B2C Influence on B2B Customer Expectations

There are obvious differences in the way B2C and B2B companies engage, interact with, and serve their respective customer bases.  Traditionally, this was appropriately based on significant differences in expectations from those customer groups.  However, recent research is indicating that this expectation gap is evaporating at an alarming rate.

This should not come as a surprise.  At the end of the day, the B2B buyer is a consumer too.  As such, they have become accustomed to dealing with B2C brands that provide intuitive, interconnected, accessible, real time, personalized experiences.  It would be unreasonable to think these same consumers readily change hats when entering their B2B buyer roles, and not expect to interact with their vendors in the same way.

Customer Expectations are Evolving

Recently, a client of ours shared a quote from one of their largest customers that perfectly describes the convergence of B2C expectations on the B2B world:

“Shouldn’t I expect the same level of service when I spend $50M with you, as I do when I buy a $50 pair of shoes?”

The truth is, the proliferation of digital capabilities in our everyday lives has established completely new standards and expectations for:

  • Ease of engagement
  • Access to information
  • Response time
  • Seamless experiences
  • Knowledge of interaction history
  • Capture of profile details (even needs, wants, preferences)

Thanks to disrupters like Google, Amazon, Uber, Netflix, and apps for daily banking and grocery ordering, we see lots of examples of how customer expectations are evolving.  In studies conducted by Salesforce and McKinsey, the importance of modern customer experience technology capabilities on customer expectations is glaringly evident:

  • 70 percent of consumers say technology has enabled them to easily take their business elsewhere for an experience that matches their expectations.
  • 75 percent of consumers expect a consistent experience whether mobile, in-person or social

These studies further demonstrate how these changing B2C expectations are impacting the B2B environment at an accelerated rate.

  • While 64 percent of B2C consumers expect companies to interact with them without delay, 80 percent of B2B customers expect companies to interact with them in real time
  • And while 72 percent of B2C consumers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, that number is 89 percent for B2B customers

But before investing heavily in next generation CX capabilities to create an “Amazon like experience”, it is critical to understand what your specific customers value.  In other words, what improvements will result in them buying more, buying more often, staying longer, and referring others.

Understanding and Prioritizing Customers’ Needs is Critical

That is another reason Voice of Customer (VoC) is so important.  Without proper understanding of your specific customers’ requirements, the significant cost, time, and potential disruption associated with major technology enhancements, may not even deliver the change in customer experience or buying behavior you expected.  We should start by validating what customers need, value, and are willing to pay for as they interact with your specific product or services.

In addition to selecting the right customer experience capabilities, prioritization is also critical.  Your specific customer base may not be interested in certain B2C type engagement models, or may not be ready for them based on a variety of factors like their own internal limitations, complexity or employee demographic.

Only with a detailed understanding of the specific expectations and values of your customers can we establish the right process improvements, technology road maps, metrics, communication and action plans that will have the greatest potential impact on customer experience and your business performance.

About CCS:

Customer Centered Strategies (CCS) helps companies to remove internal process barriers to providing great customer experiences.  Voice of the Customer (VoC) is used to understand the moments in the customer journey that matter the most, and to prioritize those high-value Business Process Improvements (BPI) that will drive customer experience, loyalty, and revenue growth.

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