B2B decision makers consider a number of variables when making a purchase, but today more than ever before, customer experience is often the tipping point when it comes to acquiring—and keeping—business.
“Marketers have to look across entire funnel or customer journey,” says Alison Biggan, president of corporate marketing at SAP. “We have to think about what happens after the sale. What are we doing to engage with customers, help customers understand the product and drive adoption?”
Gallup research shows that only 29 percent of B2B customers are fully engaged, and 71 percent are at risk to leave for a competitor. Engagement is clearly critical: Companies with the highest levels of engagement have 72 percent more fully engaged customers.
What’s the secret to creating a connection? First of all, it needs to be a two-way street. Marketers can’t just talk to customers—they need to talk with them, to see how they are using products and services.
“We need to be personalized and contextual in how we talk to them,” Biggan says, noting that B2B customer expectations are just as high as B2C. “They expect responses inquiries to be fast, and almost instantaneous.”
Pitney Bowes has three different lines of business, and the CX approach for each is a little bit different, says CMO Bill Borrelle.
In its software business, for example, the focus is on building an online community to help clients connect with one another, so they can share best practices and tips. “We can use the community to launch beta tests, so that experience is beneficial to both us and the clients because they can help [shape] and make the product better,” Borrelle says.
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Within Pitney Bowes mailing business, the CS is comprehensive, spanning from the first moment they touch the hardware or interact with the shipping software. “We think about everything from user flow and where they might be getting caught up all the way through to billing and invoicing, and troubleshooting online,” says Borrelle. “We’ve built a robust online customer experience using all sorts of tools to measure satisfaction as they interact with our technology.”
For the global ecommerce business however, where clients are big retailers like Macy’s or Bed, Bath & Beyond, the CX goals are different.
“The client experience that we think of there isn’t our client but rather their consumer who is buying online,” he says. “What can we do to make that experience better? [Things like] faster delivery or making returns easier.”
The tone of the conversation depends on who you are talking to, agrees SAP’s Biggan. The C-suite or buyer wants to hear about how a solution will solve a business problem. Discussions with the individuals who are using the solution on a day-to-day basis get more into usability and adoption.
“One of the key ways to break through is to make sure you understand what they care about and what business challenges they are trying to solve, and reach them through non-traditional ways,” she notes. “We talk a lot about going where customers are, rather than bringing them to where we are.”
Just as consumers expect relevant and contextualized marketing offers, so too do B2B customers. “There’s an expectation that you know the things I care about and where I’m spending my time, and my history with your company,” she says. “It’s important that we’re connecting all the systems in the background, so whether you are hearing from sales or marketing or support, everyone understands [the history] of engagement.”
This is especially crucial in today’s environment, Biggan says.
“The reality is that it is much easier than ever for people to switch based on a bad experience,” she says. “If you are not differentiating based on experience, and doing everything you can to meet your customer’s expectations, you’re opening it up for a competitor.”