Understanding Your Customers’ Customer In B2B

Understanding Your Customers’ Customer In B2B

The Liveworker
  • The Liveworker
  • Service Designer

In B2B markets, businesses must understand their customers’ customers in a B2C context. When a customer experiences an incident, oftentimes the problem is not in the service provider with which the customer directly deals, but in the provider’s suppliers or partners.

Business-to-business permeating consumers’ reality

When customers make a purchase online, buy an insurance policy on a comparison website, or sign up to a new electricity deal, they are often unconsciously dealing with a number of B2B service providers. Initially consumers might see only one logo and communication stream, but when something goes wrong with their purchase or subscription the magic breaks down revealing a back end of various B2B service providers, who are often unable to support their clients in serving their customers.

B2B2C relationships lack transparency

The above transactions are beyond a traditional B2B relationship. In fact, they are a B2B2C relationship. E-commerce is a perfect example of how complex a B2B2C relationship can be.

Say, a customer purchases an item online and selects a shipping method. The shipment, however, is handled by a third-party shipping service provider, which in turn consigns the task of international delivery to a fourth service provider. These shipping service providers are themselves B2B businesses designed to serve the e-commerce company but not the customer. Therefore, if a shipment is delayed or lost, the customer wonders who should be responsible.

The global e-commerce market reached $1.7 trillion in 2015. Consumers are spending a larger portion of their online budget on non-local retailers. There is a growing business opportunity for logistics and international delivery.

Customers love simplicity

While completing a transaction, customers expect and demand to interact with a single service provider, instead of a group of suppliers behind the scene. If customers are somehow forced to deal with the complexity by themselves, you are driving them away with a fragmented and frustrating experience. Therefore, service providers must offer a holistic, coherent and positive customer experience by making transactions appear as simple as possible.

Even for businesses that only operate in B2B markets, they must also understand the B2C markets and the entire ecosystem of the industry in which they operate. This requires a thorough understanding of their customers, as well as their third-party service providers, suppliers and customers.

Complexity at its best: insurance brokers

Designing a holistically positive customer experience requires an ecosystem perspective; without it, customers are likely confused and irritated. The insurance industry is a case in point.

It’s very common for people to shop for insurance policy on various comparison websites. When a customer signs up to a new policy on a certain comparison website, this customer very likely has no idea which insurance broker they are dealing with. When the customer needs to make a claim or has queries, it becomes apparent that he or she does not know to whom to turn. Resolution time increases exponentially, creating confusion and frustration.

56% of consumers shop for new insurance policy on comparison websites. 85% of those consumers believe they can find cheaper deals there, and almost 70% of them actively switch policies on those websites. These consumers say the biggest frustrations of using those websites are the complexity of selection (even on comparison websites) and the lack of transparency. Consumers believe their service providers are responsible for fixing these issues, but most of the problems are actually in third-party service providers.

Simplicity inspires loyalty

Simplicity inspires trust, and creates brand loyalty and retention. Reducing the complexity of interactions is not an easy task, and not many organisations are capable of doing it. Therefore, customers are loyal to companies that manage to deliver simple-to-use services. In B2B markets in particular, simplicity is key to delivering a superior product or service to customers.

B2B interactions are often complex, with which customers are struggling to deal. Therefore, the ability to offer a simple-to-use B2B product or service is a key competitive advantage. Ease of doing business is the top reason why organisations choose suppliers or third-party service providers.

Integrate systems with people in mind

IT offers another great example of how B2B2C relationship can be improved, especially when it involves large-scale system integration. Often when these giant systems are deployed, it soon becomes clear how ineffective they are for the final user. It is usually because such systems are designed for businesses, not people. When a B2B relationship does not take account of the final users and the entire ecosystem, it is bound to be faulty.

Hide the complexity

The complexity of B2B relationships should not be exposed to customers in any circumstance. Businesses in B2B markets must consider how to support their clients to serve their customers better. They must think how best to design their interactions with suppliers and third-party service providers to ensure a simple and streamlined experience for their customers.