90% of B2B leaders believe that customer experience is key to their companies’ strategic priorities and 75% of those believe that importance will increase over the next two years according to a 2017 study published by Accenture.
Given this high level of importance, many B2B mid-market CMOs have assumed the responsibility of delivering on the promise of customer experience and are doing so amidst a continual change in their B2B buyers and customers. This is evidenced by the following:
Most customers are 57% of the way through the buying process before they engage with sales (CEB, Now Gartner)
More than 90% of decision makers do not respond to cold outreach (Harvard Business Review)
61% of all B2B transactions start online (Accenture Strategy)
69% of B2B buyers are wanting personalization with website content that speaks directly to their company (DemandGen Report)
While these ever changing behaviors occurring in the B2B buying landscape have certainly elevated the role of the CMO in customer experience, the reality is that CX is a team sport.
While B2B organizations must first adopt a customer experience culture, which must be driven by the CEO, here are just three departments (beyond marketing) that also play a vital role in customer experience success.
While the research above does show that B2B buyers are taking longer in their purchase process to engage with sales, they are still vital to delivering customer experience.
The Accenture study noted above highlights the importance of indirect channel sales with 60% of executives stating, “external parties influenced more than 25% of their annual corporate revenue.” However, the same research shows that only 21% have “total control over their sales networks.”
Sales leaders need to go beyond the myopic view of selling direct vs. indirect and view sales holistically from a customer viewpoint. This means establishing the right process, feedback loops, requiring vision into partner’s sales pipelines and implementing the right systems that enable this vision. It also means enabling partners to sell as you would a direct, field sales team.
Fact is, many B2B customers prefer to buy from partners who specialize in specific verticals and are able to provide a layer of expertise that some vendors are unable to provide. Without a complete understanding of the sales process, direct and indirect, and how to better serve the customers during this phase, organizations will be left to guess work and customer experience will be lacking.
I once asked a VP of Operations to give me his best description of his job. His response was simple, “our job is to make things work”. While the answer was brief , albeit right, we did go onto discuss the need for his organization to establish and manage processes for the business. This meant, ensuring the right technology was implemented to enable strategy, overseeing data management which the foundation of any successful customer experience initiative, and implementing and governing business process.
While many organizations view their operations personnel as tactical, they are strategic; in that without their support it will be impossible to orchestrate the full arc of customer experience.
Operations teams need to be integrated to every facet of the organization to provide their guidance, expertise and ensure customer visibility is enabled and the insights from the data can be properly activated for continual improvement.
It seems obvious to state that customer support is a key organization in delivery of customer experience. However, many organizations isolate CX solely to customer support, while others do not take advantage of the data that exists in customer support systems.
Organizations would benefit greatly if they mined the data and customer insight that exists in support systems. This information would give them intelligence on their customers’ product usage, challenges, and product success, which should be used to continually be shaping the CX strategy.
Organizations that are intent on delivering exceptional customer experience, must adopt a customer first mindset and culture, which in reality will cause every department to operate differently. However, aligning these three along with marketing will go a long way into exceeding with CX.