Competitive advantage of companies that have recently invested in digital
How has the pandemic impacted businesses regarding customer strategies?
The global discontinuity we are experiencing has driven consumers and companies to experiment new business models, different brands and to shop more through digital journeys.
The last good experience the customer had with any company (e.g. digital native) is the experience they expect to go through with all companies, and, because of these new experiences that they have enjoyed, people are now willing to maintain the behaviours they have adopted.
With this, the evaluation standard of any future experience has increased, and brand loyalty has suffered a shock which, among other factors, forces companies to rethink their value propositions, namely customer experience (CX).
The impact of the pandemic on the way customers interact with organisations has been documented in different ways. Amazon, the global benchmark in customer-centricity, recorded its highest ever sales growth in 2020, quarter after quarter.
In a survey recently conducted by FORRESTER/Pindrop, it was noted that approximately a third of companies analysed have experienced a 50% increase in calls since the start of COVID-19, with 65% of companies reporting difficulties in managing these significant call volumes.
In Portugal, the lockdown also emphasised the advantages of the brands that have been investing for longer in the development of their digital journeys and online commerce; in particular, the food distribution sector. SONAE MC is now benefiting from having listened to and understanding its customers' needs earlier and, from there, set out to develop a digital CX. Continente is now significantly differentiated from its direct competitors, allowing for higher sales growth in new channels that customers have come to value.
The Customer Experience (CX) in B2B
The statement that B2B customers are also people may seem like an overly obvious one, however, there are few B2B websites where we find a CX at the level of those available to consumers - simplifying transactions, deepening the relationship with customers, and exploring the potential to generate more sales, via cross or up-sell, or that offer one-click ordering, order tracking, recommendations or promotions based on previous purchasing behaviours.
It has been observed that B2B companies rarely show a comprehensive and transversal approach to services that enables them to understand the customer's imperatives and goals.
Many companies, despite doing very well in certain specific interactions with customers, fail, however, in the interpretation and attention devoted to evaluating the entire journey in a CX extended beyond the closing moment of the transaction. In other words, since they do not observe the integrated CX of the different points of contact and channels that may serve the customer over time, they also neglect that providing more points of contact adds complexity to the integrated management of the experience.
A framework for CX development
The image illustrates the CX development process in five stages - the end-to-end design of the CX and customer journeys, the measurement of customer satisfaction throughout the different journeys and contact points, the alignment of the structures under the same CX vision, the voice of customer and real-time response to complaints, the generation of insights on customer needs that induce the improvement of the value proposition, the evaluation of the return on investment in CX improvement and the commitment to its continuous development.
To succeed, B2B businesses must approach CX in a holistic way. They need to personalise the digital journey and online sales process by adopting more customer-centric technology solutions and business models.
B2B companies that deliver a better customer service understand how the alignment of marketing, sales, product development, IT and other functions shapes and is critical to the construction of a differentiating and value creating CX.
CX - Competitive advantage to take advantage of now!
According to Gandhi et al (2019, "Why Customer Experience Matters for B2B", MIT Sloan Management Review), it is highlighted that although better omnichannel experiences translate into more sales, this logic has been neglected in B2B businesses.
For its part, FORRESTER estimates that by 2023, about 17% of B2B sales in the USA will be made through digital channels, and that these will continue to grow significantly in the coming years. Digital platforms are replacing traditional ways of selling, face-to-face or by phone, with the potential to capitalise on advantages derived from omni-channel strategies and capture greater market share. .
In the most competitive markets, companies that offer customers a simple and optimised digital CX will be able to capitalise on that investment in sales growth. B2B customers have seen the result of these possibilities in consumer markets and now expect a similar transformation in the B2B business journey.
In the long-term, the superior capabilities of a digital, self-service CX will transform the dynamics of B2B markets and allow you to beneficially serve low-volume, or less frequent customers. By making it easier for customers to communicate their needs and place orders, digitalisation transforms the model from seller push to customer pull, creating new opportunities to create value.
The advantage will go to companies that can deliver a CX that matches their customers' expectations - personalised, seamless, and with a people-centric digital service. From boosting customer loyalty to reducing inefficiencies and improving alignment, there are many factors that show the return on investment in differentiated CX.
Authors: João Torneiro & Euclides Coimbra