B2B Customer Experience
eBook - ePub

B2B Customer Experience

A Practical Guide to Delivering Exceptional CX

Paul Hague, Nicholas Hague

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eBook - ePub

B2B Customer Experience

A Practical Guide to Delivering Exceptional CX

Paul Hague, Nicholas Hague

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B2B Customer Experience shows readers how to deliver the very best customer experience (often referred to as CX), within the business-to-business realm. Marketers have long known that emotions are important in driving our experiences, and the subject is now high on the agenda of B2B companies who want to deliver a 'wow' to their customers. Achieving this 'wow' factor helps organizations distinguish themselves from their competition, while simultaneously winning new business and retaining existing clients. B2B Customer Experience is the essential handbook that guides the reader through the process of creating an exceptional customer experience. Intensely practical in its approach, B2B Customer Experience is divided into five parts to walk readers through the journey of planning, mapping, structuring, implementing and controlling an effective customer experience, all bespoke for the B2B environment. Clearly argued and supported by real-world examples, this text will help readers understand critical features including the difference between customer experience, loyalty and inertia; how to use journey maps to establish strengths and weaknesses in an organization, and how to ensure that sales teams are engaged in the customer experience programme. Discussing some of the best known examples of consumer-focused customer experiences from companies such as Zappos, Nordstrom and John Lewis, B2B Customer Experience is the must-have text for any marketing professional working within a B2B environment.

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Why bother?


Customer experience in business to business markets

Like it or not, you are going to have to become more like McDonald’s

We want to talk to you about customer experience in business to business markets. If you are reading this book it almost certainly means you are a business to business (B2B) company. We also know that you will be hungry for examples of B2B companies that have succeeded in delivering excellent customer experience. Here we have something of a problem. The larger the B2B company, the worse its performance in delivering excellent customer experience. Furthermore, if you are big and poor at customer experience, you won’t want us to tell your story in this book. B2B companies that have failed to deliver excellent customer experience in the past are now under pressure to improve. The pressure comes from our business to consumer (B2C) cousins. There are many excellent examples of great customer experience with the large B2C companies.
The world of consumers and businesses are getting closer. If we can order and receive something from Amazon within 24 hours we start to question why it takes three days for a business to business supplier to answer an email and a month to deliver the goods. When we can get incredible customer service from McDonald’s, we wonder why it is so difficult for our business suppliers to do likewise. We will constantly make references to business to business companies in the book and we make no apology for also using examples from consumer markets. This is because we know that consumer companies set the benchmarks and standards by which business to business companies will be judged. You are going to have to become more like Amazon, Zappos, Nordstrom, Chick-fil-A or John Lewis whether you like it or not.

What is customer experience?

We don’t leave our emotions at home when we come to work. Customer experience is all about emotions. We know customer experience is just as important to business customers as it is to the general public. It just doesn’t seem to get the attention that it should.
Recently, Hague senior (Paul) visited Bradford University to attend a meeting. It was a pro bono get-together and he was happy to join and contribute, especially as Bradford in Yorkshire is his old home town. It was where he was brought up and where he went to school. The meeting was an all-day affair. It finished at 4 pm and he returned to his car to find a parking ticket on the window. It said he had parked illegally and would have to pay a fine of ÂŁ60, reduced to ÂŁ30 if he paid within 14 days. Now Hague senior can afford ÂŁ30. He can afford ÂŁ60. However, he was incensed at what he thought to be the injustice of the ticket. He ran back to the University building, found the security desk and sought an explanation. He was told he should have had a permit to park though he was unaware of this and the signs on the outside of the car park that gave these instructions were not easily read by someone negotiating their way into it. It materialized that the management of the car parking at the University is subcontracted to a private company and disputes had to be taken up with them in writing (by letter).
Bradford University is a good university, as they all are. The day had gone well and the University had left a great impression – until the discovery of the parking ticket! Paul seethed as he drove back to Manchester. The first thing he did (after he complained bitterly to his wife) was boot up his computer and write letters to various people who worked on security, a Professor who chaired the meeting and the company responsible for car parking. If someone had asked how likely he was to recommend Bradford University on a scale from 0 to 10 where 10 is very likely, he would have given a score of zero.
The purpose of the story is not to denigrate Bradford University. These things happen and the managers of the University would be shocked at the negative effect of the car parking fine. They may think that Paul’s reaction was completely unreasonable – which it was. But that is not the point. We all have emotions and they can affect us in funny ways. Sometimes quite minor things, like a feeling of injustice, can get in the way of the big picture. Some small thing that happens at the back end of a meeting or transaction can leave a bad taste with little chance of recovery. In a restaurant we remember the awful coffee far longer than we remember the fabulous starter.
Business to business companies are good at processes. They know how to manufacture things. They know how to shave a penny here and a cent there to make things run more efficiently. They are good at quality control, Six Sigma and logistics. But when it comes to emotions and customer experience, many businesses just leave it to the sales staff. That is not how it should be. Customer experience isn’t fluffy stuff. It isn’t something for the birds. We will argue that it delivers hard returns; great returns, often much better than any investment in a new milling machine or warehouse. It is just that you can touch a new milling machine and you can walk into a warehouse. Your investment is more obvious. Investing in customer experience is investing in a philosophy. The word ‘culture’ is going to crop up frequently in our discussions because that is what drives good customer experience. Culture in any company is driven from the top and, being realistic, it isn’t always there just as we would want it. However, pockets of culture disposed to delivering customer experience can occur anywhere and, once people see that they are delivering great results, others will want to copy them. A lead from the top is desirable but if it doesn’t exist, we will accept a lead from anywhere. It is really important that, through you, we can influence the business leaders. Once they see what it can do to the bottom line, they will be devotees forever.

