Don’t do customer experience and don’t care? A couple of years ago, some of our clients thought it was just a fad. But those days are over.[*]

New research shows that good customer experience is correlated with business health. A cultural and business commitment to CX not only boosts employee engagement, it improves business performance and lowers costs.[*]

That might be in part why Walker research forecasts that customer experience will become the true differentiator for B2B firms in 2020 and beyond, replacing price and product functionality. And about two-thirds of the firms in a recent Qualtrics survey responded that they have a senior CX leader and a centralized CX team in place. Of those organizations with a centralized team, one-third have 11 or more full-time CX employees.[*]

And, our own research into the experiences of technology buyers supports a renewed marketing focus on customer experience across the entire customer lifecycle.

Why CX now?

Two reasons:

Buyers want hyper-relevant experiences. B2B and B2C still have legitimate differences in the way they practice, but customers expect the quality of the experiences between them to be on par with each other, and the gap between the level of B2B service they receive now and what they expect has an impact on B2B business growth.[*]

B2B martech and data platforms are up to the task. With souped-up martech and customer data platforms, B2B marketers can access hyper-nuanced customer behavior data and tune their martech to deliver highly individualized customer interactions across all channels, much like their B2C counterparts do.

This means that the marketing department will carry the customer experience flag, and that a focus on strategies for ensuring a good customer experience is the new north of how we market.[*]

Because it will have an enduring impact on our industry, we created this three-part series to share our perspective on and experience with this critical subject.

In part 1 (this post), we’ll define what CX is and how you can prepare to build a mature program. Part 2 is about setting a strategy that everyone in your company can use as the “true north” of customer experience. And part 3 walks you through how to implement a CX program.

So what is B2B CX?

For starters, we want to emphasize that customer experience is not just about customers. It’s also about prospects and predictable revenue—in other words, your entire business flow, down to your culture.

Nor is it the same as what our B2C colleagues have been doing, because in B2B we have:

  • Longer sales cycles with more touchpoints during the sales cycle
  • More complex buying journeys
  • More people on the buying committee that need to all get relevant, appropriate experiences
  • B2B buyers who are a separate group from those who will use the product or service.

That means that while B2B marketers can look to B2C for guidance, we need to build practices specific to our customers’ business contexts.

That’s why we define the B2B customer experience as:

The sum of all the touchpoints across the customer-facing activities of marketing, sales, and customer success and support across the entire relationship lifecycle.

What’s your customer experience like now?

We have a set of self-assessment steps for that (below). But before we dive in, take stock of your business landscape to identify vulnerabilities in the customer experience you provide.

Mergers and acquisitions: Despite well-laid transition plans, mergers and acquisitions risk disrupting customer experience through mixed messages and confusing journeys—things like dead-end links and contradictory content within nurture programs. In particular the transition period, when databases aren’t yet rationalized, is critical for continued, consistent customer experience.

Websites, microsites, and communities. The more channels for engaging with the buyer and customer, the higher the chances of conflicting messaging and experience.

The people responsible for key stakeholder audience experiences. There should be just one person who advocates for a holistic customer experience across the relationship lifecycle, even if other people have responsibility over certain touchpoints. Otherwise, it will be impossible to achieve a consistently good customer experience.

Messaging frameworks and strategies for specific audiences. Customer experience is often derived from messaging frameworks and they must cohere. Without consistency (and the associated documentation it’s built on) you’re sure to end up with multiple sources of “truth,” and therefore, different and possibly conflicting experiences.

G2 or TrustRadius scores. Like it or not, these sites matter. They’re often the first place a technical buyer goes to create their shortlist. So if you take and look and are shocked by low numbers, you have work to do.

Sales. Issues can manifest themselves in any one of a number of KPIs. If sales are down, that’s a clue that customer experience is an issue. You may also see dropping values in customer satisfaction metrics like the NPS (Net Promotor Score) or NSAT (Net Satisfaction) and renewal rates.

Any of the above can signal an issue with your customer experience. But even if you’ve identified a problem or vulnerability, you might still be wondering why you should invest in customer experience. Take the assessment

Download our assessment to identify where you are in terms of having a mature CX strategy. We developed it based on the four areas we’ve found to be key in setting up a good foundation for customer experience across the relationship lifecycle: governance, data, martech, and programs.

Then join us for part 2, where we discuss setting a strategy that everyone in your company can use as the “true north” of customer experience, and part 3, where we walk through how to implement a CX program.

In the meantime, if you’d like to talk about CX or want help with something you’re working on, get in touch.

Sources

Fast Company. “Branding is Dead, CX Design is King,” December 2019. Article.
Deloitte.”The true value of customer experiences,” 2018. PDF.
Catherine Thurtle for Qualtrics. “Forrester Study: Economic Impact of Qualtrics CustomerXM,” October 13, 2019. Blog.
McKinsey & Company. “Customer Experience: New capabilities, new audiences, new opportunities,” June 2017. PDF.
Bruce Temkin and Maggie Read, Qualtrics XM Institute. “The State of Customer Experience Management 2019,” July 2019. PDF.
Jason Michaels, Accenture Interactive. “Service is the new sales,” November 11, 2019. PDF.
Marketo. “The Path to 2020: Marketers seize the customer experience.” Accessed June 2020.