How to improve B2B customer experience

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Adopting a customer-centric mindset is just as critical in B2B dealings as it is when serving retail customers, but players face special challenges that can trip them up. This is according to a report by McKinsey, titled Improving the business-to-business customer experience, authored by Nicolas Maechler, Sanjeev Sahni, and Martine van Oostrum.

Many discussions of customer-experience strategies begin with a flawed assumption. When executives delve into the competitive advantages of building a more customer-centric organization, they very often focus on interactions with retail buyers – the end consumers.

“But in our experience, a customer-centric mindset is just as critical in the B2B space and more and more executives are developing B2B customer-experience strategies with striking results,” say the authors.

B2B customer-experience index ratings significantly lag behind those of retail customers. B2C companies typically score in the 65 to 85 per cent range, while B2B companies average less than 50 percent. This gap will become even more apparent as B2B customer expectations rise. Digitisation and the rising use of smartphones are establishing new standards for fast, seamless customer service in all settings.

Higher margins

Real-time responsiveness and easy-to-use apps for daily banking chores or ordering groceries are setting a high bar for speed and ease of doing business in B2C industries, and these expectations are migrating to B2B, adds the report.

“In our experience, customer-experience leaders in B2B settings have on average higher margins than their competitors. In cases where companies have undertaken broad transformations of their customer-experience processes, the impact among B2B and B2C players has been similar, with higher client-satisfaction scores, reductions of ten to 20 per cent in cost to serve, revenue growth of ten to 15 per cent, and an increase in employee satisfaction,” note the authors.

Understanding a complex experience

Make no mistake, however: in fundamental ways, a B2B company’s customers and their buying patterns are more complex than those of a business focused on retail customers, noted the report.

Indeed, a B2B company requires specific strategies to differentiate itself via customer experience.

What’s more, B2B companies are often one step further removed from the ultimate user of their product than B2C companies are, so buyers and users of B2B services are typically distinct, say the authors.