The customer experience (CX) is a priority for many consumer-oriented brands but often receives less attention in the B2B space. As digitization increases and younger professionals fill roles with purchasing power, that is starting to change. Modern B2B manufacturers should take note of this shift.
Manufacturing is becoming increasingly competitive as supply chain demands grow and smaller, specialized producers gain popularity. As businesses adapt to this competition, they must consider their customer experience. A better CX drives B2B manufacturing sales by addressing a few key areas.
Enabling more personalization is one of CX’s most significant roles in B2B sales. Tailoring services to specific customers is essential, as 77% of B2B buyers will only purchase something with some form of personalized content.
As people become more accustomed to personalization elsewhere in their lives and work, it is no longer sufficient only to offer custom manufacturing orders. Your ordering experience itself must be unique to the buyer. Potential customers should be able to access personalized quotes, have one-on-one conversations with sales reps, receive tailored deals and adjust interactive tools to their specific needs.
This level of personalization is common in the B2C e-commerce sales business leaders have grown used to in their personal lives. As a result, more B2B buyers are starting to expect it in their commercial purchases. Making the B2B buying process as convenient as its B2C counterparts will drive more sales.
Meeting Businesses’ Need for Immediacy
Similarly, fast online transactions in B2C e-commerce make traditional B2B sales feel sluggish by comparison. Even though the B2B buying process is naturally slower — as it involves more people and requires more thought — these long timelines can be frustrating as businesses try to become more efficient. A better CX can help.
Recent production trends like cloud manufacturing have gained popularity because they improve efficiency and scalability, and a good CX can do the same. Immediate responses, 24/7 support, self-service options and similar efficiency-minded CX improvements ensure businesses can find what they need in real time. Time savings here will help them achieve broader supply-chain goals.
Quick production lead times are also crucial to maintaining that speed, but initial impressions are among the most important. If the upfront inquiry and ordering process supports near-real-time decision making, your company will stand out.
Streamlining the B2B Sales Process
Another way customer experiences impact B2B sales growth is by simplifying the process. A good CX is a seamless one. The fewer steps it takes for a customer to look into and pay for your services, the more likely they are to partner with you.
Conventional B2B customer experiences are slow, multi-step processes requiring back-and-forth communication between parties. CX-centric B2B sales should still emphasize communication but take the initiative in disclosing information. If pricing data, average turnaround times, product guides, and similar information are clearly visible and accessible on your website, customers can make informed decisions faster.
Reducing the number of clicks to learn or buy something eases the burden of the already stressful B2B buying process. In addition to saving customers time, that ease of use minimizes pain points, which can justify higher prices or longer lead times when necessary to drive sales.
Customer experiences also affect manufacturing sales through trust. If an inquiry or checkout process is easy and transparent, it shows businesses they can expect the same from any other interactions with you. By contrast, a confusing, slow or otherwise frustrating customer experience will make your company seem less trustworthy.
Transparency in pricing and lead-time expectations plays a significant role in establishing this trust. Customer-centric policies make a difference, too. For example, some manufacturers offer cancellations for any reason up until shipping time and generous returns to emphasize they put the customer first.
This trust will become increasingly important in B2B manufacturing as more businesses seek to minimize supply-chain disruptions. As organizations restructure their supply chains, they will prefer manufacturing partners offering more assurance. That begins with the initial customer experience.
How to Optimize the B2B Customer Experience
In response to these trends, B2B manufacturers must do all they can to optimize their CX. Overall, the customer experience should be transparent, fast, easy and personalized. What that looks like may vary slightly between specific markets, but here are a few general practices to keep in mind.
Automation is one of the most helpful tools in improving your CX. Chatbots can provide immediate answers for the 80% of B2B buyers who expect real-time responses to their questions regardless of staff availability. Autofill functionality on online forms can streamline checkout and inquiry for returning users. In all use cases, automation makes things easier and faster.
It is also important to supplement your sales pages with informative blog posts, interactive pricing tools and similar website features. These tools offer personalization and seamless insight to help B2B buyers make good purchasing decisions in less time. Be sure to highlight these resources to make them easy to find.
Checkout processes requiring minimal clicks and supporting multiple payment methods will help. This streamlines the purchasing process, addresses different businesses’ unique payment needs and promotes online sales. Considering buyers only spend 17% of their time meeting with suppliers before purchasing today, quick, self-service options are crucial.
Encourage feedback from customers to gauge the effectiveness of any changes you make. On top of highlighting where your CX can improve, this open communication establishes more trust. Remember that customer behaviors and preferences will change over time, so read this feedback regularly and be ready to shift.
B2B Manufacturing Must Take Notes From B2C
E-commerce giants like Amazon have forever changed the B2C sales experience and these changes are seeping into the B2B world, too. Today’s B2B buyers demand the same accessibility, speed and personalization they have experienced in their personal shopping. Manufacturers must adopt some of the same practices to keep pace with these shifts.
The B2B process is inherently more complicated than B2C alternatives. However, if B2B companies can embrace the same efficiency and convenience, they can remove common pain points for a better customer experience. That optimized CX will foster sales growth in the future.