Thriving B2B organizations have highlighted improving customer experience as a top strategic objective. Many have doubled down on these initiatives to make it through the pandemic and are now looking to build a B2B customer loyalty strategy that enables long-term success.
To gain perspective on what B2Bs need to do to earn customer loyalty right now, Fred Reichheld, Bain Fellow and the creator of Net Promoter System, joined me for a highly interactive and engaging fireside chat and Q&A session. B2B experience practitioners from a broad range of industries — including high tech, automotive, healthcare equipment, telecommunications, and manufacturing — tuned in to understand how they can drive loyalty right now.
Here are my top five insights from the MedalliaTalks session with Fred on how you can build a B2B customer loyalty strategy that drives long-term value:
B2B relationships are often ruled by complexity — diversity of stakeholders, touchpoints, and KPIs are just a few of the dimensions to consider. This complexity creates a fragile ecosystem where mistrust and dissatisfaction can quietly brew. Fred explained how critical it is to engage the right stakeholders, with the right requests, at the right time. Customize the feedback process to ensure users, influencers, and decision-makers provide your organization with actionable feedback through the lens of what they care about. For example, do not ask a decision-maker for feedback on subtle changes in feature functionality.
Be sure to remember that there’s a higher standard in B2B because many customers won’t waste their time with long, theoretical market research types of surveys. They’ve invested significant time and effort into being your customer and they want your organization to recognize that. Giving feedback should be viewed as a good use of their time.
Don’t forget that B2B customers are human and realize amazing experiences in their daily lives. They are constantly being bombarded with feedback requests from the myriad of brands they interact with. They are keenly aware of which brands take feedback seriously and, like all of us, survey fatigue exists with them. Make sure to use all possible customer feedback sources — or signals — so when you ask a question it is something you truly need the answer to.
As discussed in 5 Ways Experience Signals are Shaping the Future of CX, it may be tempting to ask how often a user logs into your platform, or what their account’s typical order volume is, but your credibility decreases as customers expect you to know this information. Response rates increase as customers feel like their feedback matters because appropriate and thoughtful questions are being asked. And keep in mind, if a B2B customer opts out of providing feedback despite the survey’s thoughtful design, that can be an indication that the relationship is not healthy.
One of the most overlooked approaches with building loyalty is amplifying the voice of promoters. When you do something that’s remarkable for a customer, make it easy for them to talk about that to their friends and their community and colleagues. It can be the most effective marketing you do.
Today, the flood of marketing messages in prospects’ inboxes and social feeds goes largely unnoticed. Last month, Bain & Co. and Twitter released the results from their Technology Purchasing Trends Survey where they uncovered that B2B customers trust their community sources twice as much, on average, as they do direct messages from marketers. They also found that since COVID-19, buyers rely even more heavily on their community sources. Marketers need to get out of their comfort zone and find creative ways to connect your key customer advocates to prospects.
In a live poll during the webinar, a majority of respondents said that their primary customer satisfaction or loyalty metric was up or flat. Surprisingly, 36% said it improved initially & remains higher than before the pandemic. Fred attributed some of this success to how quickly B2Bs have managed to transition to remote work. Because B2B employers continue to make life better, easier, and less scary for their employees, employees are willing to invest extra energy into doing great things for their customers.
Recent Medallia research, Setting the Standard in CX for B2B, shows that creating and sustaining a positive customer experience in B2B are well worth the effort. Specifically, the research found that these customer experience leaders are 13% more likely to have positive revenue growth, 16% points more likely to have more than 5% growth in their customer base, and 17% more likely to have made more than five significant innovations in their products, services, or practices.
The ubiquity of technology has made “keeping up with the Joneses” a must-do. Once one forward-thinking organization adopts a technology, others will recognize the new customer expectation that has been set and quickly follow suit. With the rapid changes happening in the marketplace, relying on old, lethargic approaches is a sure way to becoming irrelevant. Finding ways to have a near real-time view of what’s important to your customers and how they feel about their interactions has never been more important.
Gone are the days when long, annual customer and employee surveys were only understood and used by few people in a B2B organization. The best companies are using technology to capture many feedback signals in near real-time, then engage lots of people throughout the organization to drive meaningful actions. Technology can help make the tedious work of data analysis super efficient, easy, accurate, and fast.
Going into 2021, Fred is most excited about video and speech as they engender deeper human connection in the most efficient ways possible for the customer. But our audience poll revealed interpreting unstructured data, such as comments from open-ended comment fields, social media, call center notes, etc., by using text analytics was an area of focus for next year from many participants.
This is no surprise given that digital transformation has increased in importance over the past few months. Efforts that previously took years are now being completed in months. When properly executed, transforming digital experiences in B2B can be a major driver of satisfaction, growth, and cost savings.
With limited time and budget, executives need to know which investments and decisions will help their organizations survive and thrive. In turbulent times, agile-based organizations dynamically learning in near real-time are better able to adapt than those relying on dated information.
Innovative leaders are accelerating their efforts to improve the quality, quantity, and frequency of feedback by leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence to process vast quantities of customer insights.
As William Gibson said more than 25 years ago, “The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.”