Learning from the high street

We will frequently discuss what is happening in consumer markets because these are examples we can all relate to. Furthermore, the expectations we have as Joe Public and as Joe Business are getting closer. The conditioning we receive as customers of companies operating in the high street is sure to make us wonder why we can’t get the same service or provide the same service in the businesses where we work.
The high street has changed enormously over the last few years. A recent report by the US Department of Commerce tells us that total e-commerce sales in 2016 accounted for 12 per cent of all retail sales (Marketing Land, 2017). In the UK, online sales in 2016 accounted for 17 per cent (Centre for Retail Research, 2017). The online penetration is slightly lower over the rest of Europe though rapid inroads are being made. The web has changed attitudes to customer experience. People no longer have to trail to a shop to make their purchase; they can do so by the click of a button on their phone. The web provides instant experiences, more transparent pricing, easy product comparisons, critical customer reviews and armchair ordering. It became clear in the research we carried out for this book that many of the business to business companies were strongly influenced by B2C companies. The following response was not untypical:
‘The single biggest challenge we have is consistency and reliability. Getting the perfect experience in B2B isn’t a one-off. You have to be able to show, day in and day out, that you value the customer experience. In the B2B environment one bad experience can completely destroy the customer experience even if the previous 99 were very good. One of the things you’ve got to get right is how you get consistency and how you communicate it across the whole organization. The big question is “how do you get things right time after time?”’
The customer experience we take for granted on the high street and online have become benchmarks by which we judge all suppliers. As consumers of everyday products, it is so easy for us to take our business elsewhere if we are not fully satisfied. This is a huge incentive for B2C companies to try hard to deliver the very best customer service. In general they do and if they don’t, the cruel world of economics will see that they improve or go out of business.

Emotions and customer experience

If the products and services we buy meet our expectations, our experiences for the most part stay in the neutral zone. Our expectations are set by the history of our experiences or the promises that a company makes. If we are used to three-week deliveries, we probably wouldn’t think to challenge the supplier to ask why we can’t receive the product in a week. If we post an out of office notification when we are not at our desk, we are not surprised to receive one from one of our suppliers’ sales reps. It is normal.
Business to business suppliers are often privileged in having a greater lock on their customers than consumer companies. B2B suppliers may have contracts with customers that run for a year or so. Even if there aren’t contracts in place, a supplier’s products may have been tested and approved. Changing to a new supplier can be painful and a problem for the buying company. There is an incentive to stay with ‘the devil you know’. Maybe the business to business supplier thinks that the competition will be no different and no better. Business to business companies don’t have the motivation to improve a service quality that is ‘good enough’. And, to be charitable, they simply may not have learned the skills of delivering service excellence.
Emotions are an indication of what gives us pleasure or pain (Nummenmaa et al, 2014). They come to the fore when something happens. Our nervous system becomes aroused and our mental state changes. These changes are automatic. W...

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