Are You Afraid Of Changing Your B2B Customer Experience?

Mark Treshock

As a career consultant, I get to help many great companies realize the benefits of digital transformation. I recently had an interesting conversation with a client about the customer experience for one of their B2B websites. It went something like this:

Client: There are problems with our B2B site’s customer experience. Customers tell us it’s frustrating to use and confusing. Many have decided it’s easier to call.

Me: That’s not good; let’s fix it.

Client: Yes, we are getting ready to launch a project to redesign our customer experience globally, across all our divisions. It will be done in 2018…if the funding is approved, and we start on time.

Me: That’s a long time to wait. We can make small changes now and fix many of the pain points your customers have.

Client: No. Our customers will be upset if we change things in 2017, and again in 2018—it’s better to stick with what we have until 2018.

The client had the right idea of focusing on their customers, but this led them to the wrong conclusion. Here’s why.

What is customer experience?

Think of customer experience as the moment-to-moment interactions your customers have as they interact with your company online, through a mobile device, a contact center, or any other channel. The example above refers to the companies’ B2B website, but more broadly, customer experience refers to your customer’s interactions through any channel and across channels.

Key questions to evaluate your customer experience:

  1. Can your customers easily and efficiently get done what they came to do?
  2. Are the steps to complete required tasks obvious and intuitive, and is help readily available? (For example, how easy are steps such as researching, ordering, or viewing payment information, and how accessible are help options such as self-help instructions and site Q&A, or live help such as online chat or a phone center.)

In the example above, the answers to these questions were no, but the company was still reluctant to make interim changes out of concern for upsetting their customers while the global team did their work.

What to do about your customer experience

Let’s start with some clichés: Digital is a journey, not a destination; embrace change and move towards the light; to tackle a large project, take small bites and chew quickly. All of these are true, but in this case my favorite is: If you make life easier for your customers, they will reward you.

In reality, the customer experience of B2C and B2B commerce websites changes frequently. Usually the changes are small and isolated to a specific section or process. Occasionally the changes are large and represent a complete revamp/redesign.

As a general rule, as long as the changes make things easier for customers, they won’t mind. Furthermore, small changes along the way can help influence the large redesign as they represent opportunities to test design concepts and to get feedback from customers.

Keep these 6 steps in mind as you start updating your customer experience:

  1. Take an honest look at your customer experience using the questions above.
  2. Based on the honest answers, identify a list of customer experience use cases that need to be improved.
  3. Share this list with a few key customers to understand their perspective and make updates accordingly.
  4. Take this list of use cases to your senior leaders and explain to them the urgency and what your customers shared. Map out a sequence of small projects over 2 or 3 quarters.
  5. Start tackling these use cases. After each release, get honest feedback from your customers.
  6. Modify your list of use cases as needed and repeat. You will quickly develop a culture of continuous improvement.

Remember, if you make life easier for your customers, they will reward you.

Join the conversation on Disruptive CX Crowd Chat, or read more about Cognitive Commerce and how media companies must manage the customer experience to survive.

View more details in the point-of-view paper, Technology and the CMO in a Digital Era,” or the eBook, “The Digital Economy: Reinventing the Business World.

Discover how to update your customer experience with IBM and SAP.

Learn more about the IBM SAP partnership for Digital Transformation.


Mark Treshock

About Mark Treshock

Mark Treshock is the Customer Engagement and Commerce Lead in North America for the Distribution Sector at IBM GBS. He can be reached at mtreshock@us.ibm.com.