Question: What does the term “customer experience” mean to you?
Though it is a challenging concept to define, today it is considered essential to invest in creating an overwhelmingly positive customer experience for every organization or individual you do business with. That’s because effectively doing so builds affection and loyalty toward your company, deepens your connection to your customers and increases revenue.
Question: What is your customer experience strategy?
This is a vitally important question to consider because delivering a consistently outstanding customer experience is not something that happens by accident. Your best bet is to adopt a thoughtful and comprehensive customer experience strategy that adheres to key best practices and is aligned with the needs of your organization.
Read on for a thorough examination of what outstanding B2B customer experience is, why it is so essential today, and tips and strategies for how to achieve it in your organization.
(Pro tip: Customer experience is often called CX, but don’t use that term with your customers. They likely don’t want to be abbreviated as ‘C’ or have their experience summed up as ‘X’.)
What is Customer Experience? [Definitions]
As mentioned above, the question “what is customer experience?” has a wide variety of answers. Here are several of the most helpful definitions of customer experience (followed by our own definition of next-level B2B customer experience):
Customer Experience Definitions
Customer experience is the phrase used to describe the relationship a customer has with a business. Customer experience refers to the total of all experiences the customer has with the business, based on all interactions and thoughts about the business.
Customer experience can include a lot of elements, but it really boils down to the perception the customer has of your brand.
The sum of all interactions a customer has with a company. This can include everything from a customer’s initial awareness or discovery of a company, product, or service and progressing through the purchase and use of those products or services. Together these … touch points … create an organization’s overall customer experience.
The impression you leave with your customer, resulting in how they think of your brand, across every stage of the customer journey. Multiple touchpoints factor into the customer experience, and these touchpoints occur on a cross-functional basis.
The customer’s perceptions and related feelings caused by the one-off and cumulative effect of interactions with a supplier’s employees, systems, channels or products.
Customer experience (CX) is the sum total of customers’ perceptions and feelings resulting from interactions with a brand’s products and services. Customer experience spans the lifetime of customers’ relationships with a brand, starting before a purchase is made, continuing to active use and advancing to renewal or repeat purchase.
Of course, the concept of customer experience spans B2B as well B2C contexts, especially since the perceptions that your corporate clients and customers have of your organization will invariably be shaped by the individual perceptions of key people with whom you are in close contact.
Our company is laser focused on B2B customer experience strategy because it is at the heart of nearly everything we do. Not only do we continue to pioneer the leading edge of customer experience training, we embrace a model of continuous improvement for delivering and nurturing unparalleled B2B customer experience to each of the organizations we partner with.
Here is our expanded view of the definition of customer experience that includes two key hallmarks of our training work, a focus on relationships and a focus on your future:
Definition of Next-Level B2B Customer Experience | Global Partners Training
B2B Customer Experience — The overall relationship that a customer has with your organization, built upon the sum of all of your interactions with that customer and including an awareness by the customer that you are committed to understanding their most important business objectives and focused on contributing to their current and future success.
Customer Experience vs. Customer Service
In analyzing the customer experience vs. customer service comparison, the simplest way to look at it is that customer service falls under the umbrella of customer experience.
While customer experience encompasses every interaction that a customer has with a company or other organization, the term customer service typically describes the “direct one-on-one interaction between a consumer making a purchase and a representative of the company that is selling it” (Investopedia). For many B2B organizations, it also refers to “the support you offer your customers — both before and after they buy and use your products or services” (Salesforce).
So, while customer experience and customer service are two very different things, it is important to understand how they are interrelated in today’s business environment. Bottom line: Superior customer service can go a long way toward establishing positive customer experience.
“Customer experience and service have converged,” says Peter Schwartz, Salesforce Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning. “It’s more than call centers and successful responses to problems; it is service opportunities in sales, support and marketing. Delivering great customer experiences now means providing amazing almost magical service at every opportunity.”
Why Prioritizing Customer Experience Is So Important Today
Let’s start with the basics. It doesn’t take a Harvard MBA to understand that engendering overwhelming positive customer experience:
- Improves customer retention
- Improves customer satisfaction
- Improves potential for upselling and cross-selling
- Improves the likelihood of building new business through positive word of mouth
A quick look at some revealing statistics validates the idea that customer experience is more important than ever. For example, digital marketing giant HubSpot reports that:
- More than 80% of companies who prioritize customer experience are reporting an increase in revenue.
- 76% of customers expect companies to understand their needs.
- Customers will spend 17% more for a good experience.
- Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that aren’t.
- $1.6 trillion is lost each year due to poor customer service.
Customer loyalty is another fundamental benefit of implementing a B2B customer experience strategy. Every business wants to develop loyal customers. Focusing more closely on each customer’s “big-picture” needs helps accomplish this as well. After all, one key to nurturing relationships that result in loyal customers is to not only solve your customers’ current needs, but to know them well enough to anticipate future needs as well.
The goal is to build business partner relationships in which the customer comes to see you as not just a provider, but as a trusted advisor who understands their goals and is committed to helping them achieve them.
