B2B leaders “flying blind” as companies lose control over customer experience and put growth at risk: Study

Business-to-business (B2B) companies are losing control over the customer experience due to convoluted buying processes and disconnected channel partner networks, according to a recent study.

Accenture Strategy’s B2B Customer Experience 2017 study, surveying 1350 sales and customer service executives from B2B organisations around the world, found that just 21% of respondents believe they have total control over their organisation’s sales networks and overall customer experience.

With customer experiences suffering, the Accenture study found leaders need to “abandon the benign neglect of traditional channel management” or risk a lack of growth.

According to the research, most customers are already 57% through the buying process before first engaging with a company representative, while 61% of all B2B transactions are now starting online.

Despite 71% of B2B executives saying customers increasingly want business-to-consumer-like experiences compared to a few years ago, 49% admit they are failing to deliver the cutting edge and highly relevant experiences customers crave.

And while 97% of executives say indirect sales channels are critical to their business, 84% do not have visibility into sales partner opportunity pipelines.

“B2B leaders know that customer experience is the gateway to growth and have increasingly relied on channel partners to help them deliver,” said Robert Wollan, Accenture Strategy senior managing director.

“But many have been flying blind. Distracted by building extensive partner networks to increase selling opportunities, they’ve missed the critical balance of picking and managing partners who can leverage customer insight and use it to deliver better experiences.

“To regain control, B2B leaders will orchestrate their sales ecosystem by seeing partners as an extension of their business and empower them with customer insights, coaching and support. Only then can they fully tap their connected growth potential.”

Accenture recommends that B2B companies seeking to deliver customer experiences that will drive connected growth should:

  • Focus on “ecosystem orchestration”, not partner management — Accenture says companies have the potential to regain control over customer experiences by viewing indirect partners as “extensions of their own business and critical enablers of customer value”, and by teaming up with a select network of partners and ensuring they are well supported.
  • Be a supportive partner — If companies want to deliver exceptional customer experiences, they need to be providing “connected insights” to their partners, says Accenture; the goal should be to facilitate continuous information sharing.
  • Get set with the right tech — Technical tools including customer data management, analytics and social technologies can further help B2B companies deliver the kind of customer experiences that will set them apart from competitors.

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