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When you think of customer experience and customer experience management (CEM), you often associate these terms with specifically consumer-based customer service. This can mean managing the experience of people who visit a bank branch, call into an internet or cable service provider call centre, purchase electronics, or even those who attend movies or sporting events.
What many don’t often consider is how customer experience management can benefit organizations in a business-to-business (B2B) environment. Your business clients are people too, and they are just as influenced by positive experiences and customer service as consumers are. Following a recent business-to-business conference in Phoenix Arizona, I was provided with some fascinating insight into the challenges that companies face trying to expand their business while selling their product or service to another organization.
Maria Tedesco and Dawn Morris, two executives in the Business Banking division of Citizens Bank in the U.S., hosted an informative workshop during the American Banker Small Business Banking Conference in mid-November. There, they discussed the advantages of client experience management and how talking to your clients and researching your market spurs B2B growth. Their session sparked my interest in the strategies for securing buy-in and attention from decision-making executives in a business setting. Below are some of the women’s insights combined with my own personal analysis and reflection on the topic.
Research your Market
The first step in being able to service your current clientele effectively while also attracting new business, is to understand your market by getting to know your customers better and listening to what they are saying. You can start with a variety of market research techniques including focus groups, annual mail-outs or consumer analysis studies. But one of the best ways is through an ongoing process of gathering feedback and data via a client experience management (CEM) or a client experience program.
A well-designed questionnaire combined with representative client lists will enable you to talk to the right people to get the most insightful and actionable information from your CEM program. An outside third party like Corsential can offer accurate and unbiased data and analytics that give you a clear picture of your clients’ pain points. When you understand the needs, motivators and aggravators of your clients, you can then find solutions that meet those requirements, market your products in a way that will highlight your strengths and stimulate new business, and improve areas and processes that are pushing new client’s way.
Create a Sense of Connection and Value
In a B2B setting, clients are often in contact with a particular project director, relationship manager or account representative. These individuals are responsible for managing and building a positive relationship while ensuring client needs are met at all times.
Similar to providing a positive and memorable consumer experience, business clients want to feel like they are receiving value from your organization, and want to be treated individually and offered tailored solutions that meet their needs.
B2B clients, like any others, value convenience. This could mean flexible hours of operation, accessible locations, or a well-designed, streamlined online experience. In conjunction with convenience, comes the appreciation for ease-of-use. Your product or service should deliver on its one fundamental purpose or promise. If you’re selling a loan, keep the terms straightforward, and the payment plan simple. For an insurance offering, make the paperwork and claim process streamlined and automated. A Client Experience Management program can help identify where you can improve on convenience and ease-of-use, specific to your industry and business.
A creative suggestion put forward at the conference to help build B2B relationships was to create weekly or monthly online newsletters, as they have great open and click rates. These newsletters can provide industry news along with company announcements. Including photos of your RM’s or account managers on the corporate websites is another way to further build a connection.
In addition, a well-trained and knowledgeable account rep or sales staff will create a sense of trust among prospects and current clients. A knowledgeable rep can offer tailored solutions and add-ons that will boost sales or attract new business. If you’re trying to sell a new product to a business to a client, consider asking questions first about their needs will allow your sales staff to adjust a pitch accordingly.
Areas to Watch For
Fees, whether large or small, old or new, are a reality of every business model. In order to prevent current or new fees from souring relationships and creating a sense of bad profits with clients, it is best to be upfront about their purpose. Explaining the reason for the fees and outlining them clearly in a contract instead of burying them in fine print will maintain a sense of openness and trust in a B2B setting. B2B business deals can be in the hundreds of thousands or even million dollar ranges, and ruining a relationship because of hidden fees is an easy way to fail.
Another challenge is identifying and agreeing on what you are selling and delivering. It may seem obvious to you, but is it clear to your clients what you offer? In a B2B setting, one’s message can get lost in complicated language and differing sales pitches. Often internal bureaucracy and lack of direction among senior management can also lead to confusion that hinders the development of a clear value proposition. Making the development of a value proposition or mission statement a priority, in addition to agreeing on your organization’s differentiating factors, will align your sales and marketing team, and motivate them to reach tangible goals.
Think Long Term
Yes it is true that we all have our quarterly and annual revenue targets to meet and exceed, however it is vital that the focus on short term profits must not overshadow long term relationships. Sometimes, a client experience management program can uncover business processes or product glitches that require improvements over an extended period of time, which cannot be fixed in just a few months. A focus on long term organizational improvement will attract more new business than a short-term flashy ad campaign.
At Corsential, when we sign a new client, we focus on providing an experience that is centred on responsive service, innovative solutions and experiences that exceed expectations. We create solutions and programs for our clients with the intention that we are building long term relationships that will last five to ten years or more. A focus on multi-year goals, not multi-month, will keep an organization aligned, maintain employee engagement, and demonstrate to clients a long-term commitment to service excellence.