Updated: Aug 3, 2020
“57% of customers have stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience.”* As a B2B leader, what can you do to deliver the kind of experiences that keep customers coming back?
Memorable customer experiences don’t just happen. It takes a trifecta of customer centric behaviors to create and sustain memorable experiences. If you’re ready to take it on, here they are:
1. Make It Personal
To be customer centric means you understand how customers do their job and what’s important to them. Put yourself in their shoes. Do you give them what they need to make big decisions? Do you offer support when their business is most vulnerable? Do you anticipate needs and proactively make their life easier?
You need to do your homework to understand how customers work. But don’t stop there! Educate employees - share feedback, conduct customer journey mapping workshops, and tell customer stories.
When employees know what matters most to customers, they'll find ways to WOW them.
Imagine you are Sophie, an account manager responsible for an important global customer. Overnight, Sophie’s customer finds an opportunity to win a big piece of new business. Her customer learns that their competitor can’t supply and if they act fast the business is theirs. The call comes to Sophie, her customer needs product fast – sent by air freight to a plant close to the customer. Sophie wants to deliver the WOW.
Put yourself in Sophie’s shoes. When the customer asks anxiously…can you do it? Do you have confidence that your credit department, logistics, manufacturing, and service teams will all come through?
Employees from all functions need to have empathy for Sophie’s customer, but that’s not all. They need to know that leadership expects them to act – to deliver the WOW.
2. Cultivate the Culture
Customer centricity starts at the top. Ideally, a top-level executive with organizational clout (and investment authority) proclaims, “this is critical - we need to put customers at the center of our business…now!”
Next, you need to engage the entire leadership team. Ignite the flame. Instill a passion for customers in all functions. The credit manager, the logistics manager, the service manager…they all need to set an expectation in their teams to deliver the WOW.
Recently, a large B2B manufacturing client was serious about changing culture. To ignite the flame, they dedicated their annual global leadership conference to customers. Functional leaders from across the globe invested time talking to customers - asking customers about experiences and expectations. During a 2-day workshop, they mapped the customer's journey, made plans to improve the experience, and made commitments to change the culture.
Speaking of culture, in case someone asks - being customer centric does not mean ‘doing everything for everybody.’
Being customer centric means doing the right thing where it matters most to customers.
3. Build it into Operations
Customers expect a seamless experience to get what they need from suppliers. And, they want it every time they interact with you – either in person or digitally.
Yet we all know that B2B operations are complex. Simplicity takes a back seat as systems and processes evolve to manage all sorts of odd situations. And, it’s not all bad. In our world, complexity is often necessary to protect the company and employees from harm. But, embrace this cardinal rule of customer centricity:
Don’t inflict your operational complexity onto your customer.
Customers interact with your company across hundreds of touchpoints and each one is an opportunity to delight or disappoint.
Focus on touchpoints that matter most to the customers and SIMPLIFY.
Make the total experience easy, memorable, and valuable.
But how? Operations won’t change on a dime and legacy systems were not all built with customers in mind. And truthfully, most B2B companies are far behind when it comes to providing seamless digital experiences.
To give customers the seamless experience that keeps them buying from you instead of your competitor, prioritize innovation projects that make critical touchpoints effortless.
Recently, a large manufacturing client embraced the seamless experience vision and focused on making it easy for customers to try their products. They simplified touchpoints to find technical data and acquire sample products to test. By reducing friction on these two critical touchpoints, they simplified their customer's life. They didn’t try to boil the ocean, but the change was enough to signal to both customers and employees that they intended to make things easier and it paved the way for bigger changes to follow. In summary, here is the secret sauce….
Help all employees get to know your customers, cultivate empathy.
Set expectations across all functions to deliver the WOW.
Simplify operations at critical touchpoints.
Don’t just bookmark this blog post for later use, go out and start having honest conversations with your customers. Act on what they tell you. And contact a customer experience coach to help guide you and keep you accountable.
Want to keep the secret sauce handy? Download the guide here.
*Source: Salesforce State of the Connected Customer 2018.
Carol Pudnos Carol is a Customer Experience Strategist, helping companies transform their operations to deliver seamless experiences. Carol’s thoughts on customer experience are backed by over two decades of B2B business leadership in chemical, food, pharma and medical device industries. “Processes that serve customers the way they want to be served will differentiate your company and drive business results.”