers, and increased loyalty and satisfaction result in better word-of-mouth marketing.

Indeed, research conducted by KPMG found that failing to meet customer expectations actually has twice the negative impact as delighting customers has a positive impact. Last year, a survey by B2B International found that 52% of B2B organisations cited ‘delivering excellent customer experiences’ as a top business challenge they currently face. In the same year, however, only 12% of companies identified themselves as being confident in their CX strategies. As brands are clearly still struggling to build and maintain a strong CX strategy, now is the time to expand your CX skillset and exceed the competition.

 

THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Building a robust CX strategy relies on a strong foundation of business acumen and human understanding. There is a myriad of ways in which a company can engage with its customers, but some of these are more effective than others. For example, offering a customer information they can use to make a choice is helpful, but it is better to use personalised predictions to provide what they are looking for without their needing to look very far.

Building a good customer experience does not happen by accident. It happens by design.

Clare Muscutt

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Of course, it would make sense that the aim here would be to offer the top tier of service to all customers, as it indicates the highest form of customer experience. However, customers are not identical, and the same style of CX won’t suit every industry, or even every customer within an industry.

In a B2B customer journey, it is likely that the buyer is searching for something specific, and any browsing is generally going to be focused on a particular end result. This customer would benefit far more from a customer experience with readily available expert advice, clear

and precise language and a straightforward path to their desired outcome, than a shopper on a fast fashion website looking to browse for inspiration. This sort of customer might prefer a more image-focused and fast-paced customer experience, with less in-depth insight and more of a creative approach.

Despite making these clear distinctions at the beginning of the strategy creation, it is important that companies continue to monitor their target consumers in order to ensure they are repeatedly hitting the mark when it comes to customer expectations.

Gartner explains this in terms of a pyramid, showing how the increasingly powerful CX strategies are adopted by fewer companies. Similar in style to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the pyramid is widest at the most basic level of CX, and narrows towards the top as the experiences become more personalised and nuanced.

Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realise it themselves.

Steve Jobs

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WHAT'S IN IT FOR B2B MARKETERS?

B2B marketers are already aware of the inherent differences between the B2B and B2C customer journeys, but these nuances need to be fully understood to make the most of a CX strategy.
The key question at play here is, why do B2B buyers choose the brands they do? What deciding factors are involved in the process?

Two large aspects that separate B2B and B2C buyers in their consumer journeys are the element of impulse and the value of purchases.
While B2C customers might make a purchase based on a whim, buyers in a B2B setting often have to include stakeholders in the consideration process, taking more time and requiring more input from multiple people.

This means that the customer journey is not limited to one person, so businesses must consider several experiences within the buying journey, perhaps at various different stages of purchase. Additionally, purchases made for corporate reasons are often of a higher value than those made by consumers, meaning there is more at stake if a B2B buyer chooses incorrectly.

For this reason, B2B customers require far more trust in their suppliers, which stems from a feeling of understanding; if a customer feels their concerns are being understood and met with appropriate solutions, they are more likely to complete a purchase. After this, if the customer is happy with the transaction, they are likely to remember that feeling for the next time they require a similar product and return for more.

LET'S GO ON A JOURNEY...

The B2B customer journey is rarely identical, but generally consists of similar stops along the way. These points should be familiar to CX strategists, as they can provide opportunities to alleviate pressure points at a more personalised level, offering different solutions for different stages of the buyer’s journey.

STAGE 1:

What challenges are your customers facing?

Before the customer even thinks about their buying journey, they must experience a challenge that your company solves. Before they research a solution, word-of-mouth marketing can give you a head start. A happy customer speaking to their colleague of their experience with your company could be the spark that results in your next long-term contract, so it’s important to consider every customer not only as a buyer, but also as a potential salesperson.

STAGE 2:

Gathering your options

So, the customer couldn’t think of a solution on the spot, and they have turned to a trusty search engine to find the answers. Even if your website is one of the top listings, a customer could still be put off by confusing or misleading messaging, so ensuring your customer finds a professional and clear search engine listing is a great way to bring buyers from research into the next stage.

STAGE 3:

Is this what you wanted?

Congratulations, the customer is on your web page and viewing your services! For a B2B customer, this stage is vital in gauging the ever-important element of trust. Whatever form of testing is applicable for your customers, whether it be seeking expert advice or ordering physical samples to test, it is vital that this stage is approached with speed and transparency. A buyer wants to be shown that your product is the right one, so the customer experience here should be one of gaining confidence in the brand.

