Updated: Jan 19
Customer experience (CX) comes down to how customers perceive your company. It’s built over time and across every touchpoint at which customers interact with your company. Improving customer experience through dedicated CX management processes can make major differences in how much consumers trust your brand and how successful your company is.
What is Customer Experience for B2B Companies?
Many businesses that sell to other businesses definitely have a sales department, and might have a marketing department. An area that’s often missing from the equation is customer experience (CX). Whether you have a full CX department or an individual tasked with understanding customer needs, your CX experts should work with these other departments to create a seamless journey. You may be doing your best to give customers what they want and offering products or services that deliver beyond what customers expect, but if there’s no commitment to CX, your company may not be reaching its full potential. Or it may fall behind the competition.
Making CX a major focus requires knowing what customer experience is and how it benefits your business.
Customer experience is not synonymous with customer service or customer satisfaction. Although they’re a big part of it. CX encompasses so much more.
According to the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), it’s “the perception that customers have of an organization...based on interactions across all touchpoints, people and technology over time.”
CX is the sum of all the ways, big and small, a customer comes in contact with your brand. It includes everything from how they first hear of your brand to post-purchase interactions, including:
Advertising customers may have seen
How intuitive your website navigation is
Ease of use of the product or service
The ordering process
How knowledgeable your salespeople are
How helpful your customer experience people are
The list goes on.
With such a sweeping definition it should be clear how crucial it is to have a well-designed, well-managed and expertly executed customer experience journey mapped out. But before you can master customer experience, you need to understand what informs it. The tricky thing is, what a great customer experience means to your customers is something you have to learn about as you go.
Even if you’ve never put any thought into CX before, if you have customers, you have customer experience. Customers have already formed perceptions of your company. To them, your brand and your customer experience are one and the same. Each of their previous interactions with your brand has led to how they see your company in the present. Proactively managing their experience gives you a chance to steer perceptions and to continually improve customer satisfaction, customer service and every other touchpoint going forward. By taking a more active role in the CX process, you’re able to better understand what your customers want and make sure that’s what they get in the future.
Is Customer Experience the same thing as Customer Service?
How does Customer Experience differ from Customer Service?
People often equate customer experience with customer service. They picture call centers and chatbots fielding questions and complaints. It’s an understandable assumption because the two are closely linked. Customer service is one of the best inroads into understanding your customers. It allows you to examine direct feedback from customers.
Customer Service feedback is a wonderful touchpoint for understanding customer needs, such as:
Are there any issues with your product?
Do customers know how to use it?
Is your customer service team effectively answering questions?
Is customer support understanding and and solving problems?
Are your people friendly and helpful?
In some cases, customer service operations can be the entirety of a company’s CX endeavors. But CX can also be so much more. It’s difficult to define because it mean something different to every company.
Customer experience covers the entire journey, both well before and well after the purchase is made. Customer service occurs at a single point in time. It’s an ad hoc interaction. Customer experience on the other hand is represented by countless points—yes, including customer service interactions—along the way.
By taking what you learn via customer service, you can improve customer experience for transactions and interactions with current and future customers.
Why Do You Need a B2B Customer Experience Program?
Consider this, according to Deloitte “client-centric companies are 60 percent more profitable compared to companies not focused on the customer.”
A truly effective customer experience program shows your customers how much you value them while ensuring that they get what they value. It’s an ongoing conversation. If you listen closely there’s really no limit to how much better it can make your business-to-business interactions.
Identifying every possible touchpoint and paying attention to reactions by customers will give you insights into what you can do to improve. When you have a better idea of what your customers need, you can uncover sales opportunities within your current customer base.
Realizing just how many touchpoints there are will show you that there’s opportunity to amplify your brand through all of the channels your current and potential customers view you, creating new opportunities for sales.
When you put effort into improving customer experience, you not only engage customers by making them an even more important part of your story, you also make it easier to do business with you. A great customer experience has no hurdles. If customers feel less friction, they’re more likely to do business with you and to continue that relationship.
Research by Gartner bears this out by stating that “CX drives over two-thirds of customer loyalty, outperforming brand and price combined.” In other words, customers value a good experience above most other factors when deciding to do business with you again. The more effort you put into delivering a positive experience, the more likely those customers will be to return.
That brings us to what might be the most important aspect of customer experience: trust. When you show that you care about your customers, and make every interaction a positive one, trust develops. Ultimately, customer experience is about loyalty. When a customer trusts an organization, who makes it easy to do business, and provides exceptional service, why go anywhere else?
What a Customer Experience Professional Does
Customer experience is not something you can overhaul overnight. It takes time, patience and a lot of work. While the combined efforts of departments under the CX umbrella can make an impact overall, the best way to create a winning customer experience ecosystem is to put it in the hands of the expert customer experience professionals.
CXPA defines a customer experience professional as “a catalyst who enhances an organization's results by understanding, designing and improving experiences across the entire customer relationship.”
Customer experience professionals are trained to look at all aspects of experience. They have to be skilled in cross-functional areas to effectively measure and analyze data, plan CX strategy, manage projects and communicate insights throughout the company. It’s their job to figure out what customers need, plan how to meet those needs then see to it that CX goals become a reality.
It’s a constantly moving target. Learning on the fly is an essential skill too.
Customer Experience Management
The work done by CX professionals should be guided by customer experience management (CXM or CEM) principals. CXM comprises all of the efforts made to understand customers. It includes the development and implementation of strategies designed to improve customer experience.
The individual tasks on the CX professional you employ should ladder up to overarching CXM strategy and goals. Any company can make changes that positively impact customer experience in a given area, but those companies that wish to fully commit to customer-centric approach will need to adopt CXM practices on a wide scale.
How will you know if your CX efforts are successful without a CXM strategy? The company must have some idea how it wants to be perceived before day-to-day CX efforts can begin building towards that ideal. That is what CXM does.
How to Get Started
One of the reasons many companies do not have a formal customer experience process is that they don’t know where to begin. Getting started can be intimidating. There are so many touchpoints and so many variables to take into account at each touchpoint. Getting your CX program started is a topic that deserves its own deep dive. To give you a taste of what’s in-store, here are a few tips to help you get off on the right foot:
Identify your goals: what do you hope to achieve with a CX program
Involve the organization with improvements: CX is not only the responsibility of one department, but the organization as a whole
Conduct customer and employee research: understand quantitatively and qualitatively how customers see your brand and how employees see the customer interactions.
Conduct customer journey mapping to understand the touchpoints.
Map your vision for a customer-centric culture
Prioritize areas of opportunity: find the moments that matter most, starting with areas that have high impact and low effort.
Ultimately, how you define customer experience and how you implement your CXM will be determined by your company’s needs and resources. To share your CX vision and goals, and to begin making them a reality, contact Brilliant Workplaces!