Related article: 4 Key Trends for Service and Support Organizations
How to Create a Winning Customer Experience Strategy
Creating a next-level B2B customer experience strategy that can help you transform the typical provider-customer connection into a long-term, win-win relationship requires focused effort and cultural change — change that involves an ongoing commitment to better understanding each customer’s big picture.
Key steps and criteria involved in creating a successful B2B customer experience strategy include:
Clearly understanding who your customers are – This includes understanding your most important “buyer personas” and their “buyer’s journeys.” In the B2B world, it is more important than ever to understand your customers’ business missions, processes and values.
Capturing and analyzing customer feedback – Customer surveys and other first-hand methods of gathering insight into your company’s performance relative to the customer’s needs and expectations are certainly important. But some of this information constitutes “historic data,” i.e., information about a particular issue-resolution, interaction or service call. The more valuable feedback is that which drives your deeper understanding and anticipation of the customer’s ongoing business objectives and how you can help achieve them.
Encouraging and acting on employee feedback – Front-line personnel in your organization, such as customer service and field service professionals, function as invaluable “eyes on the customers.” That is why there are so many benefits to be gained by training and encouraging such employees to develop unique insights into your customers, report back on their findings and leverage that information to better serve the customer. The insights gathered by a well-trained field service technician, for example, can be far more valuable than some written responses in a traditional customer feedback survey.
Understanding and solving for your customers’ pain points – Helping your customers solve challenging pain points is high on the list of things that generate positive customer experience, so it is important to focus on this when crafting your B2B customer experience strategy.
Of course, this goes well beyond simply fixing something that’s broken. And truly understanding a customer’s most significant pain points is easier said than done. One way to tackle this is to train team members who are most frequently in close contact with customers to not only resolve immediate issues or problems, but to embrace every touchpoint as an opportunity to delight the customer and learn more about their most important needs and goals.
Creating an emotional connection with your customers – Truly understanding your customers gives you a better sense of how to go beyond simply providing a product or service to finding ways to also surprise and delight them. Along with customized outreach and problem solving, some of the basics here include being authentic, delivering on promises and telling your brand story in an inspiring way (including through social media).
Building a vision for your ideal B2B customer experience – Use your insights from the actions discussed above to develop your internal vision for what your ideal, aspirational customer experience should look like. Then you will be in a strong position to reverse-engineer the experience you want to deliver. When implementing your customer experience strategy, be sure to make it an organization-wide initiative with strong buy-in at all levels and leadership support from the top. This may even require or inspire a “cultural shift” within your organization.
The global management consulting firm McKinsey addresses the topic of future-focused customer experience strategy by suggesting that, “How an organization delivers for customers is becoming as important as what it delivers.” The question, “What do my customers want?” it says, “is the question that every executive asks and that the savviest executives are asking more frequently than ever.”
That is undoubtedly true, and at Global Partners Training, we take it one step further by putting in place a proven methodology for discovering answers to two questions “What do my customers want?” and “What are they most likely to want in the future?” with an approach that is unique to each customer.
Developing ways to measure your customer experience metrics – Is there even such a thing as measuring “customer experience ROI”? Well, it’s safe to say that this is still an inexact science.
However, one of the ways that we measure success at leveraging next-level customer experience into win-win business relationships is by building it into our time-tested approach to customer relationship training.
For example, we not only equip your front-line team members with advanced communications skills that help them succeed at the relationship-building described above, we also train them to chronicle success stories in which those skills have led to wins for your customers. These mini case studies often contain measurable outcomes for the customer, quantified in terms of the metrics that are most important to the customer, including one of the most important metrics of all — revenue gains.
To help illustrate how this approach yields results, here is an excerpted report from a client who completed our Total Customer Focus™ training program:
Our semiconductor service team created a collaborative solution with a customer that applied Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity to improve logistical efficiency. By being proactive, leveraging knowledge that existed within the supplier’s logistics organization and engaging the customer in a collaborative discussion using strategies taught in our Total Customer Focus™ training, we helped the customer reduce average downtime of their equipment by 100 hours. In addition, the project saved the customer $500,000 in direct supply chain costs. Our company likewise realized significant reductions in wasted time, savings that recur on a regular basis. Best of all, through the deep discussion we were able to identify $1 million in new revenue opportunities with the customer.
Related article: A Guide to the Outcome-Based Service Model & How to Make the Transition
How to Achieve Next-Level B2B Customer Experience [Next Steps]
Customer service. Customer experience. Customer relationship-building. The progressive, customer-centric approach to business success today places the customer at the center of everything — ideally with win-win customer partnerships leading to revenue opportunities and satisfied customer word of mouth leading to new business.
But the customer-centric models and customer experience strategies now being adopted by many forward-thinking companies doesn’t just happen overnight. As mentioned earlier, it requires a cultural shift and customized training.
Training designed to position your B2B company as a trusted partner-provider that customers want to work with well into the future, because you continually demonstrate that you are committed to helping them achieve their most important business objectives today and act on new opportunities on the horizon. We call that next-level B2B customer relationship training Total Customer Focus™.
Contact us today to exchange ideas about the benefits of customer relationship and customer experience training that is customized to the unique needs and objectives of your organization.