Published: December 12, 2013 | Comments
Imagine your company is looking for the right vendor for a significant IT systems upgrade. Can it shop for equipment and services in the same way someone shops for shoes online or in the store? Not yet – but this may be changing.
Avanade recently commissioned a study of 1,000 C-level executives, business unit leaders and IT decision-makers to examine how customer experience influences buying decisions. The results confirmed that at the enterprise level B2B buyers are seriously mimicking consumer shopping behaviors. And, it’s happening with potential suppliers and products at all levels of organizations, not just the procurement function.
Sales Teams Have Less Control of Information to Customers
Information about a company and its products or services is available everywhere – whether the product is manufacturing equipment sold to businesses or a refrigerator sold to consumers. Businesses no longer have control over information shared about their enterprise products or services. And, B2B buyers are shopping at work like they do at home.
In fact, more than half (61 percent) of buyers consult third-party sources before consulting a company’s sales force. These sources include third-party sites, feedback from a business partner, conversations with peers who already have experience with the product or service, and social channels. More importantly, these sources are a factor for 89 percent of buyers when making B2B buying decisions.
Not only are B2B customers seeking information about products from a wider variety of sources, they are also communicating about their business purchase decisions publicly. After purchasing a product or service for their company, 42 percent of buyers reviewed a company on a third-party website. Roughly one-third (32 percent) posted a review on social media channels such as Facebook or LinkedIn and nearly one in five (19 percent) posted comments about the company on Twitter.
A bad customer experience has always had potentially long-term and far reaching implications for B2C businesses. Now, the same is becoming true for B2B companies thanks to the prolific use of social channels, third party reviews and peer conversations. And, the value of the customer experience is now more important than cost in the buying process.
Customer Experience Outweighs Cost in Purchasing Decisions
Customer experience has always influenced consumer buyer behavior and buyer loyalty. What is surprising is that the research shows that experience now trumps product price and performance in a majority of B2B purchase decisions.
Responses reveal that purchasing decision makers are paying more for products and services that offer a better customer experience. In the last six months, 56 percent of purchasing decision makers within companies report paying more for a product or service when the customer experience was better than other, less expensive options.
And, they are willing to pay a significant premium for a better experience. Decision-makers buying products and services for their business are paying on average 30 percent more for an improved customer experience. B2B customers are voicing their opinion with their wallets. This should be a big wakeup call to companies trying to penetrate various buyer segments.
How Technology Can Help
The value of a customer relationship is the culmination of experiences over years of interactions, rather than the results of any individual transaction. New technologies, business processes and information sources are key enablers that allow business to develop deeper, more profitable relationships, and more rewarding experiences for customers. IT organizations are uniquely positioned to drive these improvements. Nearly half (45 percent) of respondents say that IT plays a greater role in the overall customer experience than it did in the past. Further, 40 percent say the IT department contributes significantly to the strategic direction of a company today.
Those that are embracing new sales processes and technologies to improve their customer’s experience are likely to see positive results. The research affirms that companies that have built new business processes and technologies to accommodate shifts in customer interactions are experiencing increased customer loyalty (61 percent), revenue (60 percent) and customer base (60 percent).
However, not all businesses are catching on. The research also shows that some businesses are still ill-equipped to handle this new customer journey. Those businesses that have not implemented new business processes or made technology investments to support an improved sales and service experience will miss the boat in creating a more customer-centric enterprise.
Given the constant evolution of technology, and its influence on purchasing behavior, now is the time for all business and IT leaders to consider how they can leverage their IT investments to build a better customer experience – and move smartly towards those goals.