Is The Digital Customer Experience Relevant To B2B Brands?

Jennifer Arnold

Last year SAP Australia/New Zealand released the 2016 Digital Customer Experience research, which investigates consumers’ views about the quality of digital customer experiences they receive from local consumer brands and identifies the impact of this on brand loyalty and advocacy. In sharing our research with SAP customers, I meet with many business-to-business (B2B) organisations.

Often the first question I’m asked is, “Our customers are other businesses, so is this research relevant to us?” And my response is always, “Yes, because until Artificial Intelligence runs the world and all future business engagements are conducted chatbot to chatbot, your customer on the other side of the screen isn’t a business, it’s a real person, who is also a consumer.”

Our research with 6,000 ANZ consumers found they’re nearly 5 x more likely to remain loyal to a consumer brand if it provides them delightful digital experiences.

In a business setting, employees typically will have less or no choice about the businesses they have to engage with compared to the wide choice they have as an individual consumer. Therefore, we expect in the B2B segment the impact of an individual employee’s experience on brand loyalty will be less critical to the brand’s business.

However, based on conversations with customers and partners, we’ve found the quality of the digital experience does affect how an employee chooses to engage with a business, which impacts productivity, cost, and efficiency. For example, if a manufacturer wants customers to use an online ordering tool but the tool doesn’t work properly or is hard to use, the customer’s employees may choose to work around it by emailing or phoning in orders. This can increase the processing time and result in the manufacturer having to double-handle the order information to enter it into its system.

When it comes to the impact on brand advocacy, nearly 70% of ANZ consumers would be willing to recommend consumer brands that provide them with a delightful digital experience.

The feedback we receive from SAP’s customers also suggests that the impact on brand advocacy is slightly less for B2B organisations than for B2C brands. This is primarily because large numbers of consumers share feedback about their experiences and recommendations on broad social media platforms, and again, average employees often can’t choose the companies with which their employer does business.

That’s not to say advocacy is not important to B2B companies. An increasing number of B2B organisations, including SAP, use the Net Promotor Score rating, which measures advocacy as a key indicator for customer satisfaction and business health. Aspects of customer satisfaction typically measured include service quality, communication and responsiveness, customer support, the ease of doing business with the company, fit of products and services, and handling of issues. If these aspects aren’t well supported by a positive digital experience, customer satisfaction and the willingness to promote or advocate for the company will be impacted.

The size of a company may also matter when it comes to the the impact of the digital experience on loyalty and advocacy. For smaller B2B organisations, the impact may be greater because their customers are less likely to be locked into long-term contracts and would have more choice of providers, so risk of customer churn is greater.

Consider this: If you have a regular print supplier for your company documents, proposals, posters, and so on, and their online systems for booking, tracking your orders, and exchanging and checking artwork don’t work to your satisfaction, would you stay with them or go to a supplier that provides a better-functioning system? Which of them would you recommend to a friend or colleague who needs print services?

Improved loyalty and advocacy aren’t the only objectives organisations expect from improving customer experiences. More and more I’m asked to share our Digital Customer Experience research findings with our B2B customers and discuss what they can do to improve experiences because enhanced customer engagement is central to organisations’ overall digital transformation strategies. These transformations involve adapting their products and services and creating new channels to sell to and support consumers – all increasingly digital-only.

This is expanding the customer experience conversations outside of the marketing and customer service departments into all business functions and levels. The customer experience – especially the digital customer experience – is relevant and increasingly critical to every part of the business in every brand in the market.

If you’re from a B2B organisation, are you trying to improve your digital customer experience? If so, what are the most critical steps you’re taking? What changes do your customers want to see?

For more information about improving your digital customer experiences, read our 2016 Digital Customer Experience research paper and join us for the discussion at our four-city Art of the Possible roadshow across ANZ starting 7 March.

Jennifer Arnold

About Jennifer Arnold

Jennifer Arnold is Vice President of Marketing for Customer Experience, in Asia Pacific Japan/Greater China, for SAP. She leads the team responsible for brand awareness and demand management for SAP commerce, marketing, sales and service solutions. Prior to this role, Jennifer was head of the Centre of Excellence team in Australia/New Zealand (ANZ), which is responsible for thought leadership, business development, and strategic deal support to increase the business value customers achieve from SAP solutions. She also ran the ANZ demand management program, coordinating the efforts of sales, business development and marketing teams across the company's lines of business to improve customers’ end-to-end buying experiences and increase sales success. Over her 25-year career, Jennifer also held global and regional business consulting and marketing/communications roles at Unisys, IBM Services, and QBE Insurance, and several senior agency roles.