Since 2007, Forrester has helped consumer brands evaluate the experience they deliver to their customers with our Customer Experience Index (CX Index™). This methodology powerfully demonstrates to business-to-consumer (B2C) companies the link between CX and customer loyalty. Business-to-business (B2B) firms can benefit from a similar methodology to assess their emerging CX practices. Using the B2C-oriented CX Index as a foundation, we created the Forrester B2B Tech Customer Experience Index, which we are unveiling today.
The B2B Tech CX Index is designed to account for the key differences between B2B and B2C technology companies in managing a customer experience:
- The number of stakeholders within a single account. In a single B2B account there are numerous "customers" — individuals who interact directly with the vendor or its products. This can include business analysts, procurement officers, tech management executives, systems administrators, end users, and help desk staff. Because B2B tech companies have to account for many different stakeholders, the B2B Tech CX Index captures this range of customers by surveying both business leaders and technologists.
- Stakeholders' involvement at different stages of the account lifecyle. We know that stakeholders interact with the vendor at different times. For example, a help desk technician plays a prominent role when her company seeks technical support. We also know that poor interactions at one point in the account lifecycle can sour the business relationship. An elongated, problematic implementation can lead business leaders to seek alternative solutions. The B2B Tech CX Index helps CX pros identify trouble areas by surveying stakeholders on their interactions with a vendor at four different account lifecycle phases: acquisition, implementation, operation (use), and support.
- The role partners play in delivering the customer experience. Many technology firms sell primarily through channel partners or rely on partners to provide implementation and support services. For example, one software firm told Forrester 90% of its business comes through resellers. Because these partners own significant portions of the customer journey, B2B CX pros must assess their partners' performance as part of the end-to-end customer experience. The B2B Tech CX Index facilitates this assessment by examining experiences partners deliver independently, experiences partners deliver in collaboration with the vendor, and experiences vendors deliver on their own.
This new methodology measures what business customers expect from interactions with vendors: A solution that delivers value by meeting the customer's overarching business objective for purchasing the product or service and protects the decision-maker's business interests. We judge a good B2B customer experience as being:
- Effective. This is the degree to which the experience delivers value to the customer.
- Reliable. Here we assess how consistently the vendor delivers value to the customer.
- Trustworthy. This dimension evaluates the sense of confidence customers have in the vendor.
Evaluating how effective, reliable, and trustworthy the experience vendors and their partners deliver at different points in the account lifecycle allows CX pros at B2B tech companies do two things:
- Judge how well the experience sustains customer loyalty. Like its B2C-oriented cousin, the B2B Tech CX Index is designed to show the business value of customer experience. We link high Index scores with four types of loyalty: retention, or how likely the client is to keep their business with the vendor; advocacy, or how likely the client will recommend the vendor to others; enrichment, or how likely the client will purchase additional products and services from vendor; and willingness to be a reference, or how likely the client will speak on behalf of the vendor to prospects.
- Find fixes for breakpoints in the customer journey. The B2B Tech CX Index asks customers to explain what makes an experience effective, reliable, and trustworthy. We then plot these experience drivers on an importance/performance grid, allowing us to see how well relatively important drivers perform. This helps CX pros zero in on underperforming activities at different points in the account lifecycle that drag down the customer's overall assessment of the experience.
The report that coincides with this launch puts these concepts into practice, examining the experience customer relationship management (CRM) vendors deliver to their customers. We invite you to have a look at the report. And while this methodology is currently geared toward B2B tech companies, we invite CX pros at non-tech B2B firms to look at the methodology and see how it could potentially be tailored to their businesses. This is a dialog we are interested in having as we continue to develop the methodology.