6 fantastic cases in B2B customer experience
At the end of my keynote presentations, I regularly receive reactions from audience members working in a B2B industry. They tend to claim that creating a flawless, frictionless and wow-inspiring customer experience is a lot harder in a B2B environment than it is in a B2C space. True, the B2B customer relationship tends to be a lot more complex, as it is often linked with price and payment terms, service levels, legal and tax considerations, logistical needs or intricate approval processes. But it is my honest opinion that this type of complexity really screams for streamlining, simplification and personalization. There are truly so many exciting opportunities in B2B customer experience, especially when you realize that the B2B customer-experience rates significantly lag behind those of retail customers: B2C companies typically score in the 65 to 85 percent range, while B2B companies on average sore less than 50 percent. And this gap will become even more apparent as B2B customer expectations rise.
So today, I wanted to inspire my B2B readers out there with some great customer experience cases in their sector, in the hope that it will help them find some opportunities of their own.
A quantum leap in service and maintenance: Deere & Company
Deere & Company – you’ll probably be more familiar with their brand name John Deere – is a renowned American corporation that manufactures agricultural, construction, and forestry machinery. It obviously has a big pool of B2B customers, and it has recently made a major expansion into B2B eCommerce, with a heavy focus on supporting mobile applications. An example is their MyMaintenance application which helps owners, operators and fleet managers keep up with machine maintenance schedules and repairs: it allows to view equipment on a map, see nearby machines, see a machine’s maintenance plan via barcode scan, view tasks associated with each maintenance interval, keep track of maintenance costs and view machines that are due or past due for maintenance. And best of all, the application links directly to the ordering system by sending alerts allowing customers to buy parts and installation service. It’s fantastic to see how such an old school engine company is able to completely redefine the experience of their customers: making them smarter and helping them save so much time.
Using VR & AR for a better customer experience: Thyssenkrupp & Coca Cola
Thyssenkrupp is a German multinational which focuses on industrial engineering and steel production. It’s Elevator branch recently launched new Virtual Reality showrooms that are currently installed across Asia and the Middle East. With VR’s 360-degree environment, customers and visitors get an astonishingly realistic feeling of their products, solutions, and the way technologies work. Moreover, the VR principle enables maximum customization: customers profit from various options that can be realized in an instant, as for example the particular design of the cabins and the applied materials. Coca Cola had a similar problem and solution for its B2B customers, who often had a major problem visualizing how the vending machines or coolers would look in their space. So it turned to AR to help them see how each type of beverage display would look and fit in their store, which helps them feel more confident in their purchase.
Cocreating a better experience: Mastercard
What better way to offer a phenomenal customer experience than by really listening to the needs of that customer and design customized solutions. MasterCard Labs – the innovation lab inside MasterCard – is for instance a brilliant example of boosting the personalized customer experience through customer co-creation. Maytag, the largest supplier of washing machines that are used in laundromats, was of its business customers with a very concrete problem: their machinery typically operate on coins which is a hopelessly outdated approach in a dematerializing world. When MasterCard Labs was presented with Maytag’s challenge, they built a prototype of an app called ‘Clothespin’ in the course of just one week. The app allows customers to use the laundromat ‘coin-free’, paying directly with their mobile phone and if they want, they can enjoy a beverage at the coffee bar next door while their laundry is being processed, because they are notified when the wash is done. This is actually a typical example of B2B2C: Mastercard offers a great customer experience to Maytag by helping it help its own customers better. I love that.
Helping the customer help its own customers: UPS
The following example of UPS follows the very same principle. UPS now has APIs for its shipping integrated into platforms like Shopify: when customers are doing their checkout applications on the platform, UPS is embedded, and they can just click and get the delivery. The companies obviously realizes that the digital aspect of shipping keeps growing, especially for SMBs (where the digital part of shipping will grow by a solid 19% in the coming three years). So they see it as their mission to make it easier for customers to do business online and integrate their applications.
Automating tedious tasks and saving time: Boxed
Boxed is an American online and mobile membership-free wholesale retailer. It’s an absolute king in removing friction in order to create a fantastic customer experience. It for instance created an AI tool called Smart StockUp that predicts when customers are running low of the type of daily products that they regularly purchase, like toilet paper, detergent or milk. Now this could also be a B2C example (though wholesale does imply that it works with a lot of companies), but Boxed is investigating if it can automate the response to these shortages with a test group of purely business customers who will automatically receive regular shipments of its products. This fully automated buying, in some sort of subscription-based commodity product model, will allow many of its B2B customers to save precious time and free themselves from some very tedious inventory issues.
That’s it for now. I hope that these B2B customer experience kings will inspire you, and that you will try to find ways of your own to put that “Wow!” and personalized approach back into the relationship with your customers.