Winning tactics for B2B customer experience

This guide reveals the engagement tactics needed to lock in customer retention in the B2B landscape

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Gustavo Imhof

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Customer relationship management

While businesses selling direct to consumers have rapidly caught on, the B2B world has yet to fully embrace a well-orchestrated approach to designing and delivering client experiences that drive sustainable retention and rapid business growth.

The stakes are in fact higher for B2B brands because the average lifetime value of B2B clients is much higher than B2C. Indeed, the value of a single major customer can represent, over the years, revenues in excess of $10m, and the largest organizations of this world may well find themselves spending billions (that is, with a b) of dollars with their more strategic partners.

What’s more, according to Gartner, 80 per cent of future profit comes from 20 per cent of existing customers. Additionally, according to Murphy and Murphy’s “Leading in the Edge of Chaos”, a 5 per cent increase in customer retention can singlehandedly increase profit by 25 per cent to 125 per cent

These stats mean that for every high-value B2B customer that churns, a brand will require a significant amount of new business to replace the lost revenue. As a result, businesses with corporate clients are having to sharpen the experiences they provide to boost retention levels.

Simply copying-and-pasting B2C strategies and tactics will not cut it: to the disappointment of many. The B2B world is far more complex and demands its own set of tactics – the very tactics CX Network is unveiling our exclusive series of guides.

  1. Identify your role in the stakeholder chain

One nuance that requires thought is the role your brand plays in your client’s business model.

When you are servicing customers on behalf of your clients, be aware that intermediaries often feel like the owners of the relationship. As a brand you will need to demonstrate the value of the personalized customer experience you can provide for their end client.

Airports have to navigate complex operation models with many stakeholders. They need to coordinate with various airlines renting their runways, shops that rent their retail space and ultimately, the flyers who spend with the airport’s direct clients (airlines and retailers). Airports need to support their stakeholders so they are best placed to delight their own customers.

Understand who your archetypes of customers are, their own target audiences and design experiences around each of them, as one size really does not fit all.

  1. Select and track the metrics that are fundamental to your bottom line

At the 2019 Medallia City Tour in London, experts explored the importance of using the metrics that matter the most to your client. For instance, the ultimate game in software-as-a-service (SaaS) is to increase or maintain customer retention and renewals because of the subscription model most of them adopt. The health of an account is measured by volume of log-ins and time spent by users on the platform. In manufacturing, to quantify the traction of assets the organization has invested in, eyes will be fixed on tracking uptime vs downtime.

It is important to align with your customer’s perspective. Figure out what their ‘true north’ metric is so you can steer and track your progress very closely. A broken compass does not take you to Rome, so make sure you finetune it.

Also read: Customer experience metrics checklist

  1. Knowing and serving the right decision makers

Different staff members in the organizations you serve can have great sway on the future of your working relationship. Remember, these individuals may not always be the people you may expect. Some people have heightened informal influence on an organization’s decisions, for instance on their supplier roster.

While the decision-maker is involved at a strategic, high-level at key moments of the relationship, the user is the person who is fully immersed into your service and feels the benefit or pain of your offering. A user that is not properly supported and feels the product is not up to scratch will significantly erode your chances of maintaining and renewing that client. This is needs to be avoided as it costs far more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one.  

The importance of the user in customer retention is why the customer success methodology has been growing so rapidly in many industries, more especially within agencies (media, advertising, research amongst others) as well as the SaaS space. Customer success focuses on ensuring the client organization gets the most value out of the offering by actively supporting the user and their agenda, putting you in great stead for a renewed and, hopefully expanded, deal when the time comes.

It also puts an increased emphasis on the client’s success, with the supplier organization proactively working with their client to support, recover and even accelerate goal achievement.

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  1. Build a listening program that is fit for B2B excellence

The key to effectively supporting clients and driving their success is building a robust and comprehensive listening program that goes beyond noise and instincts.

A great example of listening done right and holistically can be found in pet insurance leader, Petplan who built a blended qualitative and quantitative program.

Ingrid Wienholts, head of insights and CX at Petplan, explains that: “Petplan has a unique distribution model working with thousands of B2B partners to distribute free insurance to pet owners.

“When it comes to understanding and improving B2B experiences, we use a variety of techniques to gather insight. We use surveys, F2F research groups and continuously invite a dialogue of change and improvement between our B2B partners such as vets, breeders, animal charities and ourselves.

“We ask for feedback on how we are delivering against their needs and we really try and understand what’s going on in their world and what challenges they are facing to their own business models. By gathering this insight, it allows us to improve our processes to make life easier for our partners and create stronger B2B value propositions. “

  1. Identify opportunities to deliver more value to your clients

A strong listening program is only part of the solution. It is the fuel to transformation and competitive difference, but you still need a well-oiled engine that can propel your organization with the fuel you feed it with – in other words, transform insight into action.

The benefits of transforming insight into action could materialize as boosted value on your existing offerings, lowered cost to serve or higher revenue through opportunities to cross-sell, up-sell or even new synergistic verticals to enter as a business.

A successful application of converting insight into action can be found in the approach Zurich Insurance has adopted on the back of listening to clients and intermediaries.

Clairy Moraitou, global head of customer insights and analytics at Zurich Insurance explains: “With commercial customers, what is really important is that we become not only an insurance partner but an end-to-end protection partner and that we move into prevention. As an industry we need to offer pre-event advisory services rather than only handling each case post-event and being reactive. We are there to advise on how they can protect their business, whether that is regarding cyber threats or climate change or any other risk. This element has been key and we are building on this, while we have already helped companies avoid major incidents.”

The stakes of relationships are higher in B2B arenas, so design experiences appropriately to reap the rewards

The world of B2B CX is extremely complex and arguably requires far more work on far fewer customers to make a genuine difference than in B2C markets. Far fewer customers mean there is a much higher impact felt from losing a customer. Depending on the value of the customer you risk losing, their departure could have a lasting impact on your business’ standing and, in some cases, sustainability.

The flip side of the coin is that those organizations who adopt these five principles stand to gain and grow exponentially from blossoming relationships with corporate clients.

Know who your customers are, listen to them, invest in your relationships and their success and chances are, you will not need to worry about growing fast enough ever again.

For more content on customer experience matters visit the CX Guide Content Hub.