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The rapid changes in customer behaviour that are revolutionising B2C customer engagement are also impacting on the B2B space and, while there are still many differences in the two engagement disciplines, there is increasing convergence.
 

This was one of the key themes that emerged from the Customer Engagement Network’s  B2B Customer Engagement Directors Forum hosted by Gallup and sponsored by Confirmit.

The stage was set in the opening keynote presentation from Martin Hill-Wilson, Customer Service & Social Business Strategist, Brainfood Consulting and Jonathan Gale , CEO, NewVoiceMedia with their opening keynote “One Agenda: The Key To Making Customer Engagement Work”.

 

They asked delegates if they had noticed how much the relationship between buyers and sellers has changed? Customers now have so many alternative sources of expertise and opinion to influence their choices. B2B organisations often struggle to add value during the purchasing cycle.

However the very same digital world also offers unprecedented detail about our professional and social profiles back to the organisation. And so the balance between buyer and seller continues to yo-yo as each side discovers new ways of getting what they want. This keynote explored that question and offered solutions an answer to boost an organisation’s progress in adapting to the new behaviours of a digital economy.

Arguing that silos just don’t work they drew upon their combined experience and encourage delegates to embrace the culture of 'One Agenda'.

Within that main theme, they included: Why marketing, sales and service silos are the wrong way to organise customer engagement; remodelling organisations to mirror how customers actually behave; implications for how we equip organisations to regain relevance; effective customer engagement comes from a transformed view of how customer facing teams deliver value.


 

Next up came Izabella Khazagerova , Associate Principal, Gallup with her presentation “Creating Competitive Advantage in B2B Markets”

 

Izabella concentrated on how engaging B2B customers is all about establishing strong, sustainable emotional connections with key account stakeholders – and making a positive impact on their business. Using case studies Izabella showed how companies in various industries have implemented effective B2B strategies to create real competitive advantage.

First case study of the day came from Tim Wheen, Commercial Research and Insight Manager, Heathrow Airport and Colin Bates, Director, Customer Champions  with their case study on BAA Heathrow


 

Heathrow helps more people to get more places than any other airport in Europe so providing an excellent passenger experience is crucial. The delivery of that experience is the responsibility of many organisations and is dependent upon high levels of collaboration between them.

Tim and Colin examined how improved collaboration between Heathrow and the airlines was delivered through research and action.


 

Next up came Claire Sporton, VP, Customer Experience Management, Confirmit with her presentation  “People Buy From People”

 

Claire said that In the B2B world, the concept of “people buy from people” has clear ramifications for the business, not only with regards to revenue from new business but also to the retention of existing business.

Organisations must ensure that r sales and account management teams listen to customer needs and deliver solutions that are tailored to those needs.

Claire outlined 10 steps required to launch a successful VOC initiative and lay the groundwork for injecting the customer viewpoint into how your run the business. She talked about how to: establish the business case and “sell” it to your executives; capture feedback from the right customers;achieve a single view of the customer; get insights into the hands of your frontline to ensure they act on it; hold employees accountable for the loyalty of their customers. Delegates learned how to launch a successful VOC initiative to help you understand why people will want to buy from your people.

Next up was Andrew Bryan, Associate Director, Henley Centre for Customer Management with some hot off the press new research on B2B and B2C Customer Effort

 

Customer Effort is the latest metric being included on corporate dash boards, but is it “Help or Hype”? Andrew is the co-author of a recently released research study that addresses this question. The report, jointly produced by BT and The Henley Centre for Customer Management, looks at how leading practioners in the B2C and B2B sectors are utilising customer effort as an approach to improving the customer experience and ultimately whether it can be used to increase customer loyalty.

Andrew used  the findings from the study to identify: The genesis of the customer effort approach and the “Customer Effort Score”; The differences between B2C and B2B applications of customer effort; How customer effort fits alongside other customer experience metrics; How B2B companies can best adopt the customer effort approach.

Second case study of the day came from Stephen McKillop , Global SmartBrand Lead, Diageo with  his presentation Diageo SmartBrand – The Journey’

 

Stephen took delegates through a journey that included Diageo brands, workflow requirements, SmartBrand versions one and two, workflow solutions, continuing evolution and success of SmartBrand, SmartApprove, the asset library and some of the challenges and pitfalls Diageo faced.  

After lunch a lively panel debate chaired by Customer Engagement Network editorial director and Directors Forum chairman Steve Hurst that included all the morning speakers discussed a wide range of topics relating to B2B customer engagement and its similarities with – and differences to B2C customer engagement.

 

Next came Steve Heappey, Director of Service Delivery, Chartered Management Institute with his presentationTransforming customer relationships through engagement’

 

Using case study examples Steve highlighted how the CMI IS seeking to transform customer relationships through a new engagement model which includes “think digital” opening new channels and becoming more relevant to customer segments and seeCMI the CMI’s new voice of the customer programme with net promoter at its heart, to measure and track satisfaction at the micro and macro level and drawing together qualitative input from many places to drive its continuous process improvement programme LeanCMI

 

Next up came Ian Golding , Member of the Board , Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) with his presentation ‘STRATEGY – MEASUREMENT – PEOPLE – how a simple framework can enable an organisation to become truly customer focussed’

 

Steve explained to delegates that understanding, managing and improving the customer experience is a skill set that has led to the formation of a new profession. The proliferation of customer experience professionals has led to the creation and adoption of a variety of methods, techniques and approaches to putting the customer at the heart of the organisation. Many ‘customer experience frameworks’ have been formed to help and guide businesses to understand what and how to achieve customer focus. Ian used case studies to explore how simple a framework for customer experience management can be, and how it can and has been applied in different organisations.

 

 

Final session of a long and rewarding day came from Stephen Citron, Director, The Peer Awards who in a highly interactive session talked about the Customer Engagement Awards in association with the Peer Awards.

 

The Customer Engagement Network is working in association with the Peer Awards, to provide exposure and recognition for innovative customer engagement initiatives. All shortlisted finalists feature in The Independent newspaper, and speak at the Peer Awards conference in Central London on 27 June, where they are judged by everyone attending the conference, including the finalists. The winners are announced and celebrated at a champagne ceremony in a prestigious Central London hotel.

 

In his summing up Forum chairman Steve Hurst commented on the fact that B2B customer engagement is indeed changing and a catalyst for that change is our changing behaviour as consumers driven by technology creating increasingly onmichannel engagement environment – while at the same time people do buy from people, a critical factor especially in the B2B space.