As consumers, we love to be treated as individuals, to be made to feel special. Who doesn’t like to walk intorestaurant and be greeted by name and shown to ‘your usual table’? As consumers, we reward businesses that can predict our needs, make the right suggestions and ‘remember’ what we like, which makes all our consecutive visits more fluid and personalised. This level of tailored service appeals to our own sense of individual importance. This is all part of customer experience. 

Customer experience (CX) has always played a major role in B2C marketing; so why is it that in a B2B scenario, CX is only now taking centre stage, and what are the implications for businesses?

Traditionally, individual customers have always received a more personal treatment when interacting with a provider. Businesses that cater to other businesses traditionally place less emphasis on CX and solely focus on delivering a product or service. However, in today’s market, it is not enough to just deliver exactly what it says on the tin; people always expect something extra. The expectations of B2B and B2C have become very similar, if not equal. Marketeers have realised that behind every business purchase lies an individual, and today’s individuals are spoilt for choice with great CX in their personal lives. It should not then come as a surprise that these individuals expect the same level of dedication to CX from their business partners as well.

As business buyers evolve into a more discerning crowd, B2B enterprises will have to look seriously at personalisation, something that B2C has mastered long time ago and seems to be more and more important. Personalisation is the new benchmark in CX. Customers want to be part of the process, not only be sold to. Adidas and Nike are great examples. Nike launched NikeID in 2012, whilst Adidas have been letting customers personalise their purchases as far back as 2001. These personalisation efforts gained such traction that it is now a feature offered in many of their stores and there is even an app to let people personalise and order whilst on the go. It is true that in the world of B2B there are many stake holders to cater to, each with their own (often conflicting) needs which demand attention. The focus should be on helping clients to better achieve their goals. This does of course vary from industry to industry - and even from account to account – but a good starting point is identifying the influencers and decision makers, and then craft CX that caters to their every need. From there, I suggest you get innovative and surprise them, because as I said before, it is not enough to simply deliver what it says on the tin anymore.

This brings me on to innovation. Innovators are disruptive by nature but they are also often market leaders. They think outside the box and create increasingly clever new ways to delight customers, utilise technology, and do business. In today’s environment, businesses need to do away their traditional processes and work at the same pace as their dynamic customers are thinking. This applies to the creation of an effective CX as well. Businesses must embrace disruption and react promptly and efficiently to market changes, closing the gap between them and their customers with every move. Only by doing so, will business be able to create a CX that is relevant to their target market. 

As well, in order to create great CX, companies will have to change internally. There has been a very drastic change in the core principals of B2B and B2C marketing: Digital marketing is no longer an isolated discipline and traditional marketing can not survive without digital. This means that the traditional marketeer is no more. No longer is it sufficient to have great ideas and insight into a particular market; the new breed of marketeer will have to understand and embrace technology, cyberspace and social media so that it is second nature to them. This knowledge will allow them to properly integrate a real, relevant, progressive and innovative CX into their strategy. This said, it is imperative to keep in mind that CX is not limited to the keyboard; it needs to be consistent across all touch-points and in line with a brand’s promise. To achieve this, people, processes and technology will have to work in tandem to deliver a consistent experience at all times.

The CX process should not only focus on the creation of the customer journey though. Its ultimate aim should be to achieve customer advocacy. This in turn will become a source of earned advertising and revenue on its own. According to Customer Advocacy (www.customeradvocacy.com) 84% of B2B buyers strongest influence in making a purchasing decision is still word of mouth. A proper CX will garner strength in social media engagement, generate more reviews and capture more referrals making an advocate out of a regular customer.

Businesses will also have to realise that with all this personalisation, privacy will become a very coveted asset. Before, privacy was a matter of legal necessity; today it is paramount. But rather than perceive this as a burden, the marketeer that understands the new B2B arena will leverage on their unique brand of privacy to generate a marketing advantage. Providing a unique and strong programme of privacy protection can and will gain share of wallet. Today’s consumers - whether it be in B2B or B2C - are more savvy than ever and with the highly publicised data breaches and theft that have occurred recently, privacy had become paramount in their priority list. So rather than loath the prospect, it should be an integral part of any companies CX. 

With more innovations will come more changes; society and needs will evolve and so will CX. We are moving into an era of consumer driven economy, where companies will have to adapt and reduce the gap between themselves and customers. There will be little choice but to become a leader or innovator, or lag behind and become a follower and as we know already, not all followers finish the race.