Back in my early days as an industry analyst, one of my first client events was, in essence, a field trip to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to take a tour of C.S. Longlines (which AT&T’s analyst relations [AR] team arranged). It was the ship from which tens of thousands of fiber optic cable was laid. I was barely over the US legal drinking age and just learning what bandwidth even meant. So as you can imagine at first, I had some serious doubts about how interesting this would be. It was actually fascinating. And that’s something I can say about only a few of the hundreds of events that I’ve attended since.
I was engaged before I even started. I knew enough about what we were going to see, and it piqued my interest.
It was immersive. We were on a big ship in a harbor — enough said.
My experience was customized. There was no predefined path throughout the ship. We toured what we wanted to see versus what AT&T’s AR team wanted to show us (though I am sure that the team eventually showed us all of it)
Business-to-business (B2B) ecosystems facilitate the continuous exchange of information and collaboration. B2B ecosystems will play a central role for all businesses because they form the basis for redefining approaches toward innovation, knowledge management, supply-chain optimization, product development, sales, and marketing.
While the ultimate focus of these ecosystems is to create customer value, their more immediate effect is to drive operational agility in service of customers. Mobility will be a central enabler for these B2B digital ecosystems. Why?
Mobility is evolving beyond enterprise mobility management. Mobility shifts the way B2B ecosystems service their customers, support their partners, and affect competition. As a first step, technology teams need to move beyond enterprise mobility management (EMM). This comprises device, app, and content management, as well as telecom expenses, policy management, and security management. EMM relies on using several mobile apps in parallel without any functional integration between them.
Enterprise mobility experiences will significantly improve. Today, despite all the excitement concerning automation and machine learning, smart mobile devices still rely on direct user instructions. Business customers and employees have to move in and out of dedicated mobile apps to obtain support for specific business processes like procurement, product information, or sales analytics. These enterprise mobile apps rarely take into account the conditions that particular enterprise users find themselves in.
Since 2007, Forrester has helped consumer brands evaluate the experience they deliver to their customers with our Customer Experience Index (CX Index™). This methodology powerfully demonstrates to business-to-consumer (B2C) companies the link between CX and customer loyalty. Business-to-business (B2B) firms can benefit from a similar methodology to assess their emerging CX practices. Using the B2C-oriented CX Index as a foundation, we created the Forrester B2B Tech Customer Experience Index, which we are unveiling today.
The B2B Tech CX Index is designed to account for the key differences between B2B and B2C technology companies in managing a customer experience:
The number of stakeholders within a single account. In a single B2B account there are numerous "customers" -- individuals who interact directly with the vendor or its products. This can include business analysts, procurement officers, tech management executives, systems administrators, end users, and help desk staff. Because B2B tech companies have to account for many different stakeholders, the B2B Tech CX Index captures this range of customers by surveying both business leaders and technologists.
In April 2015, we started a conversation about what is different between business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) customer experience (CX). That early discussion focused on the fact that in B2B scenarios, there isn't one customer; there are multiple stakeholders within a client account whose work depends on interactions with the vendor. Now we're ready to elevate this conversation to its next level: How do B2B CX pros help their businesses find the stakeholders who matter?
I know what you're saying: "Don't all client stakeholders matter?" Yes — you want to make sure that each individual in an account who interacts with your firm has an experience that helps them achieve their goals. But when business leaders assess the value of customer experience, they want to know that it contributes to revenue growth, a business success indicator. So when B2B CX pros examine customer experience, they must understand the perceptions of stakeholders who influence:
Retention. Who are the stakeholders who must see value in the vendor's products and services before the buyer(s) renews the contract?
Upsell and cross-sell. Who are the stakeholders whose perceptions of value influence their colleagues' decision to acquire more products and services from the vendor?
Advocacy. Who are the stakeholders whose opinion of the vendor can sway their colleagues' or industry counterparts' decision to do business with the vendor?
With recent drops in global stock markets and all eyes on China’s economy, the timing of the China CX Index report couldn’t be more serendipitous. While customer experience (CX) most likely doesn't have a direct impact on all this sudden share volatility, our research shows that there is a strong correlation between CX and revenue growth.
