By Maria Geokezas, VP of Client Services at Heinz Marketing

Most conversations about customer experience involve consumer brands.  Even when talking with B2B customer care professionals, examples of consumer customer experiences pervade.  More often than not, the sentiments expressed revolve around a negative customer service experience related to a customer care specialist who either didn’t give a damn – didn’t listen, didn’t understand the problem or didn’t have the power to resolve it regardless.  It’s most likely not so much an issue with the individual customer care specialist, but rather a host of cultural and/or systemic issues that exist within the organization that are preventing that one employee from doing his or her best and providing a positive customer experience.

B2B Customer Experience

We lean on consumer customer experience stories because they are more memorable and easier to relate to.  It’s not surprising then that B2B International found only 14% of all b2b marketers reported customer experience was ingrained in the fabric of their companies.  What makes customer experience so elusive, especially in the B2B world, is that in order to be successful, the entire organization needs to be focused on the same thing:  The customer.

The stakes are high.  Customer-centric brands that have created a superior customer experience bring in 5.7 times more revenue than their competitors.  Broadly speaking, there are a couple dynamics common to B2B organizations that make customer experience so elusive:

  1. An over-reliance on this quarter’s new customer acquisition as the core to revenue generation
  2. Taking company culture for granted thereby not understanding the impact employees have on customer experience and their ability to build long-term, ongoing revenue generation opportunities

 

Company Culture

Organizations committed to improving customer experience invest in their employees.  Creating the right culture, a place where people want to work, not just need to work each day is important. A recent study by Harvard Business Review found when employees liked the cultural, technological, and physical environments of their workplace, they are more likely to stay long term, and those companies out-performed others in average revenue and profit.  But first there are strategic elements that must be in place to ensure company culture leads to a positive employee experience that impacts customer experience.

Here are a few key elements to explore when considering your organization’s culture and how your employee experience impacts customer experience.

Leadership:  It is essential executives of the organization model what they want to see within the organization.  Leaders who consistently prioritize customer insights and needs have the ability to create an environment of service and accountability that reverberates throughout the company, from customer care to sales, R&D, and IT.  A customer-centric orientation must be ingrained throughout the organization, starting at the top.

Listening to Employees:  When leadership understands what it takes for a front-line employee to do their job, it’s easier to foster an environment where employees are empowered to do the right thing for their customer.  This can happen a number of ways – through employee surveys and suggestion boxes – but really should occur via face-to-face interactions between leadership and front-line employees.

Accountability:  Holding team members throughout the organization accountable for delivering on the expectations of the customer and using measurable metrics in that regard provides much of the insight and data required to determine whether the organization is successful in its quest to be a customer experience leader.

Enable Agility:  Customers’ needs are fast-changing and unpredictable.  In order for organizations to be responsive to customer needs, they need to develop a culture that enables cross-functional agility.  Most organizations lean on technology to address this issue.  But technology won’t deliver CX results on its own.  Human processes and policies along with cross-functional partnerships must be in place for the technology to work.

Hiring the Right Employees:  Maybe most important is hiring employees who are passionate about serving the customer and ensuring they are empowered to make customer-centric decisions to consistently meet and exceed expectations.  Communication skills and product knowledge are trainable aspects of the role. A genuine desire to be the customer advocate is more elusive.  A “me-focused employee is not very likely to develop a customer-first attitude” says Trish Sparks, former Chief Customer Officer for Demandbase.

Tell us how your organization thinks about the relationship between employee experience and customer experience.