• As consumers, we have strong preferences for the companies we trust and admire
  • These companies thrive because they focus on customer interactions and treat their buyers with respect and relevance
  • B2B organizations can earn the same loyalty – and economic advantages – by learning from their consumer-driven peers

On our SiriusDecisions Summit content development journey, Isabel Montesdeoca and I began thinking about the parallels between business and consumer excellence, and the role that trust plays in B2B and B2C relationships. Thinking about how respect and relevance can be monetized by B2B providers, the discussion always seems to begin with the best B2C brands, and how carefully they have curated five kinds of exemplary interactions:

Feedback smiley icon set

Apple: Private Interactions

We all know deep down that Apple products are great at protecting our privacy. When using any one of the two billion iPhones ever sold, we trust the device and the company behind it. From fingerprint reading and app integrations to encryption and the Lightning port, the company has made it clear from day one that customer trust is a top corporate mandate. This starts at the top, with Tim Cook, who advocates for ever-stronger data privacy laws to combat what he terms the “weaponization” of personal data by less scrupulous enterprises worldwide. And, let’s not forget, Apple’s B2B revenue is estimated to be in the $25 to $30 billion range, so it knows a thing or two about corporate privacy needs.

Ritz-Carlton: Personalized Interactions

Ritz-Carlton is well-known for its personal touches, from acknowledging the birthdays of customers’ children, to tracking down lost personal items, to understanding guests’ spa preferences down to insanely minute details. The secret sauce behind this commitment? Investing in bleeding-edge data management; consciously deciding where in the customer’s journey to introduce personalization; and a relentless commitment to follow-up, closure and resolution on every customer experience, good or bad. When you stay at the Ritz, every interaction is structured around its relevance to your ultimate delight. How many business providers truly live up to that standard?

Netflix: Dynamic Interactions

Much to my surprise, I recently learned that Netflix still has three million DVD subscribers. Who knew? That business unit turns a tidy profit despite the extraordinary success of the company’s online streaming service and its ability to adapt to customer preferences, driven by a huge investment in artificial intelligence that’s helped it scale to dizzying growth curves. What role does machine learning play in making it so darn easy to find just the right entertainment from a library that would take 340,000 hours to consume? Those dynamic interactions are driven by relating the watching history of other users to support personalized recommendations; ranking thumbnail images to track what content is most successfully recommended; providing every user (as opposed to every account) with a customized experience; and dozens of other innovations too numerous to mention. Those folks live and breathe the value of quality STEM education – am I right?

Zappos: Interconnected Interactions

Founded 20 years ago and acquired by Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion, Zappos made an unusual commitment for a last-century online retailer ­– to never take the human touch out of e-commerce. Beyond the quality of its shoe offerings, no-questions-asked free returns policy and core values around “delivering WOW,” the company deployed some out-there concepts in support of its customer service reps. These include unlimited call times, no scripts, zero upselling, and the famous “pay to quit” philosophy (annually offering bonuses to anyone who chooses to leave, to gauge and improve the employee experience) embraced by its corporate parent even today. Zappo’s customer delight stems from the fact that, regardless of which rep you speak with, a Zappos rep just gets you – informed by background strategies that work together seamlessly behind the scenes so you never have to repeat yourself to any of the other empowered, helpful reps.

Amazon: Effortless Interactions

Leonardo da Vinci is credited with the quote, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” No wonder Jeff Bezos was, for a time, the suspected anonymous buyer of da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” for $450 million, the most ever spent on a work of art. Bezos’ brainchild represents an extraordinary exercise in hidden complexity – the annual research-and-development budget is $23 billion, roughly the gross domestic product of Honduras or Vermont – that ultimately makes Amazon so totally effortless to use. I sense that the site is collecting outrageously detailed data about me, but so far, I’ve never once felt disrespected by how they use it. Can you say the same for your B2B customers? 

These outstanding examples of best-of-breed customer interactions never happen by accident; they represent a deliberate, top-down effort by companies to put their buyers first. Please join Isabel and me for our May 6 keynote, The Respect and Relevance Imperative in the Age of the Customer, at this year’s SiriusDecisions Summit in Austin for a deeper dive, thought-provoking research data, and a template for your organization to embody these standards of respect and relevance.