B2B customer satisfaction lags behind B2C: How IT services can help


iStock 000018197681SmallThe customer is always right, or so the old adage goes, and keeping a customer-centric perspective is valuable whether targeting individual consumers or international corporations. Most companies have put some effort into raising engagement via their websites, though that channel is particular important for e-commerce organizations. In addition to measurements such as page views and total time spent on-site, it's important to consider factors such as customer loyalty, which may offer insight into the experiences that target audiences have with a company.

Customer experience is a critical factor for both B2B and B2C companies, but the former may have some room for improvement. A study conducted by analytics software vendor ForeSee, quantified online perceptions of 33 B2B websites. The average B2B site scored 64 out of 100, falling short of the 80 required to earn a "very satisfied" ranking. Considering that high ratings were correlated with stronger engagement and a higher likelihood to make repeat purchases, business leaders should take stock of how their audience views the company and plan for ways those perceptions can be improved.

"Those who are lagging should answer the charge, take steps to focus on what elements are most important to customers and make improvements that will have the greatest impact on improving the customer experience," said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee.

Many e-commerce companies have begun to recognize the connection between customer experience and the potential for revenue, and a lot of that attention is directed toward customer-facing points of interaction like product pages, checkout and the homepage. Optimizing these areas can yield significant results, but it is important to consider all of the processes involved in delivering offerings to the right people at the right time.

Getting the big picture from customer satisfaction
Adopting a strategy that focuses on the big picture is especially important when utilizing customer satisfaction data. Because much of the data is subjective, it can be more difficult to extract relevant trends and identify what to improve in the first place. Another mistake, according to a white paper written by B2B International, is that many companies attempt to address individual problems rather than identifying and fixing the underlying issues. It is also important to avoid shifting the responsibility for improvement to a single department. Account management and sales teams may be responsible for direct interaction, but they won't be able to do much if the problem is operational.

In e-commerce, for example, checkout can be a point of frustration for many customers. A company looking at low satisfaction in regard to the checkout process would need to identify the core causes of frustration - Are pages loading too slowly? Are orders taking too long to complete? Is brand messaging consistent across all channels? Putting effort into building a strategy that is focused on fundamental issues will facilitate faster time-to-improvement. As B2B International noted, it may be beneficial to create a list and prioritize action items by how quickly the problems can be fixed and how much value addressing them would provide.

Some improvements will be more difficult to implement than others. Particularly in the B2B arena, inconsistency in messaging and delays in service can mark the difference between a satisfied and a disgruntled customer. If the problem appears to be slow information exchange, then it may be time to review and improve existing B2B integration systems and practices. This will take time, so it will be helpful to have less resource intensive projects to work on while developing a strategy for the larger issue. For instance, something as simple as having all employees use a standardized voicemail message for their business phones could promote greater consistency.

"A constant improvement in customer satisfaction should be in the mission statement of virtually every company," the B2B International report stated. "The benefits are huge. There will be a reduction in customer churn. There will be increased loyalty. And, not least, there will be increased profitability."

Getting everyone on board
One factor that can delay these improvements is a lack of unity among departments. Improving B2B interactions should be an organization-wide initiative, and all stakeholders must understand the company's goals to form a cohesive strategy. Fostering an in-depth understanding will also encourage new process and technology adoption so that business leaders can see results sooner rather than later.

For example, the implementation of a B2B integration solution is an IT-centric process, but the final result will affect those outside of technical teams. If the company plans to replace an existing solution, IT teams may find it beneficial to work with business managers to identify the platform's shortcomings and adopt one that addresses those core issues. A multi-departmental brainstorming session may be equally valuable for companies just starting their B2B integration projects, as this would enable a wider breadth of expertise to contribute to the technology selection process.

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