When someone talks about the customer experience, we intuitively think about a business-to-consumer (B2C) scenario. However, data from one of the largest consumer packaged goods (CGP) companies tells us that more than 99 percent of their commercial transactions happen with business-to-business (B2B) partners. With the B2B channel playing such a prominent sales role for consumer goods companies, it begs the question, “Is the customer experience relevant to my business?”
The answer, of course, is a resounding “yes.” Since the users of CPG companies in their B2B transactions are B2C consumers themselves, they have the same raised expectations for customer experience in their professional lives that they are already enjoying in their personal lives. Thanks to the customer experience revolution, B2B users are now expecting convenience and speed while craving for personalized and connected touch points across multiple physical and digital channels.
The result of this transformation is that consumer goods companies need to consider disrupting the traditional way of doing businesses by creating compelling customer experiences and much more holistic, connected, faster, and relevant touch points across their customer journey. For example, let’s consider “Emma,” a B2B buyer for a consumer packaged goods (CPG) company. Her needs include a view on order history, access to product documentation, self-service on orders, ticket requests and more, all on an omni-channel platform. In case of shipment delays, she should have a proactive message conveying the delay and a possible reason, as well as alternative solutions. Emma could also benefit from receiving new product recommendations based on her business needs, past orders and other preferences.
Essentially, Emma should be able to seamlessly order, raise tickets, check shipment statuses and receive recommendations anytime,
anywhere, on any device. For a CPG to achieve this, it must first provide access to a personalized omni-channel portal for Emma that includes real-time details of her transactions, order status and other details aggregated from multiple systems. The recommendations on the portal should be supported by a 360-degree customer hub capturing her touch points across all channels. The customer hub becomes a powerhouse for providing robust analytics and cognitive intelligence on Emma’s purchasing behavior and for recommending products, relevant offers, and more. Cognitive intelligence, along with Internet of Things (IoT) real-time feeds for goods in transit, help foresee issues in advance and inform her on a proactive basis. The same intelligence can also suggest an alternate path to help meet her immediate requirements.
Executing the digital customer experience
For doing all of the above, companies need to reimagine their business with user-centricity strategies while leveraging new age digital technologies, including analytics augmented by cognitive and artificial intelligence capabilities such as machine learning and natural language processing.
A superior customer experience for B2B can be accomplished through a deep understanding of users’ needs and a user-focused re-imagination of user journeys. Companies must transform, not only from inside-out, but from outside-in as well. While inside-out enablement helps to transform an organization’s digital capability and operational agility, outside-in enablement focuses on transforming experiences for users and buyers through unified omni-channel customer interactions, real-time visibility and tracking insights, data-driven personalization and contextualized experiences.
To augment an outside-in enablement for a digital transformation program, organizations should consider three key tenets:
1. Customer Experience Strategy & Future Vision
Your customer experience strategy should start with a digital fitness assessment of the current state. A detailed research and trend analysis will provide insights on the potential opportunities for incremental and disruptive transformation. This should be followed by setting up the strategic direction and future vision for the customer experience journey.
2. Customer Experience Road Map & Design
A well-defined customer experience strategy and future vision should be followed by the creation of detailed customer journeys and minimum viable prototypes (MVP) for technology validation and selection.
3. Continuous Delivery
MVPs created need to be released to market to learn and refine the solution based on users’ feedback. Subsequent journey engineering should also be delivered in small iterations with agility and customer feedback incorporated into it using a “fail fast, learn fast” approach.
All the above steps require multi-disciplinary skills involving digital strategists, user experience (UX) designers, domain, tech leads, developers and potential users at different stages of the user journey cycles. The methodology is immensely effective for any digital transformation as it drives customer-centric innovation at the cusp of strategy, design and technology. The transformation approach will deliver experiences that fulfill customers’ needs in the best possible way and thereby results in maximum adoption by target users.
In summary, consumer goods companies are at the threshold of big changes as the digital transformation increases the demands for great customer experiences in the B2B space. To fulfill their digital customers’ needs, organizations must take customer-centric, outside-in approach and innovate with the levers of strategy, design and technology to get the most optimum results across their customers’ entire buying cycle.
Edited by Alicia Young