B2B companies are struggling with a loss of control over the customer experience (CX) today. As they grow their indirect channels, this issue will only get worse.
With their future growth prospects at stake, B2B executives must determine how to improve CX—while ceding more of the experience to their partners. The answer lies in adopting an ecosystem mindset, providing key partners the tools they need to grow their businesses, and orchestrating a trusting environment that encourages the right partners to deliver the right experiences that will drive connected growth.
B2B leaders know that customer experience is the gateway to growth. Ninety percent of them believe CX is crucial to their companies’ strategic priorities. And 75 percent believe CX will be even more important in the next two years. Acknowledging the importance of CX is one thing. Delivering experiences that produce more B2B sales is another.
Selling in the digital age has become more complex than many B2B leaders had anticipated. Buyers are demanding more and different solutions and forms of engagement. They are more fickle and less loyal. And there are more of them. The average number of customers that participate in a B2B buying decision now stands at seven.
Complicating matters is the fact that customers don’t engage with sales channels as they used to. Sales environments are becoming more digital and less human, and opportunities to sell are coming from less-traditional places. Sixty-one percent of all B2B transactions now start online.
Without the right CX capabilities, B2B companies can’t build relationships with loyal customers who spend more, stay longer, and are more forgiving. They miss out on growth opportunities that reside outside the traditional sales cycle. And they incur huge opportunity costs by failing to capture renewals.
In the digital age, B2B companies have the opportunity to orchestrate indirect channel growth and CX improvement as movements of a single symphony. To conduct sales success, B2B leaders must do this.
Pivot from Partner Management to Ecosystem Orchestration: To regain visibility and control over CX, B2B companies need to consider their indirect partners as extensions of their own business and critical enablers of new business models and CX strategies. An ecosystem mindset looks beyond the interactions and transactions that have characterized indirect channel models of the past. The new focus is not on ensuring territory coverage or sales volume but on cocreating value by delivering exceptional customer experiences. Ecosystem orchestrators don’t apply a standard approach to partner selection and management. They intentionally team with a select network of partners that can extend and improve CX. Equally important, they tailor their partner experiences to ensure their partners are aligned and appropriately supported.
Mind Their Partners’ and Customers’ Business: In an indirect channel ecosystem, understanding the needs and preferences of customers takes priority. Delivering the best customer experiences requires connected insights. Feedback mechanisms and data sharing are essential for building trust among all parties and understanding what they need in order to improve CX and sales. Providing partners something they value—such as leads, customer events, and sales coaching—will encourage them to share customer insights. Aggregating, enriching, and sharing appropriate customer insights among select ecosystem participants allow the indirect channel to operate as an engine for connected growth. And aligning measures of success with consistency of outcomes helps ensure an optimized experience for all customers.
Adopt a New Currency for Connected Growth: Seventy percent of B2B executives say that partners that are more digitally engaged are typically more valuable to the business. Currently, B2B companies lag their B2C counterparts in using technology to understand the customers and devise strategies for delivering better experiences. The good news is that there is plenty of opportunity for them to catch up. Better customer data management (cited by 68 percent of our survey respondents) and insightful analytics (67 percent) have the potential to be the currency that drives ecosystem growth in the future. Social listening also holds particular potential for B2B companies. Our research found that integrating social data with core CX capabilities such as closed-loop feedback is the leading predictor of not only CX performance but also CX improvement over time.
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