Gartner’s Customer Experience in Marketing Survey found that the B2B marketers surveyed currently lag their B2C peers in CX, with only 61% reporting that they compete mostly or completely on the basis of CX (compared to 69% of B2C respondents). What’s interesting, however, is that in this same survey, 82% of the B2B respondents anticipated that in two years their company would be competing on CX, compared to only 76% of the B2C respondents.
B2B is rife for differentiating CX experiences. A common misconception is that B2B purchase decisions are focused on maximizing business value, but a CEB survey of 3,000 purchasers of 36 B2B brands across multiple industries found that only 14% perceived enough difference between brands’ business value to be willing to pay extra for it. The perception of personal value, on the other hand, was a different story. CEB defined personal value in terms of professional benefits options like being a better leader, social benefits options like fitting in with colleagues, emotional benefits options like confidence, or self-image benefits options like doing good for society. They found that B2B purchasers were nearly 50% more likely to buy a product or service when they perceived personal value in their business purchase decision, and they were eight times more likely to pay a premium for comparable products and services when personal value was present.
Competing on CX in B2B must move beyond ease of use and/or providing useful information. My colleague Augie Ray has recently written on how to identify and activate powerful CX experiences. His CX pyramid is a framework that moves from providing useful information at its base up to energizing personal values at its pinnacle.
Brands that want to provide innovative, differentiating customer experiences will need to focus their efforts on moving up the CX pyramid.
So what does this look like in B2B? A good example is Slack. Slack launched in 2013 and was an early mover in the workstream collaboration solution market (a bit of trivia: Slack stands for “searchable log of all conversation and knowledge”). On the surface, workstream collaboration solutions do not sound particularly inspirational, but Slack made a concerted effort to make them seem so. Advocacy is an important part of Slack’s business model, as it depends on word-of-mouth among its users to grow adoption within an organization. From the outset, it placed the customer-user at the center of everything it does. It moved up the CX pyramid from being useful and usable, to meeting needs that its customers didn’t know they had, to focusing on the inspirational and aspirational things that a passion for great collaboration can enable. For example, this video presents a genuine case of customer advocacy that highlights the features that nobody knew they needed, and the Spotlight feature on the company’s blog highlights the human benefits of communication and collaboration.
Slack actively encourages – and addresses – customer feedback. Within the app itself it encourages feedback through an ever-present feedback button, and through its Twitter presence it publicly solicits feedback on how to improve features. Slack iterates its software continuously based on this feedback, fine-tuning existing features and adding new capabilities. The results: a 97% customer satisfaction (CSAT) score, and a very engaged user base that makes Slack’s usage stats comparable to the most popular social networks.
What does a 97% CSAT get you in terms of business results? For Slack, it gets 70% market share, annual recurring revenue growth of more than 100%, 6 million active daily users and the leading position in a market that includes heavy-hitters like Microsoft and Google and that is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 96% between 2016 and 2021. Not bad for a B2B company that is barely five years old. (Data from Gartner’s SWOT analysis.)