Customer-centric strategies have been the mainstay of B2C companies like Amazon and Google. But today B2B the landscape of business-to-business relationships is changing. Industry-leading B2B companies increasingly respond to intensifying global competition by putting customer-centricity and experience at the heart of the strategy. For a very many B2B companies, across many sectors, the growing influence of customer-experience strategies and the bold moves of customer-centric leaders pose a critical challenge.
Traditionally, being successful in the B2B arena has been largely a matter of being in the right markets, offering superior products and services, or being the lowest-cost producer. These advantages have come under threat from increasing global competition and many players have invested in functional excellence. But while these benefits are great, they are dissipating quickly as competitors tap the increased mobility of labor markets and expanded access to knowledge.
This is why the emerging battle in B2B will be fought on the smart combining of digital and non-digital transformation to improve customer experience. A holistic, cross-functional transformation of a company’s core, including its culture, enabled by digitization offers a significant opportunity for differentiation and competitive advantage, especially as new competitors fluent in digital tools move into the B2B space. The trick is striking the right balance between digital and human interaction in B2B’s more complex customer relationships.
Investing in improved customer experience pays dividends. We have seen companies substantially raise customer-satisfaction scores through significant improvements in operational performance. These improvements can lower customer churn by 10 to 15 %, increase the win rate of offers by 20 to 40 percent, and lower costs to serve by up to 50 percent. In parallel, as customer experience improves, employee satisfaction tends to increase as well, because a more direct connection with customers adds meaning to employees’ work and helps them witness customer satisfaction.
Business-to-business customers are already demanding a better experience. In a recent McKinsey survey of 1,000 B2B decision makers, lack of speed in interactions with their suppliers emerged as the number-one “pain point,” mentioned twice as often as price. And digital solutions loom large in executives’ thinking as a way to make routine tasks more efficient. Some 86 percent of respondents said they prefer using self-service tools for reordering, rather than talking to a sales representative.2
Yet the reality at most B2B companies is far from this vision. Many companies often need days to provide a quote, require customers to fill in complicated order forms (often on paper), and frequently leave customers in the dark about the status of their order.