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Perfecting Customer Experiences in 2021—2

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How can technology leaders provide the best services to their internal customers, clients and wider networks—and which technologies are best supporting you in this?

Customer experience is still the main competitive advantage for businesses today but with an array of competitors, different platforms on which to reach customers and rising tension between online access and privacy, the debate has become more complex. Discover in this roundtable debate what technology leaders are doing to help customers, clients and employees enjoy their products and services, and what challenges remain.

Bridgid Nzekwu, former Channel 4 News Newsreader and Moderator, chats with Jesper Frederiksen, VP, GM, Okta; Andreas Zografos, Chief Information Officer, Vous Hotels and Retreats; Monika Schulze, Head of Customer and Innovation Management, Zurich Insurance; Gregory Morely, Group CIO, United Living Group. In partnership with Okta.

 

Assumptions and inaccuracies

Many discussions of customer-experience strategies begin with a flawed assumption. When executives delve into the competitive advantages of building a more customer-centric organization, they very often focus on interactions with retail buyers—the end consumers. But in our experience, a customer-centric mind-set is just as critical in the B2B space, and more and more executives are developing B2B customer-experience strategies with striking results.

B2B customer-experience index ratings significantly lag behind those of retail customers. B2C companies typically score in the 65 to 85 percent range, while B2B companies average less than 50 percent. This gap will become even more apparent as B2B customer expectations rise. Digitization and the rising use of smartphones are establishing new standards for fast, seamless customer service in all settings. Real-time responsiveness and easy-to-use apps for daily banking chores or ordering groceries are setting a high bar for speed and ease of doing business in B2C industries, and these expectations are migrating to B2B. One sign of changes to come: a logistics start-up called Shipster has translated retail tracking and tracing apps to B2B international shipping by putting live tracking of international shipments on apps for web and mobile phones for all its customers.

Such developments are making improved customer experience at least as critical for B2B companies as for B2C players. In our experience, customer-experience leaders in B2B settings have on average higher margins than their competitors. In cases where companies have undertaken broad transformations of their customer-experience processes, the impact among B2B and B2C players has been similar, with higher client-satisfaction scores, reductions of 10 to 20 percent in cost to serve, revenue growth of 10 to 15 percent, and an increase in employee satisfaction.

Consider one IT-services provider that found itself battling emerging low-cost players in a maturing industry. Executives realized that customer satisfaction was increasingly becoming a way to stand out from its lower-cost rivals, but its net promoter scores were much lower than those of its peers. To respond, the company launched a customer-experience transformation in 2012. The company redesigned a set of 20 customer journeys end to end, addressing all dimensions of customer experience—process, customer tools, performance management, and employee mind-sets. After 12 months, its negative net promoter score had turned positive, and a year after that, the company was outperforming the industry average.

 

B2B vs B2C customer experience

As with B2C customer-satisfaction improvements, benefits to the bottom line can include “stickier” customer loyalty, which can also accrue more quickly than is typically seen in B2C settings. For example, another IT-services provider served 30,000 employees at a large global client. Each employee reported multiple small incidents each year. Minor though the incidents were, the overall volume caused so much dissatisfaction that the client threatened to switch providers. The company responded by making drastic improvements to its incident management, broadening the focus from only severe incidents to also include minor, high-frequency incidents that annoyed every-day users. A 45 percent reduction in incidents followed, leading one of the company’s clients to cite the incident-reduction program as the reason for renewing and expanding the scope of its contract with the company.

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