Spotlight On: Changing Customer Expectations

Published On April 25, 2017
In Global, Others, Market Intelligence, Blog Archives

We live in the digital age, where B2B businesses are witnessing an increasingly ‘demanding’ customer base. After all, businesses are educated by their customers on what a ‘wow’ experience is all about. These days, customers are expecting it. Their expectations are no more limited to specific sectors as it has started penetrating almost all macro industries.

The bottom line is clear – B2B enterprises have been shelling out millions on technologies to reach customers on digital mediums. However, the intricacies in streamlining digital enablement for the overall customer journey pose challenges for B2B players. The reason is simple – your customers are smart and know exactly what they are opting for. Moreover, customer experiences drive 71% of B2B buyer decisions.

B2B customers expect their vendors to understand their needs intellectually, financially and emotionally. Unlike the B2C segment, we are talking about multiple stakeholders, investments and budget restrictions when it is about B2B customers. B2B customer acquisitions also might stretch over a long period of time, making it difficult for enterprises to understand the entire customer lifecycle and create a unified, single customer view. Given the dynamic customer expectations, B2B players today are left with only two options – lead or lag. Those players, who fail to exceed customer expectations, will remain laggards.

Here’s a study of how changing B2B customer expectations can be met.

Digitization and Customer Expectations

The B2B industry is on the brink of reflective transformation, which is leading to volatile customer expectations. Technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing are opening the doors to profound opportunities for B2B players. The competition in the emerging markets is also getting stiffer. These changes are not newfangled in the B2B space. However, the uniqueness lays in the fact that all these changes are hitting the B2B landscape simultaneously. Hence, it is a tough time for B2B players to manage these changes, and align transformational elements with customer expectations.

How is digitization driving B2B customer expectations?

Digitization has handed unprecedented control over to the hands of customers. Savviest executives are bemused about the likes and dislikes of their customers. With myriad channels, personalized interactions, and an always-on commercial environment, customers have created a hypercompetitive B2B landscape, where they dictate the rules.

However, digital channels enable B2B players to make inroads into a competitive market by skillfully adapting the cultures and mindsets of their customers. Yet, many B2B players today focus on individual pain points of customers and fail to create an overall customer experience. The omnichannel approach is part of an efficient customer experience strategy. But it is imperative for B2B players to realize that the main focus should be on the overall customer journey. Most B2B players tend to underestimate the fact that a customer journey doesn’t stop at purchase. The B2B customer journey begins with dedicated content before purchase and extends up to a sustainable position of an engaging experience post-purchase.

Your competitors debunk a wide range of methodologies to ensure they are reaching B2B influencers, wherever they are. Innumerable insights remain behind-the-scenes that empower a customer-centric process, unlike the traditional ‘pain point sales method’. On the positive front, today’s disruptive digital marketing environment can be used by B2B players, who are willing to innovate, adapt quickly to critical customer expectations and revamp their communication channels.

There is a need for B2B enterprises to analyze target audience expectations and dilute the risk of faulty purchase decision predictions. Hence, it is imperative for enterprises to connect the major dots (people-process-technology) across the customer journey and along their touch points.

Challenges Faced by B2B Players

The integration of multiple streams of customer data from diversified channels including mobile, smart devices and social has shifted the focus to a holistic approach of customer life-cycle management. Identifying product improvements based on customer experience has encountered a massive outpouring as B2B sectors are unable to build new strategies, processes, and structures for an integrative customer model. Streamlining the information exchange across operational levels of global enterprises has been a major challenge for B2B marketers, thus restricting accurate prediction of customer demands.

A strong understanding of customer preferences and identification of fluctuating behavior is important to deliver customer value. However, it requires a robust IT architecture. Moreover, a majority of B2B players face challenges in aligning their digital platforms with an overarching customer relationship mission. The radical factor for B2B enterprises lies in the question – what does the customer expect from the next interaction and which questions might arise during the acquisition journey?

B2B customers’ expectations are more complex than any other business standard. Unlike a business focused on retail, B2B players need to understand that a plurality of stakeholders have complex expectations and they need to bundle their customer experiences tailored as per customer demands.

Creating an Effective Customer Experience

Although analyzing and identifying customer experience can often be challenging, broad digital transformations and the right use of technology can help B2B businesses meet customer expectations and boost marketing ROIs.

The B2B customer journey includes interactions before, during, and after purchase. Typically, customer journeys are long and stretch across multiple channels. However, B2B players can take the following steps to close the gaps in customer expectations:

Define a Purpose and Customer-Experience Objective

A deeply-rooted purpose to meet distinctive customer expectations holds the key toward building a collective sense in large and distributed organizations. The collective aspirations of the workforce will help the brand value of enterprises. The digital age demands a clear statement of intent. Hence, B2B players should focus on translating their visions into simple principles. However, it is important for B2B players to avoid a siloed approach, and focus on an end-to-end customer experience. Consequently, the remote access to operational and customer data can help widely distributed operations align with a common objective. For instance, cloud platforms have facilitated proactive data sharing with capabilities for key B2B players to orient themselves to common ‘customer-experience’ objectives.

Deeply Understand Customers and their Needs

B2B enterprises serve a wide range of customers. Hence, at times, it is difficult to identify customer needs with a collective sense. B2B customers have different requirements – rock-bottom prices, best quality products, proactive servicing, and high-caliber support. An OEM serves the most critical customer segments that bring about a diversity of personas. However, data analytics has helped B2B players derive insightful information about customer needs. By analyzing the customer’s voice across different channels (including social media, surveys and sales channels), B2B enterprises can parse the aspects of customer behavior. Advanced analytics has powered businesses with insights that represent the most important personas of customers.

Track Behavior and Psychology of Customers

B2B enterprises face challenges in figuring out how customers think. Accurately analyzing what customers have chosen or what brought them to you, is the beginning of the psychology tracking process. Deftly articulating the perceptions helps B2B players build clarity on their customer profiles based on channels of choice. B2B players need to correlate multiple factors to understand their customer’s behavior, and most importantly, understand why their customers act as they do. However, B2B players have understood the importance of customer behavior and are leveraging behavioral modeling platforms of big data to gain a nuanced, accurate and detailed picture of customers. As with big data, B2B enterprises can reap the value of behavioral analytics beyond the realm of marketing. It is imperative for B2B players to efficiently strategize customer intelligence models to collect, manage and analyze in a scalable way along the value curve.

Digitize the Customer Journey

It is vital for B2B players to reinvent their customer journeys with digital channels. Today’s digital channels help businesses meet customer expectations such as convenience, customization, and immediacy. Digitization is not just limited to touch points, as customers expect a consistent experience through the journey after purchase. The end-to-end digitization of a customer journey might also relate to a shift in the operational model, including applications for marketing & sales, instantaneous support systems, and intelligent service delivery points. Some B2B players have outperformed their competitors by digitizing their customer journeys with marketing automation tools, chatbots support, and intelligent supply chain platforms – all hosted on a cloud platform for streamlining data exchange.

Establish Metrics to Predict Customer Expectations

Any B2B player must empower their frontline to establish customer expectation metrics. It is a useful aspect of marketing to deliver exactly what the customer wants to see. A B2B player with a customer-centric approach must understand the value of predicting customer journeys, leveraging meaningful insights. Customer acquisition does not define business success, but retaining and building customer loyalty does. Predicting a customer journey is a shift from knowledge to action. Best-in-class B2B enterprises are assessing their competencies by leveraging data and predictive analytics to develop actionable insights for engaging customers. Accurately targeting customers with an appropriate offer at the right time is the best approach to establishing customer metrics for predictive modeling. However, synthesizing data from multiple channels is the primary step toward deploying predictive analytics. Indeed, B2B enterprises using data mining and analyzing historical patterns can efficiently map out their customers’ next steps.

Digitization to Meet Digital Customers’ Expectations

All efforts on mapping customers, creating buyer personas, and digitizing customer journeys are levers often left unused by B2B businesses. There is immense potential for B2B organizations in areas such as virtual-reality, automation, and advanced predictive analysis. The basics of identifying customer expectations persist – researching customer behavior, identifying content assets and creating a well-integrated engagement model.

The digital transformation has helped B2B enterprises to easily anticipate instantaneous customer demands by leveraging predictive analysis and big data models.  A plethora of customer information across various engagement channels can now be analyzed and integrated.

Coming from a newfound trough of metrics, big data modeling can help businesses predict future actions by identifying customer journey patterns. Automation of personalized communication for customers can be achieved by effective machine learning techniques. Data integration, predictive analysis, and synchronization will shift the futuristic approach of ‘what could happen’ to ‘what will happen’, and will completely change the customer experience all over, far ahead of what the crystal ball says.

Surging to Win Customers?

New lessons are emerging for executives with lofty ambitions. After a turbulent decade in the B2B segment, there is optimism for customer-focused B2B players with a strategic agenda. B2B players, who are prepared to revolutionize customer experience, will be able to differentiate in an increasingly crowded marketplace. However, that on its own will not be able to trigger sustainable success in the B2B ecosystem. More importantly, organizations need to act as trusted guides, and convey a personalized multichannel experience to their customers – best prospect for long-term growth.

Devi Prasad Swain
Devi Prasad Swain
About the Author

Devi is at the forefront of media and digital advertising as an Associate Content Specialist at SG Analytics. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from the Gandhi Institute for Technological Advancement.

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