COVID-19 has blurred the lines between the business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) experience as remote work creates a less formal business environment. This shift from a corporate to personalised way of doing business has created seven new trends for B2B customer experience, according to Pitney Bowes.
Stephen Darracott, vice president and country manager, Pitney Bowes Japan, Australia and New Zealand said, “B2B firms are now making closer connections with people than they have ever done before. Home-based online meetings have given companies new in-depth insights into the personal lives and interests of their customers.
“Considering that the experience customers have with organisations is as important as the products and services they provide, businesses need to rethink how they can find ways to meet clients’ expectations in a relevant, thoughtful way.”
Pitney Bowes advises there are seven new trends emerging for B2B customer experience in the post-pandemic economy:
1. DEEPER LEVELS OF PERSONALISATION
Once purely the realm of consumer companies, business customers now expect organisations to know their preferences. They seek a more personalised, relevant, and human approach in business encounters. This is leading organisations to consider factors such as hyper-personalisation, where the business anticipates the customer’s need, even before the customer realises this need themselves. This type of customer relationship is enhanced by data, tools, and automation combined with intelligence gathered from every customer interaction across the organisation.
Businesses will increasingly use real-time data and analytics to make life easier for clients, and to identify issues and solve them remotely before the customer’s business is impacted. For example, Pitney Bowes offers customers a service that alerts the company when its ink supplies are low, so that ink can be shipped to the company before the business is impacted.
2. SELF-SERVICE REMAINS POPULAR
The ability to problem-solve quickly and efficiently using web-based tools appears to be preferred by B2B customers. Even with complex products and services, the option to self-serve can play a significant role in delivering a great customer experience. During the pandemic, being able to service customers in person has not always been possible or preferable. This has made it more important for organisations to develop online tools such as how-to videos that can help customers fix simpler problems. This frees up technicians to focus on more complex issues, maintaining a strong customer experience.
This potential isn’t confined to problem-solving alone, with a recent McKinsey study finding that 97 per cent of B2B buyers were comfortable with making business purchases worth $50,000 or more through an end-to-end, digital self-serve model.(1)
3. SOCIAL CHANNELS ARE KEY
More than 90 per cent of B2B buyers are now active and involved in social media, and 84 per cent of senior executives use social media to support purchase decisions.(2) Increasingly, social channels are becoming pivotal. Businesses can use the insights gained through these channels to deliver deeper levels of personalisation and enhance the customer experience.
4. ONLINE MEETINGS STILL HOLD VALUE
While online meetings will never replace face-to-face interactions entirely, they will continue to provide value in accelerating professional relationships and helping to quickly build trust. In future, the B2B customer experience is likely to comprise a hybrid of face-to-face, which will likely require visitor management policies and processes, and remote interactions.
5. DIGITAL EVENTS AND DEMONSTRATIONS WILL AUGMENT IN-PERSON EVENTS
In-person events are invaluable for brand presence, networking, and product demonstrations, so the world is likely to return to these events as pandemic restrictions ease. However, digital events and personalised virtual product demonstrations will continue to help clients visualise how products and services can be applied within their own businesses.
6. CONTACTLESS SERVICES ARE HERE TO STAY
Contactless services, such as telehealth and contactless parcel delivery, have proven beneficial throughout the pandemic. Many contactless processes are highly efficient and will permanently replace manual processes. For example, contactless visitor sign-in at offices is easier, error-proof, and more effective than manual registration via a visitor log-book.
7. CLIENTS EXPECT EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Emotional intelligence has been emerging for many years as a crucial component of doing business and even more so in the post-pandemic world. Moving forward, it will be more important for organisations to communicate and interact with sensitivity and empathy when engaging with customers.
Stephen Darracott said, “While it’s still difficult to predict exactly what the longer-term outcome will be for B2B organisations once the pandemic ends, there are clear indicators of where customer sentiment is heading. Ultimately, it comes down to businesses to act responsibly and proactively so they can respond quickly to customer needs and add real value that makes every customer engagement matter.”