1. What is your background in digital marketing?
I put up my first website in 1995 to promote my book, Canada's Best Employers for Women, and, boy was that site ugly! But it got me into the digital world, and in 2001 I launched the world's first omnichannel customer service testing company, Web Mystery Shoppers International. We helped companies such as Expedia and Progressive Insurance, through to small B2B players like Cactus Containers, improve their digital marketing effectiveness and sales through better understanding of their customers and their needs.
2. How does today’s customer experience model different from the past?
Customer expectations have changed completely. Thanks to companies like Amazon, the type of service we demand has skyrocketed, and not just in the consumer world. Most B2B buyers now are Millennials, and they grew up with the Internet. They shop online in their personal lives and see no reason why they should get anything less when they shop on behalf of their companies.
3. How can companies leverage the digital world with people skills to adjust to today’s changing environment?
So glad you asked that! My book, PeopleShock: The Path To Profits When Customers Rule, is all about how to strike the right balance between technology and people. As more and more is handled automatically by computers, it means that the smaller amount left for human-to-human interaction becomes exponentially more important.
But that doesn't mean your sales people need to be pushier! On the contrary, they need to work very closely with marketing and front-line staff to find out what information customers want and need before they get serious about buying, and present that information to prospects online in ways that are easy to access and don't require contacting sales reps. Today's buyers don't want to speak to a sales rep until they've already done a fair bit of research themselves. Which also means you've got to know your stuff!
The technology can give you insight into their needs and interests though, by tracking what information they've accessed from your site. Make sure that info is easily available when a prospect calls so that your salespeople can tailor the call to the prospect's interests and not waste anybody's time.
4. Where do you see the field of customer experience in the B2B sector tomorrow and in the future?
The biggest change is going to come from artificial intelligence (AI). You are going to have access to so much more information about what motivates your prospects and customers, and sophisticated systems will help prompt your humans with the info they need, when they need it.
Another big change is increasing use of video. YouTube is now the biggest search engine among Millennials and 2nd only to Google for most of the population. Use it to teach people about your products, how they work, how they compare to others, and how to troubleshoot problems.
Beyond YouTube, though, video will soon become common in the call center. Although it means that your contact center rep can't be handling multiple customers at once, the greater impact of customers seeing and interacting with a real, empathetic human being will outweigh the costs in many situations.
Gen Z, even more than millennials, hate to use phones for phone calls. They want to be able to research and buy online, from a mobile device. They want customer service to be available 24/7 on social media. Once they are buying for their companies, that basic inclination to avoid speaking directly to sales and customer service reps won't magically go away.
5. How can we prepare now?
Start working on what I call the 3Ps of Profit: Promise, People and Process. In PeopleShock I discuss each of them and give examples, many B2B, of how companies are implementing them.
- Promise – How to develop a brand and mission that really inspires staff and customers.
- People – How to connect effectively with people inside and outside your organization. Even suppliers and distributors can help you build your business if you handle those relationships well.
- Process – What to change to deliver consistently great customer experiences. The great news is that if you redesign your processes so they better meet customer needs, odds are they'll also make things more efficient internally. But you've got to start with the customer!
Make sure to also download the B2B Online agenda to hear from more industry experts like Tema.