Image courtesy of Pixabay

Today’s post is a modified version of a post I originally wrote for Confirmit in September 2014.

We often hear customer experience professionals talk about the fact that there’s a great emphasis to – and a greater return if we – focus our efforts on the customer experience for B2C companies. There’s this notion that it’s not as important for B2B companies, that it can’t be impacted, or that it doesn’t matter because B2B is just a different beast.

I disagree.

While the two are different, to some degree, what do B2C and B2B companies have in common? The knowledge and the fact that listening to their customers is paramount to delivering a great customer experience. And the knowledge that a great customer experience yields great benefits for the company. There may just be slightly different approaches to getting there.

For B2B companies who deal with consumers via partners or resellers, the focus has traditionally been on the relationship with the partner, often with very little visibility into the end-customer experience.  This is definitely changing and we’re seeing a new trend in the marketplace: the shift from B2B to B2B2C.

Why? Because of one simple rule: the Golden Rule. No, not that Golden Rule. The other one. The one that reads: He who holds the gold makes the rules. Whoever has the money, has the power; in this case, it’s your customers. Customers have the power. They talk to each other. They share experiences. They are much more informed than they’ve ever been, and they have higher expectations.

What do customers want from companies like yours? They want you to know them. They want personalized experiences, where you anticipate their needs. They want companies that provide both proactive service and innovative products. They want effortless experiences, so think “ease of doing business.” They want cutting-edge products and are looking for the next best thing. They want consistency across channels – and don’t want you to ask things you (should already) know. And they want it now!

To get all of this, some of the onus must be on the customer. With that power comes some responsibility. It comes at a cost: customers must allow companies to know them. Time to open up, drop the privacy walls/concerns a bit, and let companies in. Let them get to know the customer – likes, dislikes, preferences, needs, what customers are trying to achieve, and more.

Of course, customers are only half of the equation. Companies are the other half. In this age of the powerful customer, companies must adapt to the customer. How do companies win? Which companies win? Those that…

  • Are forward-thinking and innovative
  • Take the time to know and understand their customers – listen and share insights throughout the organization
  • Utilize predictive capabilities to anticipate – and adapt to – customer needs
  • Develop strategies to deliver on those needs
  • Utilize human-centered design, i.e., collaborate with customers to design their products and services
  • Understand the need for speed of innovation – it’s no longer acceptable to take years to develop new products or to upgrade existing ones
  • Talk with customers, especially early adopters, to keep themselves ahead of the curve

What’s the point? Why is this shift from B2B to B2B2C – a shift where companies that focus on the partner experience now look beyond to the end customer instead – important?

The bottom line is this: You can have all the OEMs and partners you want. You can satisfy their needs all you want. But if the product you manufacture doesn’t add value, doesn’t sell, or isn’t something the end customer cares about, both you and your partners are going to go out of business.

How do we do that? How do we add value for our partners and help them be more successful?

Simple. Don’t be so far-removed from the end customer. Don’t just rely on what your partners are telling you about the customer – you’ll need to do your own research, your own listening, to get ahead of the game. Work with your partners to listen to the voice of the end customer. Understand who they are, how they use your products now, what jobs or tasks they are trying to achieve – and then use that information to shift gears to better meet their needs in the future.

Your customers will thank you. Your partners will, too.

I have something that I call my Golden Rule. It goes something like this: ‘Do unto others twenty-five percent better than you expect them to do unto you.’ … The twenty-five percent is for error. -Linus Pauling