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Digital Strategy, Customer Experience • 10 min read

B2B Experience Management: Connecting Business and Experience Design in Three Steps

Mitchell Bakker | 30-07-2020

Fortunately, a growing number of B2B companies realise that facilitating customers by digital means is not enough, and that they also need to tempt and support their customers as a service provider. The challenge there is to design the appropriate digital experience to fit their vision. So, how do successful companies approach experience management? Use three steps to connect the experience design to your business. 

The saturation of the B2B business market has made it increasingly difficult for companies to distinguish themselves. Many services are now considered commodities. Online-oriented buyers and purchasers in particular are basing their decisions on a lot more than price and quality alone. The digital experience plays a major role in their choice. Both practical experience and surveys regularly confirm these insights. According to global research firm Gartner, eight out of ten companies expect to differentiate themselves through their customer experience. One unique aspect of business-to-business is that many companies already operate in a customer-centric way, offering personal, customer-oriented service. Their interactions have been personal and one-on-one from the very first. The question is how to translate that into a digital, scalable version without losing these values.

Connecting business and design:

Experience management aims to understand customers so well that as a company, you can interact with them individually by digital and preferably, automated means. It is all about understanding your customers, identifying their needs and predicting their behaviour so that you can meet their needs better than your competitors can. This does not mean simply facilitating purchases or transactions. You also need to tempt your customers with a cross-sell or upsell, support them in their activities through personal advice and help them to perform tasks more easily or optimally. By listening carefully, you can respond to tomorrow's needs more effectively and increase customer loyalty.

1. Listen

Experience management will only be successful if you actually understand and fulfil your customers’ needs. So, start by listening to them. How do they experience the brand and its supporting services and solutions? It is best to combine operational and experience data. Operational data includes information such as numbers of sales, average order value, average time on site and the Net Promoter Score (NPS). This data can subsequently be compared to the measured experience; for example, the NPS during the checkout flow.

2. Analysis

The next question is then to determine why someone gave (part of) an experience an 8 out of 10 or instead, a 5. By investigating those figures and comments, clarifying them and linking them in a visual dashboard, you can create a good impression of the sentiment; the experience data. If a customer abandons the checkout process, you want to know why. For example, make sure to have a survey in place immediately. If this reveals that the obstacle for that particular person was the delivery time or extra charges, you can take the appropriate action.

3. Automated action

One option is for your customer service department to receive an alert to contact the customer , but it is even better to offer an automated alternative directly via your digital channel. By displaying a notification for an express or free delivery option, you design an experience that entices your customer to make that purchase after all. You can include these automatic signals and their follow-up throughout the funnel.

As a company, you should preferably apply this principle to as many customer journeys as possible. For example, the data will tell you how many returns you receive on average, and what percentage incurred damage during the initial delivery. A customer who receives a pallet of drink crates should receive a notification asking about the delivery experience as soon as the product arrives. Any damaged goods could then automatically result in a replacement order for the warehouse. This type of experience management allows you to filter out unnecessary human interventions. Service staff is freed up to focus on other work. In this way, digitisation makes a significant contribution to an organisation's scalability.

Hygiene factor requiring organisational attention 

Fortunately, more and more B2B companies realise that they need experience management to distinguish themselves from the competition. B2C companies already tend to compete with each other in terms of (digital) customer experience, but now we can see this becoming more important for B2B companies as well. In that sense, customer experience is becoming a hygiene factor; a basic requirement to keep up with the market. In addition to other forms of expertise, this also requires experience management to be embedded  throughout the organisation. Particularly in B2B, marketing, digital, logistics, service and product development tend to be separate departments. At a time when digital touchpoints and customer journeys must be optimized consistently and in combination, this is no longer an option. As the previous example shows, one action (delivery and subsequent notification) affects the other discipline (product handling and service), so the two must interconnect internally. We refer to this process as breaking down the silos.

Experience management in practice

How is this implemented in practice? Carlsberg has used this method to create a digital platform that makes it easier for the brewer to enter new countries. An additional service layer allows them to act more explicitly as a service provider by offering entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry trends from their own region. If a certain cider is proving popular, entrepreneurs will be presented with this data online. The brewer can adjust its product portfolio or add special offers. By listening, analysing and then taking the right action internally, Carlsberg becomes a trusted adviser and helps its customers to improve performance.

Read more about our Carlsberg case, here

A major supplier of animal feed recently introduced a platform that makes intelligent use of background data analysis. Farmers receive personalised digital assistance  with their product selection to help them reduce CO2 emissions. The digital environment also encourages them not to order half-full containers by means of incentives such as carbon pricing. Based on the objectives and analysis, a connection has been created between the business objectives and customer needs through experience design.

Both examples clearly show that if you always take the three steps as a guide and then put together a roadmap with goals based on that information, experience management gains tangible value. Now that B2B companies are guided less and less by IT and technology alone, the scope for customer thinking is growing. The result is better experiences, differentiation and business scalability… And above all, loyalty.

Read more about Experience Management in our dedicated page, here.

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Mitchell Bakker

Head of Define and Design

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