B2B sales, or business-to-business sales, refer to businesses or sellers who sell products and services directly to other businesses or B2B customers. This parallels business-to-consumer (B2C) sales, where products and services are sold directly to the consumer. The customer experience is the entire customer journey with your business, including all interactions between customers and the company. The B2B sales experience is primarily created during the sales process and plays a crucial role in increasing sales and profits.
It contributes greatly to improving the customer experience and is an integral part of the customer experience. B2B sales are the process of selling products or services from one company to another, usually through relationships and networks, rather than through advertising or retail stores. Unfortunately, many companies fail to deliver a great customer experience, as customers are four times more likely to leave an unfair service interaction than loyal. Bad customer experience drives rebranding and most customers who suffer from a bad customer experience spread negative word of mouth.
McKinsey research showed that improving the customer experience from average to exceptional (where the customer is “surprised in some way”) can lead to a 30 to 50 percent increase in KPIs, such as the likelihood of renewing or buying another product. More positively, 31% of b2b companies are committed to customer focus, as customer experience is a central component of their organization's strategy. This suggests that almost a third of b2b brands have a structured vision for executing a strong customer experience, although it is not yet rooted in the company's culture. At least a quarter of B2B companies perform well every step of the way to customer experience excellence.
The highest performance is in the first step, the commitment, but only about half of b2b companies are committed, that is, enthusiastic about satisfying customers and making them feel valued. The first step in customer experience excellence is to commit to satisfying and, where possible, delighting customers. Employees need to share a common goal of focusing on the customer to commit 100% to the customer experience across the organization. Cintas, the facilities management company, refers to its employees as “Partners” as a means of committing their cooperation toward shared purpose.
Southwest Airlines takes this one step further by capitalizing on everyone who interacts with its brand in any way. Southwest's purpose includes “Connecting people” and its mission includes “dedication to the highest quality of customer service”. Understanding and meeting customer needs is vital to customer loyalty, but easier said than done. Customer demands tend to be diverse and increasingly demanding: more personalized, cost-effective, faster, etc.
Despite this, up to half of b2b providers believe that quality and price are all that matters. This oversimplification is perpetuated by sales teams driven by short-term sales objectives and obsessed with selling by price (rather than value). Sales teams often mishear and are obsessed with selling the products and services they have to sell, which can be very different from what the customer really wants and values. Successful fulfillment also requires an understanding of unmet needs and what keeps customers awake at night. This allows suppliers to differentiate their offering and, in some cases, exceed customer expectations.
For example, an insurance company that provides services to farmers challenged by climate change developed a digital solution specifically tailored to the needs of farmers. This offer provides time-constrained farmers with valuable information, such as historical and forecast weather data, as well as the ability to purchase policies online at times when farmers are not busy with their work (for example, at the end of the night). B2B audiences increasingly value providers who help them differentiate and serve better. Innovation and partnership are key to meeting customers' customer needs, but these requirements are often not sufficiently met. Most b2b companies have a parish view that the customer is the direct consumer of their product or service, so best-in-class b2b companies are those that understand the entire value chain and positively impact their customers' customers. In virtually every b2b market, one of the main drivers of overall loyalty is the ease of doing business with the provider.
Regardless of who the customer buys from (whether it's a manufacturing company, a reseller, a SaaS provider, or a consultant), fluidity is essential for a smooth customer experience. In most cases, simplicity is synonymous with simplicity, convenience and hassle-free. B2b customer experience research programs can help businesses be more responsive, not only identifying where improvements need to be made but also providing a platform through which corrective action can be taken soon after an issue has occurred. For example, real-time detractor alerts allow problem resolution to be taken quickly. Customer surveys and loyalty research tend to evaluate company performance; however B2B customer experience research evaluates the entire customer journey in terms of interconnected touchpoints and current and anticipated pain points. Even in value chains with numerous channel partners and routes to market opportunities can be identified to improve the customer experience such as HP with its Instant Ink offering. Customer journeys are more complex than ever as the average b2b customer uses six different channels (such as in-person reps and e-commerce sites) throughout their decision-making process which can make it difficult to deliver a seamless experience but b2b shoppers who interact with multiple channels spend more than those who only buy on a single channel. The most profitable customer experiences therefore are those that comprise omnichannel marketing and sales strategies; they are also often delivered by companies that are more agile. Customer Experience Excellence recognizes that the customer is not just a transaction; in b2b markets the customer often includes numerous stakeholders.