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Best practices for B2B customer experience programs

Customer experience (CX), traditionally a focus for consumer-facing businesses, is now a key differentiator for B2B businesses too*. Build stronger relationships and get ahead of your competitors with these B2B customer experience and account management best practices.

For organizations, the time is now. Customers are already expecting a better CX from B2B organizations, and at least 80% of B2B buyers now expect the same buying experience as B2C customers.

Why feedback is fundamental to B2B CX

For B2B organizations to turn CX into a meaningful and revenue-growing reality, businesses must change their B2B CX programs to accommodate evolving consumer needs and expectations. The need for change is clear with just 57% of B2B organizations achieving a minimal, or marginal, improvement in CX performance with their current approach, according to their customers.

An XM framework, that focuses on technology, competencies and culture, is essential if your organization is to build a successful B2B CX program. It will enable leaders to focus their time in the right areas, and take the actions that will make the most impact for the business.

Learn how to adopt these principles and mature your B2B business with the CX B2B account management guide here.

CX in B2B is fundamentally different from B2C. Businesses are judged by a few critical episodes - from complex buying cycles and multiple stakeholder engagements, to the adoption of new products and services.

Due to this complexity, it’s critical your B2B CX program has access to continuous customer feedback so you can understand and focus on what really matters to customers. But, this isn't always the case... B2B CX programs are notorious for receiving limited customer feedback responses, making it impossible to understand customer drivers and make informed decisions. This limits your program’s success.

Given this context, it’s essential organizations have the tools to collect continuous feedback, and use it to design a B2B CX program and account management strategy that will breakthrough in the moments that matter- empowering sales, improving renewals and making implementation seamless.

By building strong, lasting relationships with the customer, you’ll be able to understand and focus on what matters to them; and improve revenue by identifying upsell opportunities and the accounts most at risk of churn.

Top tips for improving your B2B CX program

When it comes to building a new approach for B2B CX and Account Management, or improve their existing program, organizations should consider the following points:

1. Define your vision and measures of success

Establish what sort of company you aim to be and the hard measures that will signal progress. Have clear business objectives from the outset, such as reducing cost to serve, increasing share of wallet or retention. Being aware of what you are aiming to achieve ensures your B2B CX program remains focused, and provides a framework to measure success.

When it comes to CX metrics, B2B organizations should consider a range of options, from NPS, as a measure of customer advocacy, to other CX metrics like overall satisfaction (OSAT) for relational surveys and customer effort score (CES) for transactional surveys. Commonly adopted metrics such as these can be used for competitive benchmarking and tie back to operational KPIs.

2. Know all your stakeholders & build relationships

With many stakeholders involved, B2B CX has the potential to become overly complicated. Make sure you have the capabilities to engage each stakeholder group, from Executive sponsors to procurement resources and front-line users, on their terms, through personalized communications and active listening. Understanding how satisfied or not this portfolio of contacts is across an account is crucial for intelligently building relationships over time.

3. Excel when it matters most

Understand what interactions have the greatest influence on your CX, so you can maximize their impact whilst balancing other factors like cost to serve. Customer journey mapping helps unlock these insights but take it further by integrating experience data (X-data) - such as OSAT - with operational data (O-data) - like revenue growth - to highlight how experience impacts your business outcomes.

4. Define and enable clear end-to-end roles and responsibilities

Equip team members across customer-facing functions with tools that enable them to take action on B2B CX drivers. Similarly, be clear on which teams are responsible for certain areas - let your Account Managers and Customer Success focus on solving customer problems and delivering business value, backed by strong delivery/fulfilment and customer service teams. But ensure you do this in a way that consistently meets the needs of your customers and doesn’t show a poorly connected internal organizational hierarchy. This collective approach ensures nothing slips through the cracks, while teams are able to excel in their areas of expertise.

Where possible, look to embed CX feedback channels in the operational systems that support these teams. This is an effective way to capture more meaningful data beyond traditional survey engagements, which will help strengthen your CX on an on-going and consistent basis.

5. Surface quality insights

While it’s obvious that the most successful B2B CX programs are grounded in quality insights, it’s not always easy given the limited respondent pools. This means it’s critical you ask the right questions to the right audience at the right time. Give great consideration to survey design - including the number of questions, compatibility across devices, and frequency of correspondence - and use technology like natural language processing and machine learning to derive insights from verbatim responses across all channels including social media sites.

6. Ensure insights are in real-time

Whether its B2B or B2C CX, speed of service is a key differentiator. Therefore, make sure any technology or external research vendors selected for your B2B CX program can deliver real-time insights, are able to automate workflows based on responses, and can be easily managed by the end-user - rapidly responding to changing business needs is critical!

7. Focus on taking action

If you choose to remember just one of these tips, make this the one! Whilst the themes of listening and understanding are central to any successful CX program, the most critical point of all is to ensure you are taking action at scale. Having effective listening posts and business metrics are a necessary part of any program, but it is this focus on driving action across your organization that turns B2B CX programs from a system of record into a system of action.

Close the loop in a carefully controlled manner by using automated alerts, ticketing systems and workflows, to ensure the right actions are taken by the right teams. Or think about how you can harness your existing collaboration tools like Slack, Jira to deliver customer insights and targeted actions to your workforce however they choose to work.

To deliver great B2B CX, leaders must understand their business can’t be managed or measured in the same way as a B2C business. Following the steps outlined above will help you create a program that works for you, a system of action configured to make measurable improvements to the business.

Free eBook: A New Approach for B2B Customer Experience Management

*According to research belonging to Accenture Interactive

Craig James // CX XM Scientist

Craig James is Principal & XM Scientist specializing in customer experience for the Asia Pacific region at Qualtrics. In this role, Craig is responsible for CX Advisory Services, which supports, guides, and advises organizations as they design and manage CX programs. Craig is a long-standing CX practitioner with more than 15 years of experience in nurturing customer experience programs, enabling leaders to measure and take action on feedback, while driving a customer-centric culture. Before joining Qualtrics, he led the CX and Innovation function for Optus Business, Australia’s second largest Telco. Prior to that, he delivered a range of customer-impacting programs around the globe during his seven years with Deloitte in the UK, including being seconded to a role leading the CX program for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

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