For brands that are in the B2B market, customer experience is an increasingly important source of growth and relevance. It supports customer acquisition and retention, enhances customer lifetime value, lowers cost to serve, and provides a north star to for internal stakeholders to rally around.

Designing and activating a great customer experience is challenging, particularly in a B2B context. Business customer expectations for great experiences are often defined by consumer brands and B2B companies are often not set up to evolve at the speed their customers expect.

But challenging does not mean impossible. According to Brian Solis, principal analyst and futurist at Altimeter, “Re-invention isn’t only possible, it’s ready for the taking. The biggest challenge is simply seeing and doing things differently.”  Working with B2B clients across industries, Prophet has identified three key actions B2B brands must take to design a transformative customer experience.

3 Core Elements of Successful B2B Customer Experiences

1. It’s impossible without a solid understanding of your customers.

Understanding business customers can be tricky. Whereas many B2C brands can use tactics such as store intercepts or wide scale surveys to paint an accurate portrait of the customer journey, B2B brands must often spend more time recruiting from a smaller or harder to access pool of customers. Despite this added barrier, customer insights are worth their weight in gold because great customer experience strategy is rooted in customer obsession. These insights should inform and inspire segment targeting, which allows best-in-class B2B brands to prioritize high value customers based on attractiveness and winnability—and ultimately design an experience that is immediately relevant to those customer needs.

For one large international insurer, Prophet conducted B2B customer segmentation and developed segment profiles based in customer expectations. We discovered that customer attitudes were often consistent across the most valuable segments–a huge opportunity to design signature experiences that meet customer needs at scale. Without this keen understanding of customer needs and wants, experience design is a theoretical exercise. With customer data, the effort is validated and actionable.

2. Your customers can smell a silo a mile away.

If there’s one customer pain point that spans across many B2B brands, it’s a lack of seamlessness. Business customers are sensitive to the bad experience of feeling like they’re dealing with a set of functional silos. These customers expect more and are not willing to hear “that’s how we are set up as an organization” as an excuse. Digital experiences are especially susceptible to internal language creeping into customer-facing channels. For instance, many B2B websites are structured to reflect their organizational structure—and not the needs of their customers. This hurts the usability of a powerful marketing, sales and servicing channel.

A truly integrated experience starts with a holistic, end-to-end view of the customer journey and bringing together disciplines to design solutions. Digital tools have a unique role to play in the B2B space. Rather than replacing relationships, digital can enhance and expand relationships in new and powerful ways. For instance, when Prophet worked with a large American bank to redesign its treasury management experience, we found that a demo version of the experience could serve an important function in the toolbox of relationship managers. With the demo, the relationship manager could now answer questions and guide clients through the real product in real time. This unified digital experience crossed traditional silos and offered new value to both sales and product functions.

3. Metrics mean accountability. Accountability means success.

Until customer experience improvements have deployed and success measured, there’s a risk that internal stakeholders may view customer experience (CX) investments as an academic exercise. Customer experience should always be rooted in the organization’s most important business metrics. CX metrics are often leading indicators for business health, helping identify challenges before they start to impact the bottom line. Defining success metrics at the beginning of a CX project helps hold the organization accountable to impact and encourages cross-functional collaboration.

Through its CX reinvention work with Prophet, one global insurance company digitized its contract renewal processes, doubling renewals and increasing NPS for process by four points—all while reducing frontline staff requirements. Tracking results allowed stakeholders to prove the value of Experience to the wider organization. Since that project, the insurance company has been able to replicate the process on its own, building a sustainable engine for on-going impact.

Final Thoughts

As part of a unified strategic approach, these actions will help any B2B brand understand what parts of the customer journey need the most attention and create a roadmap for action. While business customers may have different expectations at each stage in their journey, at the end of the day, great customer experience “remembers the human” and should be designed to effect memorable moments that leave the customer walking away satisfied and committed to action.

Learn how Prophet is helping companies across the globe create better B2B customer experiences to form real connections.

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