The top 10 most frequently asked questions about customer experience
Can B2B companies use the same customer experience strategies as B2C companies?
The short answer is “yes”. B2B organizations can indeed use the same type of CX strategies as B2C companies. But it’s also a lot more complex, as they are very distinct types of markets. The biggest difference between them might be that the human relations in a B2B market are incredibly strong.
Many B2B companies for instance have account managers who really make a big difference. Because of this strong human connection, some B2B companies have not yet invested sufficiently in technology which means that they’re a little bit behind the line. So in that aspect, of blending the human touch with a seamless tech layer, they can still learn a lot from B2C companies.
Just think along the dimension of data. Many B2B companies now use data to install preemptive maintenance. Spare parts are now for instance proactively brought to a factory based on that information. Or Kone, for example, is installing sensors in elevators to make sure that no one gets stuck anymore. So you see how data and ‘invisible’ behind the scene adaptations are really helping to improve the process and the customer experience at the same time. Or think about interfaces. Many B2B companies would gain so much by decreasing the friction in the experiences they offer there.
It’s pretty simple, actually: B2B customers, too, are accustomed to easy to use mobile phones and their apps. They have that same standard for their interactions with B2B companies. Examples and cases here are hard to find in B2B, but there are some very inspiring exceptions like the one from Deere & Company and their MyMaintenance application. The latter app helps owners, operators and fleet managers keep up with machine maintenance schedules and repairs in an easy and smooth manner. It allows them 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.
I also see huge opportunities in content marketing for B2B companies. I’m fascinated by how Maersk, the huge container ship company, approaches this. They have millions of followers on their social networks, while they ‘just’ offer the commodity of all commodities: a huge ship filled with containers. But they never talk about their containers, though. What they do is share stories about their adventures at sea, about how they are changing society or how they have been playing a role in the weather forecast. They tell really fascinating stories and that’s what makes them so successful. A lot of B2B companies are so focused on their product, that they forget that their company has a fantastic story to tell that they can share on platforms like LinkedIn or YouTube. A lot of B2B companies underestimate that sharing their experience with your customers, will increase the bond in a more digital way.
Last, but not least, “intelligence augmented” (IA) is crucial in B2B customer experience: make sure that your B2B sales people and frontline employees have digital tools that allow them to offer a better human service. In Belgium, we have this fantastic company called Showpad which arms salespeople with the interactive and personalized content they need to convince buyers with unique experiences that move beyond nondescript PPT presentations. It’s very smart to boost customer experience by enabling your own team with better tools so that they can excel during these precious human moments.
What comes first: customer experience or employee experience?
The link between employee experience and customer experience has always been a very strong one. People love to come up with the example of Amazon when this subject is discussed, claiming something like “Amazon may have happy clients, but so many of their employees are unhappy”. True, but when you dive into the research – like I did for my latest business book ‘The Offer You Can’t Refuse’ – what you see is very simple. You can have happy clients and unhappy employees. That can unfortunately happen. But it is an exception.
There is a very strong correlation between happy employees and happy clients. When you have happy employees, it’s almost certain that you will breed happy customers. It’s not working in the other direction, unfortunately, like the Amazon example illustrates. But great CX does start from the employee. So if you really asked me what comes first, my answer is employee experience, which is the beginning of everything.
How can you make sure that everyone is involved in delivering a great customer experience?
If you want to create a culture that is completely focused on creating a great customer experience, you have to realize that every employee plays a vital role there. Don’t make the mistake of putting a small group of elite people in charge of the customer. Organizations need to invest in involving the entire company in putting the customer first. For instance, co-create a vision with them and let them come up with solutions and ideas to increase the customer experience. Even better, give them the power to be part of the implementation of that process so that their engagement, too, will move beyond creative input. The reason why Zalando was so great at CX was because every last employee was in on it, and they all were empowered to act in the way that they thought would make the customer the happiest.
For me, the most important here is to understand that you have to invest time in convincing people one by one. There are no shortcuts here. There is no golden magical rule that you can apply to make sure that everyone is involved. No, it really takes time and effort. The more personal effort you invest in it, the more people that will be on board with you. Yes, that’s a long term strategy but it is highly effective.
We see an increase in digital usage, but how about our non-digital customers?
I’ll be very strict and clear on this one: please don’t not use your older, non-digitally savvy customer base as an excuse to lag behind in technology adoption. I always advise companies to take an inclusive approach. If you still have customers that are not part of this digital journey, always try to give them a fantastic service in another way.
But don’t let that group hold you back to innovate all the way. When it comes to innovation and customer experience, you should focus on the leaders of the pack, the early adopters. Make sure that you bring digital value to them. If not, you’re going to slow down your own evolution.
Should a traditional company copy paste certain CX ideas from big tech players?
