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4 Steps To Bringing Customer Experience Back Into Industrial B2B Sales

‘Although customer experience has been coined as a key facet of a company’s brand perception, and in turn, the quality of its products, the term is not one we see often in industry.’ BARE shares an article by Lindsay Gilder for Thomas with customer experience tips for industrial businesses.

‘Although customer experience has been coined as a key facet of a company’s brand perception, and in turn, the quality of its products, the term is not one we see often in industry. However, Forbes says it best: “You may think you have high-quality products and a strong customer experience, but if a customer gets a broken product that isn’t fixed, their perception of your company as lower quality then becomes the reality.”

While still important in B2C sales, customer experience has an added responsibility in the world of B2B; If your product breaks, you could be letting down an entire company of people rather than a single customer, and that can weigh heavily on your overall brand perception.

In a recent Thomas Industry Update Podcast episode, Jeff Ackel, CEO of Sigma Thermal, spoke with Thomas CEO and President Tony Uphoff about his company has become a pioneer of redefining customer experience in industrial B2B sales.

“As we grew and got bigger and bigger and bigger, things changed quite a bit in the business model,” Ackel explained. “You’re serving a much greater number of customers, and you have a far greater number of people involved in that effort. The misnomer is that [people] believe that customer service belongs to a specific department, or somehow customer service is relegated to a specific group of people, whether that be sales or marketing or the aftermarket. And the reality is that that couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

In order to bring a positive customer experience back into Sigma Thermal’s operations, Ackel facilitated a full-company rebrand using his acronym C.R.E.D, which stands for:

  • C: Competent
  • R: Responsive
  • E: Effortless
  • D: Dependable

Although Ackel himself acknowledges that Sigma Thermal still isn’t perfect, his customer experience journey provided him with unique insight into revolutionizing B2B customer experience. Here are four tips he recommends for industrial businesses looking to start their customer experience journey.

1. Create a “Journey Map”

The first step Ackel iterated in his CRED rebrand was creating a journey map of the customer’s experience, or tracking exactly which circumstances required customer interactions and how each of those went.

“We noticed over time that we had an increasing number of dissatisfied customers, and it had nothing to do with the product at the end of the day. They were upset with something that happened along the way with one of those touchpoints,” Ackel said. “You’re really fooling yourself to think that as a B2B company that those things don’t matter. They matter just as much as they do in a consumer-facing business, and if we’re ignoring those, then we’re doing ourselves a tremendous disservice as a supplier to our customers.”

Instead of dwelling on a downturn in customer service despite producing higher-quality products, Ackel worked to “define touchpoints” and granularize the customer’s entire experience with his brand.

“The simple explanation is you prepare a consumer, and you walk through the entire process of engaging with your company from cradle to grave. And you ask yourself is this an opportunity for me to have an impression about that company?” Ackel explained. “If you have enough touchpoints that have really fully defined the entirety of the customer interaction, I think you will find that you can aggregate a very good view of how you present yourself to your clients.”

2. Take the Emotion Out of Sales

According to Ackel, this is the key difference between B2B and B2C sales.

“You’re selling to professional buyers,” Ackel said. “You’re selling to people who do this for a living, and your job is to take the emotion out of it, to aggregate information from across our organization, and pick the best supplier. In our case, the only people that know if we have a great product really are the people that operate in the plants and the field.”

Ackel also emphasizes a key factor in B2B that some industrial buyers have to work on: impressing the whole team.

“If [a buyer] has a good procurement person who’s out there surveying his entire organization, if you get three or four bad hits out of five or six people that he asks for feedback, then that’s not going to go in your favor,” Ackel explained.

3. Define Your Customer Experiences as Either Positive or Negative

In Sigma Thermal’s process of creating a journey map for customer experience, the company took a step we don’t often see in customer service: they defined each customer experience as either good or bad. Often customer experience is on more of a spectrum, i.e. your customer service survey will ask you to “rate your experience on a scale of 1 to of 10” rather than asking if your experience was positive or negative.

Ackel said this transition has made a massive difference in Sigma Thermal’s customer journey.

“One of the things that we had to wrap our head around is that it is possible to define customer experience as either positive or negative and not on a gradient,” Ackel said. “In other words, if they’re going to rank you from one to five, did you get a four or a three? You can do that, but it’s going to make a quantitative analysis of your customer service very difficult.”

Despite the transition’s positive impact at Sigma Thermal, Ackel understands the industry’s reluctance to make the switch; It makes a negative rating that much easier to achieve when it’s only one of two choices. However, Ackel explained that research has indicated your customer experience doesn’t have to excel at every touchpoint to achieve a positive rating.

“There’s actually a lot of research out there that supports the idea that consumers – whether they be a business or an individual – are not looking to be blown away by a customer experience,” Ackel explained. “That’s a misconception a lot of people have, and we even proved this within our own company.”

4. Make Customer Experience Part of Your Corporate Culture

The final step of Ackel’s CRED rebrand was implementation at Sigma Thermal, which he emphasized was still no walk in the park. Without buy-in from employees, CRED could become just another obsolete acronym, so he advises other industrial businesses to be patient through the process since it’s a cultural change.

“It’s not as simple as implementing some processes. You have to get buy in,” Ackel advised. “You have to get participation because your goal is to make everybody in your company believe that they impact the customer experience. And you have to drive that point home, that everybody in your company [is] a participant. It takes an entire company to achieve this.”‘


Read the original article in full here.

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