Voice of the Customer – Does it Matter in B2B?
With new job titles like “Head of Customer Experience” and “Chief Customer Officer” emerging, businesses are recognizing the importance of the customer experience and making someone accountable for it, at least in the B2C space. The question is do companies who do business with other companies place as much value on the customer experience as their B2C counterparts?
Most B2B firms still hold the belief that the customer service experience is consumer focused, that purchasing decisions are made for a complex set of reasons other than the customer experience, and that personalized service is already provided through account management teams. In a space where “word-of-mouth” is so important it is hard to imagine that customer service is not more of a priority, but in a series of studies conducted by Forrester, “the B2B experience was perceived as worse than that in the bottom-of-the barrel consumer industries such as TV service providers and health insurance plans.” The reality is that firms who have poor experiences with other firms buy less.
Even though there are distinct differences between B2B and B2C, they both demand high-quality customer service. The B2B process is about building relationships and developing personal connections during a multi-step sales cycle, whereas B2C is driven more by price, packaging and an emotional connection to the product or service and a shorter sales cycle – often a single-step buying process.
B2B and B2C can share best practices when it comes to customer service. For starters, define who exactly you mean by customer. B2B companies may have many stakeholders inside one client. Next, put yourself into the customer’s shoes through common experience design practices such as behavioral personas, customer journey maps and voice of the customer (VoC) programs. And finally, aim to change the culture. Key practices aimed at changing the beliefs and behavioral norms of internal employees can similarly be applied to partners, resellers, agents, and other third parties that affect the B2B customer experience.
This table provided by Elya McCleave, a service and support professional, highlights what B2C has learned about B2B service innovation and vice versa:
Bottom line: when you don’t provide effective customer service, eventually that impacts your bottom line – in terms of lost opportunities, clients and ultimately dollars.
- Almost two thirds of Americans (64%) would prefer to work virtually rather than in an office. (Ricoh; 973-882-2023)
- 73% of individuals trust recommendations of friends and family versus only 23% who trust radio and TV ads and 19% who trust direct mail. (forrester.com)
- By 2015, nearly 70% of all information storage capacity will exist in virtual and cloud environments. (emc.com)
- In most states, somewhere between 50% and 60% of small businesses do not have websites (swiftpage.com)
- By the time a B2B purchaser actually engages with a company or with a sales rep from that company, they’re 57% of the way through their decision process.(emarketer.com)