Are you ready to navigate the new B2B landscape?
As we approach the end of 2015, economists and analysts are making their predictions as to the economic outlook for 2016, writes Michael Haynes.
It is expected that businesses will continue to face challenging conditions due to subdued business confidence and this will inhibit investment and spending.
However, companies operating in B2B markets will also face three key trends moving forward that they must address if they are to continue to be competitive and profitable.
Service, service and more service
According to the ‘Service 2020’ report by the accounting and advisory firm BDO, within the next five years, service will become the basis of competition for approximately 60% of companies operating in B2B markets. Business customers also now have increased and varied expectations as to what constitutes “good service”. They now consider good service to potentially include:
- proactive advice,
- customised offerings,
- greater accessibility (e.g. more locations, extended hours of service), and
- service options (e.g. self service, virtual).
Furthermore, speed is becoming increasingly synonymous with good service. This will create a challenge for business suppliers, as they will often have to juggle between providing faster service while maintaining high quality standards and meeting customer preferences.
Cool, new and techy
Many technical innovations that have been developed recently will have strong demands in B2B markets. For instance, it is anticipated that smart headsets will be increasingly used in materials handling, medicine, security and warehousing. Another example is aerial imaging that is currently a billion dollar global market and growing.
In order for suppliers to take advantage of the increasing demand for such technical innovations, they must ensure that they have a detailed understanding of the complex and varied requirements of both the buyers as well as the actual users of these innovations. Furthermore, providers must also provide the kinds of service options and service levels that will be sought after across different industries.
B2B buyers: a growing breed
The average number of people involved in business buying decisions is 5.4 people. In the IT sector, it is seven people. These numbers are likely to increase as purchases involve larger spends and/or more complex products and services. In addition, procurement departments which typically have been involved primarily in the administrative and processing aspects of the buying process are now being given a ‘seat at the table’ in the decision making process as organisations try to maximise the value of their purchases.
What does all this mean for B2B companies?
The devil is in the detail and surveys alone won’t cut it
Business customers increasingly seeking customized offerings. Given the complex and varied requirements involved, B2B companies will need to have very detailed and specific information pertaining to the solutions, service levels, support and outcomes that are sought by both buyers and users within each of their target customers. These insights will need to be obtained by aggregating and analysing information from a variety of sources beyond just surveys in order to obtain both strategic and operational perspectives required.
Deliver a total but buyer-driven customer experience
Success in this new B2B environment will require that suppliers deliver customized offerings which may consist of products, services, advice and support along with the processes, service levels and quality which meets the specific needs of the buyers as well as users within each target customer.
To effectively do so requires that B2B suppliers and service providers have the skills, processes and mechanisms to:
- gather, analyse and obtain detailed buyer and user insights,
- develop tailored buyer and user strategies,
- translate these strategies into specific projects and initiatives,
- operate collaboratively and cross functionally to execute and manage defined initiatives, and
- monitor and manage CX initiative progress.
B2B CX is key to growth and profitability
Delivering a tailored B2B customer experience does not simply result in improved NPS and customer satisfaction scores. It has been found that effective B2B customer experience (CX) management results in increased revenues, customer loyalty and referrals.
A 2015 study by Watermark Consulting involved the examination of eight-year stock performance of leading CX companies versus the S&P 500. It was found that leading CX companies generated total returns 35% higher than S&P 500 companies.
Don’t get left behind! The time is now to closely review and revise the way your company engages, understand and delivers to its B2B customers to ensure it continues to thrive in this brave new B2B world.