We often look at big technology companies as inspiration for excellent customer service. That’s also because of people like me, giving so many presentations about Amazon, Google, Netflix and Tesla which have all been excelling at customer experience. These giants indeed have truly set the standards in the mobile, social and 4G contexts and really understood how to create a fantastic experience based on those technologies. So it definitely does make sense that we copy paste from them. But at the same time, I would invite you to look at incumbents that have always excelled at reinventing themselves for their customers. They’re the type of companies that my business Partner and friend Peter Hinssen would call “Phoenixes”, and they are a very rich source of inspiration when it comes to CX.
I’m talking about companies like Disney, Walmart and Target that are really rethinking their business model as well as their approach towards customers. My current presentations are filled with examples of these types of non-tech companies that are kings at customer experience. And I would invite you to learn from those as well. In my opinion, the world is like one big safari: look around and learn from how other companies are treating their customers. Steal a little bit with your eyes and then apply their successes in your market.
What is the best way to measure the impact of CX?
There’s always a lot of debate about how best to measure customer experience. That you need to measure it, is obvious. But to be honest, “how to measure it” seems not the most relevant question to me. You could work with NPS. Or customer satisfaction. That’s all fine. The really crucial question, though, is “what do you do with that information”? How do you translate that back to into your organization? Is it just a PowerPoint that you discuss with the board? Or do you drill it down to make sure that everyone in the organization knows about the feedback of your customers?
It’s clear to me that the latter is a much more efficient approach. Also, how do you give that feedback back to your customers? Do you talk with the detractors – those people that give you a low score – and talk with them to understand why? Do you connect with the people who give you a 9 or a 10 to see if they could become an even bigger ambassador of your organization?
In short: the question is not “how to measure it?”. The question is: “what do we do with the results?”. There’s a huge opportunity here to have a higher impact with that precious data.
What do we need to do with the results from our customer satisfaction research?
This question actually builds upon the previous one. Personal contact and feedback are obviously very valuable. If someone rates you just a 3 out of 10, talk with those people. Make sure that you understand why they are not satisfied and find a solution to connect back to them. Sometimes you’ll just find out that there’s not a good fit between what you do and what they expect. And then you can also communicate that back.
But I cannot stress enough how important it is to communicate back to customers. The same goes for those who did gave you high ratings. Ask them why they like you so much. Ask them how you could support them even more. Truly let them become part of your community. If you manage that in a smart way, you can actually create a huge impact on the market. The same with your employees: drill down the results to make these as tangible and as valuable as possible for every employee. And then share that knowledge with them on a personal level.
How can we make our customer experience more unique and not just seamless?
Many people believe that in the end customer experience will be the same in every organization and that the world will be totally grey and boring because we’re all doing the same thing. I totally disagree. That would mean that customer experience is only about optimizing processes. I think that’s just the bottom of the story. What you need to do is of course, install the processes to make sure you have a fluent service, but the difference is not made with these processes. The difference is made with your own identity. It’s made by your own culture. How you implement it will make a difference. And here you need creativity. You need positive energy. And that is the differentiator. The processes is just the basic need.
Where should we focus on if we work in a commodity business?
I’d like to challenge a part of that question first: is there really such a thing as a commodity business? Isn’t that just something that happens when we allow ourselves to become boring and by not being unique?
I believe that every organization has a unique story to tell. Every organization can add services on top of the products that they deliver. If you are in a “commodity” market, just figure out what the services are that you can build around it. If you are an insurance company, maybe you can become a partner in living, like Centraal Beheer did (read their story here.). If you are like Maersk that I wrote about above, you’re not just moving containers from A to B. No, you’re having adventures at sea and you can talk about that. There’s always a story. There’s always value.
Typically, in commodity markets, businesses are so focused on product and price that they forget about the other things that can add value. If you focus on these other parts, services and story, you can truly differentiate yourself.
Digital is great, but can we go all the way? How about privacy?
The issue of privacy only seems to be growing in importance: “can we do all the things that we want to do in customer experience under this strict privacy legislation”? The problem is that we too often begin this discussion by zooming in on the legislation. That’s the wrong starting point because you’ll always keep yourself in the gray zone. You’ll always try to optimize your value within the limits of the legislation.
Start from a different point. Instead of worrying about privacy, worry about customer value. Ask yourself “how can we create the best possible customer value?”. And only then zoom in on the second question: “what kind of data do we need for that”? In most cases where you want to create new customer value, you will be allowed to do so. Because your starting point is exactly in the interest of the customer. This mindset is crucial because I really believe that in a few years from now legislation about privacy and data will be a lot stricter than today.
And because of that, your reputation will be an excellent asset, … or your downfall. When the day comes that customers will be able to decide to whom they will give their data, they will only do so to those companies that they trust. Build that relationship of trust now, while you still can. I believe that those companies that – today – are giving most value back based on the data, will be the only ones to have access to customer data in the future. Make sure that you’re among them.
So, these were the questions I’m most frequently asked about when it comes to customer experience. I hope that you found the answers useful. Make sure to let me know what your biggest challenge and questions are about CX too. I’m always curious to learn about the interests and challenges of CX professionals.