May 3rd 2024

Herberts World #13

Issue number 13 of Herbert's World. First published, as always, on the industry portal (Germen only).

Empathizing with and thinking about customer wishes and needs are the basic conditions of good customer experience (CX) - this has always been Herbert Höckel's topic.

What is fundamental to CX? The consistent change of perspective from the provider role to the customer role. In other words, really putting on the customer's glasses, gaining new insights and operationalizing the knowledge gained.

In the following column, you can read why this is easier said than done and why CX is still so much in its infancy, especially in business between companies.

We hope you enjoy reading it!

B2B CX: Unfortunately often no glasses instead of customer glasses!

When I'm not working at one of my two institutes, I regularly present my favorite topics - customer experience, customer centricity and customer journey - as a speaker at industry events. Or to put it in other words: why it is more important than ever for companies to look at the market through the eyes of their customers. I then like to present my audience with some particularly fascinating practical examples:

Customer focus and appreciation in perfection: The LEGO company.

A certain Jordan Schwarz was so enthusiastic about the magic of the little toy blocks that the high school student (!) from the USA began sharing his creative designs online in a network called AFOL (Adult Friends Of Lego) and exchanging ideas with like-minded people.

What did LEGO do? They immediately recognized the value of this creative customer biotope and did everything right: Firstly, they recruited Jordan straight out of school into their design and development team in Billund, Denmark. There they created - their own co-creation platform, through which design suggestions have since found their way into the official product lines - at least IF they gain more than 10,000 likes.

What a sensational opportunity for every LEGO fan to be recognized and even (richly) rewarded for good ideas. And also for LEGO itself, after all, every new product from the "fan lab" has at least 10,000 potential new buyers even before it is launched!

Made by Tesla: disruption and reduction of processes.

Exactly - Tesla, the disruptor that revolutionized the previously annoying configuration and ordering process from the get-go. With crystal-clear communication, a significant reduction in complexity and eyes and ears always focused on the customer's wishes. In this way, "Joe Mode", a sophisticated quiet mode, has made it into the software of all models. Precisely because a customer named Joe complained on Twitter (now "X") in 2019 about too many and too loud warning sounds that regularly woke his children. What did Tesla do about it? They listened, made adjustments and gave their customers a feeling of unprecedented self-efficacy

… and customers honor self-efficacy!

The natural reaction in my audience: nodding in agreement. After all, these are beacons of good CX management. But what successful company today can do business without customer glasses? Hasn't this long been standard practice, at least among market leaders?

Yes, that's true! But in reality, unfortunately, only for the consumer sector and not for business-to-business! Question to the decision-makers and managing directors present: Who has ever bought a turbine online from Siemens? No one? Lucky you! Or let's make it a little smaller: What about buying raw materials for your production or new vehicles for your fleet? And do you remember the "purchasing processes" for your current advertising agency, the last IT infrastructure or for the new maintenance provider?

CX in B2B lags worlds behind the level in end customer business

So let's be honest: How was your customer experience and the "journey" up to your signature? Did your supplier really have your customer glasses on? Well, very probably not. Unfortunately, CX in B2C is still worlds ahead of B2B these days. And this is despite the fact that the value of the "shopping basket" in transactions between companies is many times higher than the average Amazon order.

Every good marketer knows what effective customer experience should achieve in our everyday lives: Convenience, speed and the lowest possible price. This is just as relevant in B2B, but a trusting, long-term relationship with the procurement manager, transparent, honest communication and the establishment of good, lean structures are no less important. Qualitative factors such as interpersonal standards therefore also play a major role.

We need a better CX in the B2B environment not despite, but precisely because of the greater complexity of the products

As the value of goods and services increases, so does their complexity. Nevertheless, this should not mean that I as a customer have to deal with changing contact persons, often redundant, time-consuming processes, extensive bureaucracy and often a lack of flexibility. But which salesperson really makes the effort in advance to know the real requirements as well as the (budgetary) limits of the purchasing company and to act accordingly?

So how can it be that in the evening (from home) we mercilessly dismiss every commercial supplier who doesn't immediately read our every wish from our eyes, but the next day in the office we accept even the brittlest supplier (almost) without complaint?

This is certainly due to the dynamism and speed of the classic "B2C game", while the business side is characterized by established structures and obviously still (too) many conservative-minded people who control purchasing and sales in companies.

However, according to Pew-Research, 75% (!) of the entire workforce will be made up of Generation Y (born between 1980 and 1995) by next year. As they take command of day-to-day business, they will expect nothing less than "instant gratification" on the job - instead of having to be patient with a sales force like their predecessors before them.

"Digitalized" manager generations will soon dominate

In the wake of GenY (the so-called "millennials"), GenZ (born between 1995 and 2010) is already pushing its way into companies. Both age groups, i.e. Y and Z together, consist of deeply digitally accustomed and spoiled (!) individuals who have been socialized for years as private customers with mostly perfectly balanced consumer experiences, but now as managers will hardly accept such a rudimentary CX in their professional lives. Yes, things will change here very soon.

Sales processes in B2B are therefore facing the same transformation that B2C has been undergoing for 15 or 20 years: The configuration of all company processes towards a consistent customer perspective and away from the focus on the product. The aim is to offer target groups maximum added value throughout the ENTIRE life cycle.

The tool of choice in B2B too: NPS!

Interjection from my audience: What is the best way to start this transformation? My answer: Start with NPS, the Net Promotor Score. The best indicator for determining customer satisfaction and an effective tool for successful CX management.

It is clear that the mechanisms work no differently in B2B than in B2C: for example, customers share their negative experiences much more often than positive opinions. Or that constructive criticism is unfortunately rarely or not at all (!) shared with the provider. Consequently, only proactive investigation can help here. And specifically with regard to NPS: The categories of promoters, indifferents and detractors can also be clearly identified for business customers. Plus the crucial questions: WHY do these customers rate the product so critically? How can we improve the detractors in the score? So what do we need to do to turn a destructive "6" into a recommendable "9"?

Working with the NPS forces you to consistently put on your customer glasses, reveals important potential and enables continuous improvement processes. However, as a market researcher, I know from practical experience that even the best tool quickly reaches its limits if top management is not involved from the outset and, above all, does not have the necessary patience. I also recommend "CX committees" to anchor the new view of customers in the organization.

Back to Jordan Schwarz and the lessons learned from "Joe Mode":

Now let's imagine that the older Jordan is no longer interested in the colorful LEGO bricks, but in the large turbines from Siemens. How important would it then be if such an industrial giant also activated its very own Joe Mode? Because otherwise, the next generation of managers will be hard-pressed to remove even such providers from their "relevant set".

So finally CUSTOMER glasses in B2B, please!

One thing is certain: the business customer sector cannot afford to fly blind for much longer. It is high time for a radical rethink!

Herbert Höckel

Herbert Höckel is a managing partner here at moweb research GmbH. He has been a market researcher for more than 25 years. In 2004 he founded moweb GmbH, which he is still the owner today. moweb from Düsseldorf operates internationally and is one of the first German market research institutes specializing in digital processes.

You are welcome to purchase his book "Customer Centricity Mindset ® - Really Understand Customers, Master Disruption Successfully" here.

Your success, our goal!