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Many B2B companies simply haven’t prioritized customer experience – yet. In fact, across several industries, B2B customers rate their experiences lower than the worst experiences they have as consumers. If your company sells to other companies, this is both an opportunity and a red flag.

It’s an opportunity, because B2B firms that deliver great customer experience see more customers and greater profits. It’s a danger sign because delivering a poor customer experience translates directly to lost customers and lost profits.

To find out why customer experience for B2B is so important, I interviewed Michael Hinshaw, President of customer experience management company McorpCX, and a Top 20 Customer Experience Influencer. Here’s how he explained the situation.

Four Reasons for Business-to-Business Companies to Believe in Customer Experience

1. Customer Experience is Proven to Drive Loyalty in B2B

Just as in the consumer market, great customer experience directly correlates to increased purchase amounts, share of spend, likelihood to repurchase and both willingness to recommend and actual recommendations.

2. B2B Customers Bring Their Consumer Expectations to Work

How many of you leave your emotions and opinions at home? Your customers don’t either. We’ve heard B2B customers say things like “How hard could it possibly be to give us a single login?” and “Why can’t their app recognize me when I open it?”

3. Bad Experiences Cause B2B Customers to Leave

In the consumer world, nearly 9 in 10 consumers say they’ll switch after a single bad experience. In B2B, that number drops to “only” 7 out of 10. That might see like better odds, but B2B is more complicated – and ‘trapped’ customers can’t easily leave. But once they do, it’s a real struggle to win them back.

4. B2B Customers Broadly Share What They See as Bad Experiences

Guess what – those ‘trapped’ customers will likely do more harm than good. Maybe because they can’t leave, 95% will share their bad experiences with others compared to the 79% of consumers who complain.

How to Improve Your Customer Experience: 6 Best Practices

Together, these and other trends are driving broad recognition that embracing customer experience is a critical path forward in today’s increasingly complex business landscape. With that, here are 6 things you should consider as you begin your customer experience improvement journey.

1. What’s the problem?

What is the “job” the customer is trying to do? Focus is important. Begin with a specific goal in mind. Define the problem you’re trying to solve, and be clear on what you want to accomplish.

2. Who are you solving for?

Solve for a single customer type (a “persona”). This makes it easier to define and solve the customer experiences.

3. What’s happening today?

Talk to your people, and to your customers. You have lots of insights internally – and your customers will tell you what’s working, and what isn’t.

4. Visualize the Journey

Among other things, you need to capture what customers are thinking, feeling and doing in ways that are easy to understand. This means you need to design them so they’re attractive, complete, and easy to understand.

5. Socialize and share

Be sure to communicate what you’re doing with key stakeholders, including team members responsible for delivering different parts of the experience. We can’t overstate the importance of this step for driving understanding, and a consensus for change.

6. Take action

This may seem self-evident, but the process is no good if you don’t drive improvement.

Getting Ahead of Expectations

When it comes to designing and delivering a better customer experience, we see that those companies who get ahead of their customers’ changing expectations are the ones who grow more rapidly and prosper. On the other hand, those who react slowly or tentatively are increasingly marginalized.

With the significant revenue upsides attached to being a customer experience leader – to say nothing of the forces of change and digital disruption applying pressure to all industries – those B2B companies that grasp this concept early are the ones that have the best chances of thriving tomorrow.

New Partner of the Year Award for Customer Experience

These are just some of the reasons Microsoft has introduced a Partner of the Year award for Customer Experience this year. This award recognizes our partner companies who are bringing the voice of the customer into their businesses and using those insights to improve. Learn more about this award here.

Michael Hinshaw is a mentor and teaching fellow at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, and co-author of the best-selling book “Smart Customers, Stupid Companies: Why Only Intelligent Companies Will Thrive, and How to Be One of Them.” For more insights from Michael Hinshaw, follow him on Twitter @MichaelHinshaw, and visit on the web at www.mcorp.cx.

How are you addressing changing customer expectations in the B2B space? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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