B2B Brands: Inspire Loyalty by Example
Build customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention with personalized services after the sale
The marketing team at Dell knew they needed to rethink their approach to digital experiences.
A natural place to start would have been in the pre-purchase and purchase stages of the customer journey. Because their customers are spread out across consumer, small, medium, and large corporate segments, as well as government institutions, they might have been justified in narrowing their focus to the earlier stages of the customer journey.
But while Dell’s director of digital customer experiences, Vab Dwivedi, recognized the need to optimize those stages, he also could not ignore the benefits of extending that optimization into the post-purchase phase.
Forrester validates Vab’s position. In 2016, the consultancy created its own Customer Experience Index. The index uses third-party customer satisfaction scores to illustrate the point that great customer experiences lead to higher customer satisfaction, which in turn contributes to revenue growth.
For instance, in Forrester’s side-by-side comparison, AT&T’s U-Verse customer experience scored near the top of their CX Index and ACSI rankings for internet service providers (ISPs). By contrast, Comcast Xfinity scored near the bottom. In a stunning testament to the power of a great customer experience, AT&T saw CAGR of more than 29 percent — Comcast only 5 percent.
In another example, Southwest Airlines ranked well in the CX Index and saw hearty 7.3 percent growth over the same time period. Lower ranked United Airlines achieved a comparatively meager 2.2 percent growth.
In Forrester’s research, this story replayed again and again, among retailers, investment firms, airlines, and ISPs alike. Forrester sums up their findings thus:
“Good customer experience drives customer loyalty. In other words, companies that deliver a better customer experience tend to retain more of their customers, get more incremental purchases from their customers, and attract more new customers through positive word of mouth.”
And that elevated customer experience — from pre-purchase to purchase and through post-purchase — was identified as a critical in a companies’ higher revenue growth. But why aren’t more marketers investing in an under-appreciated source of revenue growth and cost reduction? Answers may be vexing, but the way forward is clear.
Optimize the post-purchase journey
The truth is, customers are expecting companies to recognize and understand their needs even beyond the purchase stage. Business buyers expect companies to understand and anticipate their needs, and they’re fully willing to reward those companies that provide a personalized, optimized customer experience beyond the point of purchase.
Increasingly, however, before B2B customers will grant their loyalty to a brand, they demand ongoing relationships directly with brands and prefer self-guided research and self-service.
“B2B buyers today have an increasing appetite to purchase directly from manufacturers, and some are even willing to pay a premium for the privilege,” says Rob Howl, who, as the senior director of strategy at SapientRazorfish, has shepherded many global B2B organizations through digital transformations.
In other words, the post-purchase journey of your customers must be as worthy of their loyalty as was the pre-purchase journey. According to IDC’s 2016 Tech Benchmarking Survey, few brands can boast that they offer such a consistent experience across pre- and post-purchase journeys. And perhaps part of the reason is found in how most brands spend their marketing budget. Eighty percent of high-tech marketing budgets is applied to the pre-purchase and purchase part of the journey, and only 20 percent is spent on post-purchase experiences.
See increased profitability from retention and loyalty
Fred Reichheld, Harvard Business School professor and legendary creator of the Net Promoter Score, confirmed as much when he found that a 5 percent increase in customer loyalty could generate anywhere between 25 percent and 95 percent higher profitability. Where does this profitability boost originate from?
“ B2B sales cycles are often long and costly — and the lion’s share of marketing budgets are geared toward lead-generation and conversion with less focus on maximizing existing customer lifetime value,” Rob says.
Loyal, retained customers reduce those acquisition costs over time, but that’s not the only benefit they bring. Rob adds, “Loyal customers tend to be happier customers. And happy customers act as advocates, offering powerful, personal endorsements for your brand.”
The key to creating this level of customer loyalty is what Rob refers to as experience-driven service — the post-purchase equivalent of data-driven marketing. It’s the ability to use insights from real-time customer behaviors and multichannel data to optimize post-purchase customer experiences. Such a data-driven approach tends to reduce friction and anticipate customer needs, so the experience always delivers relevant, valuable information to each customer. Finally, experience-driven service focuses on constant measurement of the experience to enable constant improvement.
This may sound like an instance of easier said than done, but Rob recalls several attainable, real-world examples of experience-driven service in action, including at B2B brands such as National Instruments, Tennant, and TE Connectivity.
Returning to the Dell example, their mission is to optimize their entire customer journey, including what happens after purchase. The Dell marketing team integrated Adobe solutions with their existing data-collection tools and survey software, creating one unified platform that would collect data from Dell.com — including data from the site’s more than 1 billion annual visits. Armed with this data and the platform’s analytics capabilities, Dell could begin the work of optimizing the customer journey from pre-purchase to post-purchase.
Before long, customers landing on tailored Dell homepages were able to receive information specifically about their approved system configurations. Computer support and software details are focused on their individual purchases and needs. Continual testing refined these experiences further and increased the personalization capabilities to levels previously thought impossible.
Adobe’s director of strategy for high tech and B2B, Jill Steinhour, explains Dell’s success. “Dell, like many companies, wondered how much support is the right amount. They were able to determine this by combining their survey and pages viewed data, and analyzing that data together. They delivered this support via online chat and were also able to make custom offers within that chat session. The result was a 13 percent improvement in customer satisfaction — a great example of how paying attention to post-purchase experiences can drive loyalty and revenue.”
Focus on moments that matter
Jill is quick to point out that experience-driven service like this does not happen by accident. It requires organizations to make a shift from siloed data to integrated data. And it also requires a deep understanding of your most valuable audience segments at each milestone of the customer journey — what Jill calls moments that matter.
“Mapping customer journeys can be very complex and convoluted,” says Jill, “but moments that matter are where you need to be focusing. This means focusing on points in the post-purchase experience where you can make things easier for your customer, save your customer time, or show your customer something that is meaningful to them.”
Rob agrees and advises marketers to “understand, organize, and deliver to key stakeholder journeys, and work tirelessly to reduce friction along the way, especially in moments that matter.”
Depending on the business, Rob says this might mean crafting seamless experiences beyond marketing to account management, technical and product support, spare parts sales, and warranty, maintenance, and other subscription revenue opportunities. This will not only drive incremental revenue, but also will reduce the cost-to-serve. This improvement in efficiency results in cost savings that are just as important — and beneficial — as revenue. “Meet B2B stakeholders — like engineers, technicians, procurement, and finance — where they are and deliver on their terms,” he recommends.
Win with outstanding post-purchase experiences
Marketers have already realized that gaining a competitive advantage today is less about products and more about experiences. However, only those who extend their focus to the post-purchase journey will deliver differentiated experiences that yield the greater profitability found with increased retention and loyalty. Getting there is easier with the right solutions.
“Customer experience is already a complex topic,” says Jill. “You don’t want your technology to add to that complexity.”
With the right tools on an integrated platform, it’s easy to develop audience segments, streamline content creation, eliminate technology and data silos, and deliver personalized and impactful content to your customers at those critical moments that matter — whether pre-purchase, purchase, or post-purchase.
For more information on how post-purchase digital experiences can help your business maximize profitability with the modern B2B customer, explore Razorshop B2B. Read more about digital marketing experiences in B2B transactions in our series with Sapient Razorfish.