Thanks to the digital transformation, professional customer experience management is increasing in importance. Why this is the case, which special characteristics are to be considered for B2B and how companies should proceed are revealed by Martin Philipp. The Co-CEO of SC-Networks GmbH has more than 20 years of experience in online marketing and the sales of products and solutions which require a high degree of advisory in both the B2B and B2C sectors.
Mr Philipp, successful companies have always focused on the needs of their customers when it comes to taking decisions – they would have otherwise not been able to exist on the market for so long. However, customer experience management, or CXM, has gained in importance over the past few years. Why is that?
The growing digitalisation has been pivotal. Customers’ wishes have been considered more and more over the years, and thanks to customer relationship management, customer relations has also become valued. Yet, as it stands today, the digital transformation has changed information-gathering and purchasing behaviour drastically. Which is why it’s important for companies to establish a management system that is able to leave a positive impression on customers at every touchpoint.
The number of such touchpoints with the customer is growing: websites, landing pages, social media, professional networks or newsletters, to name just a few. Does this diversity make it easier or more difficult to satisfy the customer?
Precisely this is the big challenge nowadays. As it stands today, some companies have to ask if their current business model should not be questioned from the base up. The customer today expects to be able to gain their desired information regardless of place, time and device. On the one hand, this makes it more difficult; on the other hand, it is also a huge opportunity. That’s because potential customers can be reached much earlier in their purchasing process and their problems can be solved with user-centric solutions.
How does customer experience management differ from customer relationship management?
In customer relationship management, I give the customer what they expect; in customer experience management, the customer gets this and added value on top. While CRM is concerned with fostering relations to existing customers or customers about to close a deal, CXM supports the customer completely and across all touchpoints – from the initial contact to the entire customer life cycle. In this way, a satisfied customer can become a brand ambassador and win over new customers themselves. Thus, CXM is a kind of expansion of CRM.
While CRM is concerned with fostering relations to existing customers or customers about to close a deal, CXM supports the customer completely and across all touchpoints.
In the B2B sector, there are far fewer customers and potential customers than in B2C. Which special challenges await players in the business customer realm when it comes to customer experience management?
In B2B, several people normally decide, not just one like in B2C. What’s more, decisions are taken far less for emotional reasons; the hard facts are much more important. This also needs to be considered for CXM. The traditional sales force employee is often not enough in this case; rather, specialists with sales skills are needed. Moreover, the first surveys show that the B2B decision-makers transfer their information-gathering and purchasing behaviour from the private realm into the business world. This means they inform themselves well in advance of the actual purchasing process, independently and extensively.
How important is a professional marketing automation software in your eyes? Don’t the efforts and costs frequently exceed the possibilities of companies, especially small and medium-sized companies active in B2B?
A marketing automation software has more benefits than it costs. Without such a technology, it would hardly be possible to communicate the relevant content for all customers at the right time and at the right touchpoint, and to manage this communication. The current CRM software is more like an address system. Especially in B2B small to medium-sized enterprises, so-called best-of-breed approaches are called for, as they combine several systems with one another at interfaces. For instance, an acquisition platform, a customer experience platform and a transaction platform.
It is becoming more and more important to define personas (...). Once potential customers, their needs and their information-gathering behaviour are precisely known, companies should change how they communicate.
Which concrete steps should companies implement who have not yet been active in this area?
It is becoming more and more important to define personas; in other words, separating the target group further into desired customers. Once potential customers, their needs and their information-gathering behaviour are precisely known, companies should change how they communicate – going away from product and company postings to user-centric content. Then, in the second step, can they refer to the products or services offered.
At the same time, a quick reaction is indispensable in generating a competitive advantage when winning over new customers. Those who can take advantage of a chat option on the website of a company, for example, but have to wait several minutes for a reply, are quick to leave the website.
Do you have any real-life examples of a B2B company which can boast exemplary customer experience management?
I’m not aware of any B2B company in Germany that has already established the CXM process completely. In the USA, companies have come much further here. If you are able to quickly execute it, then you can certainly achieve a competitive edge.