Forrester’s Business Technographics™ data shows that CX improvement is a growing priority for companies in China: 70% of tech and business decision-makers indicated that improving the experience of their customers was a high or critical priority for 2015 and 2016. However, CX Index scores reveal that these aspirations have yet to manifest themselves in actions and — more importantly — results.
Evolved from the inaugural assessment we completed last year, The China Customer Experience Index, 2015 now includes loyalty elements to the mix to gauge how well brands in China are at delivering quality customer experiences that create and sustain customer loyalty. This year, we examined 60 brands across five industries in China: banking, insurance, retail, eCommerce, and mobile device manufacturing.
At a high level, the results of 9,000 customer surveys in China revealed that:
No brands stand out as especially good or bad. The good news: No brands ended up in the very poor category. The bad news: none achieved excellent scores either. The vast majority of brands (80%) rated as just OK; 5% landed in the poor category, and 15% qualified as good.
Are you working as a CX pro in a B2B company? And do you find it challenging to make the case for your CX program? You are not alone.
In fact, many CX pros in B2B companies we spoke with struggled to get funding for their efforts --because they can't isolate the role of CX in driving financial success, they lack insight into how different clients’ experiences affect purchasing decisions, or they don't gather sufficient data about these experiences.
CX professionals managed to overcome these challenges by creating the preconditions for success. Following their lead, you should:
Rethink metrics and analytics to link CX to financials. CX pros need to look beyond the usual metrics like revenue or NPS to find the metrics that help link CX to business success.. For example food packaging company Tetra Pak found that a custom partnership index was a better predictor of sales and volume growth than other metrics they tested.
Over the weekend, I read the manuscript for Don Peppers' upcoming book, Customer Experience: What, How, and Why Now.
Because Don is a talented writer, and because I love customer experience, it wasn’t hard for me to start reading it. It was, however, hard to stop reading it. If you’re also into customer experience, you’ll no doubt have a similar reaction when it comes out.
What I like most about the book is that Peppers consistently grounds customer experience in business fundamentals. For example, he points out that the decision to focus on customer experience should never be binary: You don’t have to be customer-centric or product-centric, nor does spending to deliver a better CX mean wasting money. The reality is that focusing on customer experience can lead to new and better products and help create an even more profitable business — provided that you understand it.
Of course, learning to understand the practical aspects of customer experience can be hard work — much like attending a particularly tough business class. But that’s not the case here. Peppers makes the nuts and bolts of customer experience engaging and even visceral. To see what I mean, check out two of my favorite quotes from the book:
"If you think about it, a customer is really just a bundle of future cash flows, with a memory. And these future cash flows will increase or decrease based on how the customer remembers being treated, today."
“Customers don’t necessarily stay because they’re satisfied, but they often leave because they’re not.”
Deanna Laufer and I are collaborating on a new report on how to make the case for customer experience in B2B. And we'd love your inputs.
How will clients benefit from this report?
With longer sales cycles, fewer customer accounts, and an abundance of client roles and influencers, B2B companies are challenged in making the link between improving customer experience (CX) and financial results. But without this link, B2B companies will struggle to get adequate funding to sustain their CX programs over the long term. To help CX professionals at B2B companies overcome challenges to justifying their CX programs, this report will explore:
What do customer and business data CX pros need to collect to support their business cases?
Which are the right metrics for modeling the relationship between customer experience quality and business success?
How can CX pros apply their models to proactively improve business outcomes?
Forrester is helping its clients better understand the Age of the Customer, a tectonic business shift characterized by technology innovations that have empowered customers in new and disruptive ways. With computing power we could only have dreamed of just a generation ago now in the hands of well over a billion individuals, businesses are scrambling to keep up with relentlessly growing customer expectations and demands.
A recent Forrester report, called ‘The CIO's Blueprint For Strategy In The Age Of The Customer’, provides CIOs with a strategy to help their companies thrive in these new times. In addition to transforming customer experience with a measurable approach, the authors argue that customer obsessed organizations must: