Increasing sales and lowering costs with the B2B Customer Journey

In a recent McKinsey survey of 1,000 B2B decision makers, lack of speed in dealing with their suppliers emerged as the greatest difficulty, and this was regarded as more important than price.  86 % of respondents preferred using self-service tools when reordering, rather than talking to a sales representative

Developing seamless customer experience pays in terms of customer satisfaction and operational and financial performance. These improvements can lower customer turnover by 10 to 15 %, increase the success of offers by 20 to 40 %, and lower costs to serve by up to 50 %. Yet the reality at most B2B companies is far from this position. Many companies often take days to provide a quote, require customers to fill in complicated order forms, and frequently leave customers in the hanging about their order status.

It should be recognized that relationships go deeper in B2B.  In many B2B industries, codeveloping a product with a supplier is common and a major source of innovation. Many B2B relationships are long- term, with recurring sales. This makes re-ordering the most important important customer journey.

 Longer, more complex B2B journeys involve more individuals. In B2B, multiple engineers need to evaluate and later certify the product, often customizing a design, while delivery and operations must wait until prices, volumes, delivery terms, and other points are negotiated. The whole process can require decisions by 5 or 10 people, to make the transaction happen. Improving the customer experience requires an understanding of this Mapping a “typical” journey in this case may lead to dozens of alternative paths that customers can take when interacting with the company.

The rewards are usually higher in B2B deals. Individual customer relationships are easily worth millions of euros for some B2B companies. These sellers will go to great lengths to keep a good customer happy as losing a single customer could spell disaster for the entire company. To create an improved customer experience program, companies need to understand the profitability of their customer base and identify the pain points in the customer journey with different measures that fit the financial, as well as strategic, profile of the customer segment

Companies mostly serving a few big customers can use entirely different journey designs than those serving thousands of smaller customers. Most companies will need to design journeys that accommodate both ends of the size spectrum. Journeys that cope with technically demanding big ticket sales as well as high volumes of small repeat purchases. Therefore, the role of management is to put in place different journeys and methods of tracking levels and indicators of satisfaction.

The following six customer journeys demonstrate that meeting customers’ needs, delivers measurable business benefits:

·         The researcher- In this journey, the customer translates a need for a product or service into an explicit one through technical sales conversations or research. The need is for enough technical support to evaluate a solution.

·         The first-time buyer- The customer compares different suppliers and their offerings, evaluating price, total cost of ownership, performance value, and other factors. The need is to get multiple stakeholders aligned on a single choice.

·         The customiser- The buyer works with the supplier to have the product or service customised to meet his needs. The intensity of the process ranges from selection from standard options to a long-term joint R&D programme. The buyer’s primary need is to manage return on investment.

·         The firefighter- This journey occurs when the buyer encounters problems such as equipment breakdowns, missed deliveries, missed payments, and other mishaps that can make or break close relationships with suppliers.  The buyer’s need is to minimize disruptions to the business.

·         The optimiser- As the customer uses the product and performs or obtains regular maintenance, this journey should involve ease of use and performance optimisation. The customer also may encounter innovative offers. The customer’s primary need now is to maximise efficiency.

·         The repeat buyer This final journey involves reordering a well-known product or service. The need now is for an efficient transaction, coupled with trust in getting a good deal from the supplier.