STAGE 4:

Negotiating the partnership

In the world of B2B, it is more common to find long-term partnerships and contracts rather than one-off purchases, so there is more to a sale than an individual product. Additionally, this is the point in which other parties may become involved, with stakeholders approving the purchase or providing feedback, offering the potential for further changes to the purchase. Offering flexible solutions to problems is the backbone of customer experience, and this can occur all the way up to the final stage.

STAGE 5:

Signing on the dotted line…

This may seem like the end but there is still the possibility to fall at the final hurdle in terms of CX, where transparency and reliability are key. Customers want to know what they are buying, and to receive the product or service they paid for, so it is vital that these elements of the final stage are treated with care. Remember: the purchase might well be the customer’s last experience of your brand, so make it a good one!

STAGE 6:

Above and beyond

Although a purchase might seem like the logical conclusion to a buying journey, companies nowadays must go further if they want to stand out from their competitors and build brand loyalty. Customers with queries once they’ve received the service or product need to be dealt with quickly and helpfully, and it is important to ask for feedback. Stages 1 to 5 generally take place within a finite period of time, but the aftercare needs to be a continuous, long-term commitment.

IS IT REALLY THAT SIMPLE?

 

Although the above example explains how CX can be factored into the B2B customer journey, it is important to remember that this journey is not always as linear as it may appear. With so much information at their fingertips, customers can combine research stages with social media input, finding reviews online instead of traditional testing methods, and even complete the whole process without speaking to a salesperson. That is why it is critical that companies are consistently striving to understand their customers and use these insights to improve their experience, even without direct contact.

 

As customers interact in new ways, they experience new sides of your company. Make sure you don’t have a bad side.

Dimo Stoychev, Digital Account Director, BDB.

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CONNECTING THE CX DOTS

Make it personal…but keep it relevant

The use of data online has received mixed reception throughout the years, but B2B customers are increasingly expecting personalised experiences in their buying journeys, and many are happy for businesses to use their data to better inform their personalised suggestions. However, this can be off-putting if taken too far, so it is important to find the balance. For example, a company using location data to provide a more localised service could be useful, but this could be seen as overly intrusive if it traces the customer to an exact postcode. When it comes to personalisation, the key is simply to keep it relevant.

Connect your team to connect your customers

The rise of online purchasing has led to a more integrated buying journey, but this hasn’t necessarily transferred to the structure of the companies themselves. In a customer journey, a buyer might end up jumping around department territories such as sales, marketing, buying and business development, and it can be obvious if these sections of the business are working separately. To provide a more cohesive experience for customers and employees, it might be time to reconsider the structures within your business. Remember: if one of your teams fail to offer exceptional customer service, the company fails.

We are born with two ears and one mouth…so listen!

The best way to find out how customers feel about your brand is by asking them. Customer feedback is absolutely vital for ensuring a successful CX strategy, but there are so many methods to choose from and offering multiple options could overwhelm a customer, making them less likely to engage at all. In fact, only one in 26 unhappy customers actually complain, while the rest stay silent. You won’t know what goes wrong if you can’t convince your customers to provide feedback! Traditional methods such as market research are widely used, but social media, chatbots and email follow ups are also popular options. Whichever kind of feedback your company opts for, it is important that the method is quick and simple for customers to use in order to encourage completion.

Where do I start?

For some companies, it may be a case of building a CX strategy from scratch, while others might just require tweaking and continuous assessment. To work out where your strategy stands, the first thing to do is talk to your customers. Until you ask them, you have no definite way of knowing how they feel. So, whether you pick up the phone, send an email or start a conversation on social media, it’s time to get talking.

Your net promoter score (NPS) can tell you a lot about how customers are feeling, and this is a quick and easy way for buyers to provide feedback. The NPS is usually found via just a single question, asking buyers to rate how they felt about their experience with your company or if they would recommend you to a friend. Generally, it is considered that 1-6 are negative scores, 7 and 8 are neutral, and 9 and 10 are satisfied and likely to pass this on to their connections. So, aim for those 9 and 10 scores, but don’t ignore the lower marks – these unsatisfied customers could be your key to finding out what is going wrong in your buying journey and improving your customer experience.

Make the customer the hero of your story.

Ann Handley

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DON'T STOP BELIEVIN' (IN YOUR CX STRATEGIES)

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