In B2C industries, a positive service experience helps you keep and acquire customers, providing a competitive edge. But customer experience management (CXM) is critical in B2B industries as well. CXM is just emerging as a formal program in most B2B companies, and many of those organizations are just getting acquainted with the concept.
With customer service expectations rising, a differentiated experience not only can enhance a company’s brand, but it also can lead to premium service for top-tier customers. Research shows that companies can boost customer retention, reduce support costs, and expand their customer base by providing such differentiated treatment.
Most B2B companies provide a disparate and disaggregated experience across the customer life cycle of marketing, sales, and service. For example, a company may fail to integrate the service organization into a product introduction, resulting in service professionals’ not knowing of a launch until they receive customer calls asking about it.
Often companies try to spread service across all customers equally, in a one-size-fits-all model, in which servicing a $5,000 order costs the same as servicing a $5 million order. Top-tier customers receive the same experience as those who generate only a fraction of that revenue. And, when service is spread too thinly, the entire customer experience suffers.
While tailoring and optimizing service may be desirable, actually doing so can be challenging. It is difficult to know, for example, who should get what service treatment, because many companies cannot determine the value of different customers now as compared with in the future.
Even when companies know the current and future value of specific customers, it is expensive to create tailored service. Often, companies can’t tailor services because they don’t have a customer experience design and haven’t done the research and analysis to tailor the experience.
Despite those challenges, some B2B enterprises are moving aggressively toward a tailored customer experience. Through an experience blueprint, they are customizing and optimizing the experience to mirror both the needs of customers and their value to organizations. These companies have used a well-established, customer-centric approach to customer experience design and implementation, typically incorporating three steps:
1. Global Operating Model Review. A company must understand the current customer experience and how equipped it is to offer a tailored treatment strategy. A review of the global operating model and go-to-market strategies from marketing, sales, and service is required. By looking at all of the inputs and outputs, the company can gain detailed insight into what services it provides, how well it provides them, the challenges it faces, and how well it is organized to provide services.
2. Understanding Customer Needs and Intentions. Second, develop a detailed understanding of customer needs and intentions, as well as how each customer experiences the company across its life cycle. That requires assessing the current customer experience across all segments, interactions, and communications channels to determine the needs for any one segment.
In conducting this analysis, a company must consider the customer’s experience from the customer’s own perspective, using voice of the customer data and customer feedback obtained through monitoring interactions. The company can identify the “moments of truth,” or points in the customer experience that could enhance or weaken the customer’s perception of the company.
3. Building a Blueprint and Operational Road Map. Determine how the company should provide the customer experience. That means identifying which functional capabilities must be delivered through specific channels (Web, voice, email); how those capabilities should be provided; and what service factors are relevant to match expectations. The blueprint provides a treatment model for all customer segments across all interaction channels. The blueprint should map available resources against the most critical service needs and expectations of customers.
A customer experience blueprint can help deliver superior customer satisfaction and retention and lower the costs of service. Not having one could lead to an experience that negatively reflects on the company and its brand.
Michael Flodin is the global lead for Accenture’s Customer Relationship Management Service Operations Group, which focuses on contact center operations and customer experience. Dwayne Norton, who has more than 25 years of industry and consulting experience in customer relationship management, is the North American specialty lead for CRM Service Transformation–Service Operations and Analytics.