Modern B2B buyers have more options at their disposal than ever before thanks to the internet. Rather than relying on a solutions-provider for information, they are empowered to research options and narrow the possibilities before they ever engage with a company. Once they do, their expectations for service are high. In this new climate, client experience has emerged as a key differentiator for forward-looking companies. According to an Accenture study of B2B executives, 74% of respondents see client experience (CX) playing a larger part in corporate strategy over the next two years.(1)

What exactly is client experience? According to Gartner, it is “the client’s perceptions and related feelings cause by the one-off and cumulative effect of interactions with a supplier’s employees, channels, systems or products.”(2)

The financial impact of a CX program can be significant. According to McKinsey, it has the power to build client loyalty, increase employee satisfaction, achieve revenue gains of 5-10%, and reduce costs by 15-25% within 2-3 years.

For companies seeking to start or expand a client experience initiative, following are some key considerations:

CX Puts the Client in the Center

Developing an effective CX program starts with seeing everything through the client’s eyes. Increasingly, this means providing an experience similar to that found in the B2C world from companies like Google and Amazon. In fact, research shows that 75% of buyers expect service within five minutes of initiating contact online.(3) Seeing the organization through the client’s eyes—whether through surveys, qualitative research like interviews and observation, or secret shopping programs—will uncover areas where the experience breaks down.

CX Moves Beyond Touchpoints to Journeys

Traditionally, marketing and service professionals have focused on creating memorable touchpoints to engage potential clients. However, companies that are creating stand-out CX programs focus on the entire client journey from initial need identification to post-purchase activity.  These leaders understand that the client’s experience is the cumulative impact of every touchpoint. While individual interactions may be performed well, the overall impression can still be less than positive.(4) In fact, research shows that 25% of clients will leave after a single bad experience.(5)

CX is Cross Functional

While client service is often seen as the realm of an individual department, client experience is the responsibility of every part of the organization. As a potential buyer navigates an organization on their way to becoming a client, they encounter every aspect of a business’ operations. Even though they may never interact directly with an area of the company, policies and procedures set behind the scenes still impact their experience.

CX is Interdisciplinary

Understanding the client journey and designing an effective client experience program taps into several disciplines. Data analytics reveals the sources of client satisfaction as well as the behaviors that produce the most economic benefit.(6) The results of this analysis can sometimes upend preconceived ideas about what matters most to clients. For example, a study conducted by an airport found that security personnel’s behavior had a greater impact on client satisfaction than the time clients spent waiting in line.

Additionally, behavioral psychology can help firms to design experiences that positively impact satisfaction. Different stages of an interaction can be merged to diminish their perceived duration. Ways to give the client a sense of choice and control can also be infused into the journey.

CX Takes Time

Creating and implementing an effective client experience program doesn’t happen overnight. Companies that are leveraging their CX programs as a sustainable competitive advantage have invested the time and resources to transform their operations from top to bottom. Executive sponsorship is critical to demonstrate that CX is not just a new initiative that will fade away in time, but rather it represents a new way of operating at every level of the organization. Sufficient time mapping and designing optimal client journeys must also be invested. Training for all employees, but particularly frontline staff, is critical so that they embody a client-first mindset and understand their role in the client’s journey. Metrics and data analysis are baked into the process to continually capture client feedback, measure economic impact and iterate new solutions.

Client experience is a powerful differentiating tool. B2B companies that are embracing this new discipline are realizing significant gains in revenue and reductions in cost. It won’t happen overnight, but with leadership and commitment, a well-designed and implemented CX program can transform a company from top to bottom and inside out.

1 Accenture

2 Gartner

3 McKinsey

4 McKinsey

5 Thunderhead.com

6 McKinsey