CX marks the spot
Cat Jolly, at WPP’s EssenceMediacom, explains why an exceptional B2B customer experience (CX) separates winners from losers
In the competitive world of B2B marketing, there is one fundamental principle that reigns supreme: a customer-first mindset. In an era when customer expectations are rapidly evolving and competition is fiercer than ever, putting the customer at the heart of the strategy is the only thing that will separate the winners from losers.
Embracing a customer-first mindset means what it says: integrating the customer experience into every aspect of the business, which involves a steadfast commitment to understanding, anticipating and exceeding individual customers’ needs and desires. In turn, companies can forge stronger connections, cultivate unwavering loyalty and, ultimately, drive sustainable growth.
CX: nothing without connected data
Next-gen B2B CX is, from our perspective, aiming to activate and manage the total customer experience through data and technology – essentially, connecting offline and online channel experiences, along with marketing, sales and customer success efforts. This requires enabling end-to-end customer experiences for B2B buyers – from awareness through conversion to maintaining loyalty.
Examples of cutting-edge CX are emerging everywhere. Just look at the innovations Coca-Cola has achieved in CX over the past five years. Its global portfolio spans hundreds of brands across most counties on earth, so the company has spent the time, effort and money to collect and act on data at every touchpoint.
You probably thought those touchscreen Freestyle 9100 drink dispensers you’ve seen in fast-casual restaurants are just a cool-looking upgrade from the traditional soda fountains. But they don’t just dispense your desired drink with flair; they collect real-time data on customer sentiment. These insights feed into interoperable systems and platforms that various functions at the company use, so it’s always clear which products are in higher demand regionally or, perhaps, at an individual store.
The data inform every function, from finance to supply chain to logistics to marketing and sales, all of which manifests on the customer level. B2B customers such as restaurant chains experience faster resolutions since, from the insights, Coca-Cola already knows why a B2B customer is calling.
Similar experiences have emerged in the B2B tech space. An SaaS provider, for example, might have a potential buyer in a free trial where the product’s usage is monitored – if engagement wavers, sales or customer success is prompted to intervene and offer support. These triggers to intervene at the right time or pivot conversations no longer have to be so manual and rules-based, however, as AI becomes more mainstream.
For instance, real-time, AI-generated customer sentiment feedback can now help guide digital sellers’ conversations so they can proactively tailor solutions – even in the midst of a conversation where prospects may not be inclined to buy. With these types of AI-driven insights and tools, businesses can elevate customer experiences, boost conversions and cultivate long-term relationships.
So, how do we get to a perfectly streamlined, automated customer experience? Creating exceptional CX starts with true accountability across sales, marketing, ops, customer success, tech, analytics and more.
Everyone must understand the broader objective and start working toward a shared common goal. Creating a better experience may mean that IT systems need to be uprooted; mindsets may need to shift; training and upskilling will need to occur in perpetuity; and organisational structures will likely need to change. Leadership must drive this evolution and the frontline should be empowered to execute.
Just getting started may feel daunting, but let the ideas flow. Think of practical scenarios or interactions that would address the buyer’s needs and enhance their experiences at different stages of their journey. Once you’ve developed a running list of use cases you’d like to activate, prioritise just one minimum viable product (MVP) that can be easily implemented with the tech and resources you have today. Measure those outcomes to prove incremental gains and to build momentum and support within the organisation. You can scale from there – don’t try to boil the ocean.
As you move beyond the MVP, you’ll quickly recognise there are dependencies (for example, budget, resources and time) as well as gaps in how your technology or systems operate.
CX is a ‘to be’ not a ‘to do’
CX is a muscle that’s always flexing and growing. There is no end-state or autopilot when it comes to CX. What surprised and delighted the B2B buyer two years ago will quickly become table stakes and you’ll have to find the next way to innovate. Always keep a finger on the pulse and pivot accordingly. Don’t just look at campaign data for small hints of success.
With that urgency, however, comes patience because measuring business impact takes time. The average B2B buyer’s journey takes around six to 12 months to develop. A lot can happen during that period, so think holistically and focus on the incremental gains.
As the average number of individual stakeholders involved in a purchase increases, so do the number of journey interactions – making CX planning infinitely complex in B2B. Therein lies the opportunity. By partnering with the right experts, you can evolve how you think about CX, integrate touchpoints, leverage data and activate the right technology.
18 August 2023
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