Mind the gap: B2B customer experience expectations will surge ahead in 2013

Michael Haynes

Michael Haynes
Michael Haynes, your B2B Customer Guy, is founder and director of 2Excell Consulting. With experience in research and strategy roles at Telstra, Accenture and the Commonwealth Bank, he specialises in bringing what the customer values to life within organisations' operations and decision making.

Hello again, Everyone!

2012 has flown by and another year is just around the corner.

2013 is looking to be an even more challenging year. In addition to plummeting business confidence, increased pessimism and slow economic growth, companies can also expect some new trends with regards to customer experience and customer service in the year ahead.

Here are three key trends and the implications they will have on B2B suppliers and service providers.

Global competition will drive up service standards

With continued slow economic growth and increasingly commoditised and competitive business markets, customer service will be used more and more as a competitive differentiator in B2B markets.

According to a BDO global study, 57% of B2B firms surveyed expect that service will be the focus of firms of all types by 2020. However, only 40% of companies surveyed think they address customer feedback well and 45% do not have a system to identify and address service gaps.

Many B2B companies have a lot of work to do if they are going to succeed in such tough business conditions. B2B companies both large and small are going to need to get much more sophisticated and use approaches such as customer journey mapping to gain an in-depth understanding of their client and customer requirements especially for their strategic and most profitable customers and then develop the appropriate customer experience and service that these customers seek.

Expanded view of customer service

Technology advances have provided business customers with more capabilities. They have access to more information and are sharing and reviewing this information with their peers and colleagues through various means such as online sites and community groups. As a result, business customers simply no longer regard positive customer service simply as getting ‘fixes’ to issues and problems. They now also want the opportunity to share ideas, collaborate and co-create with companies to develop the products, services and customer experiences that they want.

Therefore B2B companies will need to develop broader customer strategies that enable their customers to provide such input into product and service development. Hence B2B companies will need to consider implementing customer engagement initiatives such as:

  • Customer forums,
  • customer advisory panels, and
  • online communities and networks.

However we must remember that we are B2B so we have to take into consideration the requirements of both decision makers as well as end users and that it’s these stakeholders that should determine the types of customer engagement mechanisms that should be used.

Customers will seek to help themselves

Providing your business customers with the opportunity to engage and interact with their fellow peers is increasingly important in the B2B sector. Business customers want the opportunity to get information to address their own issues and problems. However, this is sought after not just at the user level but at a senior decision maker as well. Therefore you must provide opportunities for key stakeholders within your business customers to engage with their peers using appropriate forums, which again may consist of face-to-face events as well as online activities.

By doing so, you will will not only help to provide a great B2B customer experience but also positively impact your company’s financial performance. 60% of B2B buyers will consult a peer or colleague when making a buying decision. (Within the IT sector, it is as high as 80%.) Therefore by providing such positive experiences will help to generate the referrals and recommendations, which are critical in generating B2B sales.

Don’t get caught short in 2013 – mind the gap!

Make sure your company has a clear and in-depth understanding of the kind of service and overall customer experience that your business customers expect from you.

Take an honest and critical look at your company’s current performance and determine what it needs to do to close that gap so that it can continue to retain as well as gain business customers.

 

Until next year. Have a great holiday season!

Your B2B Customer Guy,

Michael