Most of the things that are written about customer experience deals with business-to-consumer (B2C) activities. The Temkin Experience Ratings, for instance, deal solely with B2C interactions. So it’s no surprise that people often ask me if customer experience matters for business-to-business (B2B) interactions. The quick answer is “absolutely yes!”
Most of the organizations that I work with are large enterprises that often have a mix of B2B and B2C activities. It turns out that you can use the same basic approaches in B2B that you use for B2C. In most B2B (and B2C) environments, I start with the basic customer experience building blocks:
Of course, B2B is not the same thing as B2C, so you need to apply these models in different ways. A large majority of B2B customer experience efforts fall into one of three different models:
- Small business customers. Selling and servicing small businesses is very much like consumer markets. You can treat the buyer/user as one entity. As with consumers, one of the keys to success is figuring out how to segment your customer base and tailor your interactions to meet the needs of your most important segments.
- Enterprise customers. When you have large companies as your customers, you need to understand the dynamics of their organization. The decision maker is often times different than the administrative contact who may be different than the actual user of your products and services. Companies need to understand how these collections of roles inside of customer accounts affects their loyalty. This insight must drive the way that you look for, and act on, customer feedback.
- Distribution channels. Often times, companies reach their ultimate customers through distribution channels. This includes resellers in IT markets, independent agents in insurance, retailers for consumer brands, and employers and brokers for groups health plans. To succeed in this model, you need to understand the needs of the end customer and support/incent/coerce/ your partners to deliver the experiences that drive loyalty.
The good news is that once you understand your target audience (small business owner, contract holder, executive, agent, etc.), you apply the same basic customer experience principles.
The bottom line: Customer experience is as important in B2B as it is in B2C