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Applying Technology to Support Better B2B Interactions

Good B2B CX Involves Managing Interactions with Multiple Stakeholders, Influencers, and Approvers

B2B CX

Providing an excellent customer experience should not be exclusive to B2C companies. Indeed, while B2B companies have professional buyers, these roles are still filled by humans who have become accustomed to personalized, efficient, and on-demand customer experiences in their personal lives, and are increasingly demanding a similar experience in their jobs. Ultimately, the concepts and principles of delivering an excellent B2B CX are like those deployed in a B2C world, albeit with different priority sets, customer goals, and purchasing processes.

Further, B2B CX has unique challenges, largely due to the more complex decision-making processes employed by many companies, which often include multiple stakeholders, influencers, and approvers that need to be considered throughout every interaction.

A good B2B CX strategy should take into consideration each stage of the buyer’s journey, from awareness and consideration to decision and post-sale evangelism and promotion. It also should account for multiple stakeholders, who may need to revisit earlier stages in the process (such as building awareness or education), or reviewing pricing or service options. Perhaps most importantly, the purchaser and user of the product or service likely are different individuals with different roles and functions, which require different messaging, sales strategies, and support options.

As such, each customer touchpoint will need to be tailored to the experiences and preferences of each stakeholder or stakeholder group, rather than generally applied across the whole buyer journey. Further, unlike most B2C interactions, most B2B approaches focus on the creation of trust, with the goal of building long-term relationships.

The more complex nature of B2B interactions requires a system that can manage the multiple touchpoints, stakeholders, and non-linear customer journeys that often typify a B2B engagement. In addition, B2B buyers use a variety of techniques to research and consider purchases, making each engagement extremely important. According to Gartner, when B2B buyers are considering a purchase‚ they spend only 17% of that time meeting with potential suppliers. When buyers are comparing multiple suppliers‚ the amount of time spent with any one sales rep may be only 5% or 6%.

B2B companies should consider the following elements of a CX technology strategy to support these efforts:

  • Today’s B2B buyers need self-service options:  Digital platforms, such as those provided by Amdocs, Medallia, Oracle, SAP, Optimizely, and others, offer interaction capabilities (e.g. email, chatbots, knowledge bases, live chat, and your website), that allow prospects and customers to interact with an organization through a variety of channels and mediums with which they are comfortable. Customers must be capable of engaging when they prefer (often outside of regular business hours), and be able to choose between a live sales representative or self-serve through knowledge bases or automated bots to get the information they need. The goal is to make it easy for B2B customers to interact on their terms, rather than the company’s.
  • Incorporate personalization for individuals and personas: With more options than ever, B2B customers expect personalized, human experiences. However, it is important that each buyer or persona within an organization is addressed individually, based on their own informational and process needs. CX platforms should be able to serve up relevant information based on these personas, so that users are not treated the same ways as buyers. Platforms should be capable of serving up relevant journey information (such as providing information collected during interactions with other stakeholders), to keep the process moving forward with as little friction or backtracking as possible.
  • Incorporate third-party data: Online reviews are a go-to source for information in the B2C world, and similarly, it is important to ensure any third-party reviews or mentions of a B2B offering are being tracked and analyzed. Customers may encounter (or seek out) online reviews or social media mentions that can affect your brand image, changing their perception of your B2B digital customer experience. CX platforms should be capable of managing or integrating any external mentions of the brand, so that negative perceptions or issues can be properly countered by both live sales agents, as well as automated bots or knowledge bases.
  • Capture feedback during and after the sale: Capturing feedback from stakeholders is an integral part of building a relationship with buyers and stakeholders. It builds trust by demonstrating that the organization is not simply trying to make a sale, but is actively listening and trying to provide a solution that meets each stakeholder’s needs. Organizations should capture feedback from customers frequently, and from multiple stakeholders, to ensure that the company’s messaging is resonating, and that the purchase or support process is meeting or exceeding expectations. As with B2C engagements, tracking and analyzing customer empathy is also valuable, as emotion plays a large role in any purchase.

The end goal for any organization is to create a friction-free experience, reducing customer effort where possible. Further, sales and support representatives should be provided with the relevant information and tools to help them deliver customer experiences that mirror the best experiences found with consumer products and services.

Author Information

Keith has over 25 years of experience in research, marketing, and consulting-based fields.

He has authored in-depth reports and market forecast studies covering artificial intelligence, biometrics, data analytics, robotics, high performance computing, and quantum computing, with a specific focus on the use of these technologies within large enterprise organizations and SMBs. He has also established strong working relationships with the international technology vendor community and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and events.

In his career as a financial and technology journalist he has written for national and trade publications, including BusinessWeek, CNBC.com, Investment Dealers’ Digest, The Red Herring, The Communications of the ACM, and Mobile Computing & Communications, among others.

He is a member of the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP).

Keith holds dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Magazine Journalism and Sociology from Syracuse University.

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