Customer Experience: What B2B Can Learn from B2C

January 15, 2020

Marley Wagner

Category: Customer Experience, Customer Retention, Customer Success Resources, Customer Success Strategy

In the B2B world, your roster of customers may appear as just a list of company names – a long list of logos won by your sales team. And kudos to sales – they worked hard for those wins! But behind every Corp., Inc., and Ltd. on that list is a living, breathing human being (likely more than one, in fact) that made the decision to do business with you over one of your competitors or over simply doing nothing at all.

And each of those human beings does ‘business’ – whether in their personal or professional life – with dozens of other companies in addition to yours at any given time. From their cell phone and internet providers, their music, TV, and movie subscriptions at home, to the software, hardware, and service providers they choose to engage with at work.

Do you think their expectations as a customer differ for the companies they choose to buy from as an individual, versus the ones they buy from as a representative of their organization? Do you make that distinction in expected customer experience when you’re the one in the customer’s shoes?

Most people tend to answer with a hard ‘no’ – because let’s face it – although the purchase processes and business models of B2B and B2C often look quite different, you (or your customer) are still the same human being, with the same personality and the same set of needs in either scenario.

Perhaps your customers’ interaction with that awesome sales team of yours even factored into their decision. Data from Oracle says that 86% of buyers will pay more for a better brand experience. So even if your product or service wasn’t the cheapest option available to them, a pleasant buying experience may have won them over. That same positive experience needs to continue, even after they’ve become a customer.

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Making it Personal

When was the last time you had a B2B customer experience that felt truly personal? There are certainly B2B companies out there that are known for doing this well – that have highly mature, well-funded, award winning Customer Success organizations.

But I for one can confidently say that it’s been a long time since I’ve had a professional interaction with a vendor that felt meaningful to me as the customer. Too long. So long in fact, I can’t even recall a specific example to share with you. According to Oracle, I’m not alone here – they reported that only 1% of buyers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. One percent!

Now turn to your experience as a customer in your personal life, with B2C companies, and I would bet that several examples of genuine, relevant, and personal experiences come to mind pretty darn quick.

Spotify’s annual ‘Wrapped’ Year-in-Review immediately comes to mind for me. It’s something that I genuinely look forward to receiving every December, and it seems that everyone I know flocks to social media to share their personalized version, excited to re-live their favorite music of the last year. 2019’s edition was even made extra special with the additional Decade-in-Review features.

So why does that matter? Why should the customer experience with a B2C company like Spotify impact your B2B strategy? Because right now, B2C is absolutely crushing B2B in the customer experience department.

That’s right, I said it. They are light years ahead of us!

So, I recommend taking a few pages from the B2C customer experience playbook for your B2B Customer Success strategy. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that every B2B company should go out and start producing a Year-in-Review email. This may or may not make sense for your business and your customers, based on your product or service, the data that’s available to you, the existing cadence and content of your communication, etc. But it is an excellent example of a communication that creates a meaningful, valuable, and personal customer experience.

So how can you create customer experiences with those same concepts that are relevant to your business? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Understand your customers by developing buyer personas. If you don’t understand the people you’re talking to, you’ll be hard-pressed to create much that really resonates with them.
  • Take cues from excellent B2C customer experiences. What are B2C companies doing to delight the same personas that make up your customer base? You can also learn lessons on what not to do from B2C (I’m looking at you, cable and internet providers).
  • Talk to the people who are talking to your customers. Whether that’s Customer Success Managers, Sales Executives, Support Reps, or any other teams you have in place – they know your customers best, so get their advice on what will be the most valuable to them.
  • Utilize the tools at your disposal to get the messages out. If your Customer Success team has a CS platform that can pull in the data you need and send out the messages you want, great! If not, talk to your marketing team about using their automation platform.

Start somewhere, and just keep going. You won’t be able to transform your customer experience into a personal one overnight, and you won’t always get it perfect on the first try. So do your research and prep work, but at a certain point you need to take the leap and try something. Start small if you need to, evaluate the results, and then continue to iterate and grow.