In April 2015, we started a conversation about what is different between business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) customer experience (CX). That early discussion focused on the fact that in B2B scenarios, there isn't one customer; there are multiple stakeholders within a client account whose work depends on interactions with the vendor. Now we're ready to elevate this conversation to its next level: How do B2B CX pros help their businesses find the stakeholders who matter?

I know what you're saying: "Don't all client stakeholders matter?" Yes — you want to make sure that each individual in an account who interacts with your firm has an experience that helps them achieve their goals. But when business leaders assess the value of customer experience, they want to know that it contributes to revenue growth, a business success indicator. So when B2B CX pros examine customer experience, they must understand the perceptions of stakeholders who influence:

  • Retention. Who are the stakeholders who must see value in the vendor's products and services before the buyer(s) renews the contract?
  • Upsell and cross-sell. Who are the stakeholders whose perceptions of value influence their colleagues' decision to acquire more products and services from the vendor?
  • Advocacy. Who are the stakeholders whose opinion of the vendor can sway their colleagues' or industry counterparts' decision to do business with the vendor?

We know that as client accounts get bigger, there are more stakeholders involved, making the process of finding these influential individuals difficult. We also know that many B2B CX teams don't have direct relationships with client accounts — they depend on intermediaries, such as account representatives, to find key stakeholders. And this filter exposes CX pros' assessments to the blind spots and knowledge gaps that their colleagues have inside of client accounts. I know what you're asking now: "If we have to get deeper into our client accounts and our business counterparts can only get us part of the way there, what is the solution?"

We recently completed a report that begins to tackle this issue entitled "B2B CX Professionals: Find The Full Range Of B2B Customers." In talking to B2B CX pros, we found that this is a multipart process that includes:

  • Building an assumption about who key client stakeholders really are based business intelligence.
  • Validating these assumptions through in-depth research with your customers.
  • Contextualizing this newfound customer understanding for your business colleagues.

This is not a trivial task. As we detail in the report, it's a considerable investment of time and resources. So we know that the B2B outfits that embrace this sort of initiative are firms that believe that there is great business benefit in understanding and continuously improving customer experiences. And this raises a new question: How do B2B CX teams get their companies to see the value in these sorts of customer understanding efforts? As we move forward with this research, we'll be exploring issues like:

  • How B2B CX teams are organized and goaled.
  • The scope of responsibilities that B2B CX teams should take on.
  • How B2B CX teams help their companies shape their CX ecosystems.

If you would like to participate in this B2B CX research stream, feel free to reach out to me. And if you'd like to share your thoughts on how B2B CX teams uncover key constituents and tailor experiences for them, please share them in the comment section below.