Customer experience is the new competitive battleground in B2B, and many companies are making big investments to deliver great experiences via digital channels. But, company leaders must remember that great customer experiences still need a deft human touch.
Providing great experiences to existing and potential customers has become a competitive necessity for all kinds of companies. It's also abundantly clear that most of us now rely extensively on digital technologies to consume information and communicate for both personal and business purposes. Therefore, many business leaders now view providing great customer experiences via digital channels as a top strategic priority.
While "digital customer experiences" are obviously important, human interactions still play a vital role in customer experience delivery, particularly for B2B companies. In fact, recent research indicates that business customers highly value the human component of the customer experience.
Earlier this year, KPMG Nunwood Consulting published a report discussing several important aspects of B2B customer experience. The report was based on a survey of 2,974 members of decision making units in B2B companies. Survey respondents included end Users, Influencers, and Decision Makers, and all were located in the US or the UK.
Not surprisingly, the research found that customer experience plays a vital role in competitive success. Three-fourths of the survey respondents considered customer experience as a major factor in supplier choice. The research identified six "pillars" that describe the psychology of customer experience, and the report argues that the key to customer experience success is preparing for the critical "moments that matter" across a customer's life cycle.
The study also addressed the role of the relationship manager in delivering great customer experiences, and the report identified four major relationship management models.
- A relationship manager owns the customer relationship, and that individual is the customer's primary, if not exclusive, contact.
- A relationship manager is the primary customer contact, but he or she has a supporting team that is involved in delivering experiences to the customer.
- The customer has a team of individuals at its disposal to provide support, but there is no single "owner" of the customer relationship.
- The company uses a fully automated solution - no human interaction is required.
The survey report states that "[customers] frequently prefer to have one person to deal with and have them acting as their ambassador - the one person in the organisation that champions their interests and ensures that the services are provided to them in the highest standard."
Specifically, the research found that Influencers perceive the "sole relationship manager model" to be 19% better performing than the account team model. Decision Makers said the sole relationship manager model is 5% better, and Users said it is 9% better.
The most important lesson from this research is that great B2B customer experiences often require a human touch.
Image courtesy of Yoel Ben-Avraham via Flickr CC.