October 21, 2014 | Peter Malamas

What B2B Companies Can Learn from the B2C Customer Experience


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Today, B2B and B2C consumers share significant similarities. They are sophisticated, omni-channel and have a strong set of expectations from the companies with which they do business. Their ultimate impression of your business is shaped by the actual experience you provide vs. their expectations. Providing an experience that exceeds those expectations is the essence of determining whether or not your customers will be satisfied.

Because of the shared similarities between B2B and B2C consumers, it’s important for B2B leaders to understand that the expectations of their B2B customers are now powerfully influenced by the best B2C customer experiences; thus, the typical B2B consumer’s standards are now much higher when it comes to B2B web, mobile, social, contact center, and physical location experiences.

Unfortunately, many business to business-facing companies often over-estimate the difference between B2B and B2C consumers. Their actions as marketers are often driven by these falsely perceived differences – that satisfaction with B2B customer experiences “can’t be measured the same way as B2C”, or worse, that “B2B customer experiences are so different they can’t be measured at all”. These attitudes result in a significant loss in competitive advantage that B2B can realize by measuring and optimizing consumer touch points to provide the best B2B visitor/customer experience possible.

What B2B Companies can learn from B2C Customer ExperienceRetail and B2C companies find huge value in scientifically measuring and optimizing the customer experience to maximize satisfaction. Increasing satisfaction through good analytics and insight drives measurable revenue increases. If B2B typically has a much higher average financial value at both the individual transaction as well as the customer lifetime relationship level, and a single B2B transaction or relationship is worth thousands or even millions of dollars, it follows that a B2B organization can realize even more value in measuring and optimizing their customer experience than B2C.

Yes, the B2B visitor is different. Your public-facing B2B experience goes well beyond a “customer” and includes other important visitor persona groups such as prospective customers, potential and current investors, potential hires and more. Measuring satisfaction on your investor relations pages, your company culture, job listings and application process pages and even employee satisfaction on your company intranets is an essential investment, too.

B2B experiences are often designed to provide robust amounts of information and content to shepherd prospects and recommenders further into a complex, multi-stage sales funnel that spans across channels. For B2B leaders, it’s no easy task to determine what’s working – and what’s missing from the complete experience without excellent measurement.

For example: a COO asks an assistant to investigate B2B providers of industrial parts, products and services. They are thinking of alternative suppliers and going out to RFP. They represent a multi-million dollar per year new customer. The assistant starts by looking up your industry category in major search engines, and visiting your and your competitors’ websites.

What happens when the assistant visits your company website? If you are measuring the customer experience and have optimized your website based on accurate, precise and predictive metrics and expert customer experience insights, the assistant finds all the information they are seeking and has a highly satisfying experience. As a result, they fill out the form on your “Contact Us” page or call your 800 number to schedule a meeting with your sales rep or dealer to further investigate your complex product and services offerings. They short-list your firm to the COO as a final RFP contender.

What happens if you aren’t measuring? Maybe the assistant has a dissatisfying experience and decides not to recommend your firm as a final RFP contender and recommends one of your competitors instead. And because you’re not measuring the customer experience, you have no idea why. You have no answers to essential business questions like who was visiting your site, and whether they were able to accomplish their task or find all the information they were seeking. How does the experience you’re providing stack up against your competition? How likely are your visitors to recommend your firm? And if they find your experience particularly dissatisfying, how likely are they to actively discourage others from doing business with you?

Providing the most satisfying customer experience is a competitive differentiator. For B2B companies, providing a satisfying customer experience is a lead generation and acquisition enhancement vehicle that puts your prospects deeper into your sales funnel. For your current customers, it’s a retention driver that decreases customer churn by helping you smartly optimize and provide the best account management and customer-facing experiences possible.

B2B-facing firms can no longer remain competitive by simply presenting a workable but basic “industrial strength” customer experience. The best performing B2B companies are paying attention to the customer experience on a daily basis, because they know it’s what their customers and prospective customers expect.

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About the Author

Peter Malamas is Director, Enterprise Accounts at ForeSee. His specialty is online solutions that help companies acquire new customers and build stronger relationships with existing customers, using customer experience analytics, digital marketing, and social media. Peter’s experience ranges from individual sales contributor to a leader who’s started-up and consistently grown product lines and business units as Director of Strategic Partnerships at eWayDirect, VP Sales & Product Management at SGA Executive Tracker, and President at idEXEC, an infoGroup company. Peter is an Advisory Board Member to the CX@Rutgers Customer Experience Certification program.

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