Midmarket customer experience usually is equated with B2C companies like Starbucks®, Disney® and Apple®. The B2B ecosystem is not exempt. You may be selling widgets or IT applications. As long as one company is engaged in transacting business with another company, there’s an opportunity to impact customer experience. Midmarket customer experience is key to sustainability no matter where you sit at the business table.
How do your midmarket customers regard their experience of working with you? Are you offering them an enjoyable, productive, creative and innovative experience?
Now change perspective. Would you do business with your own company based on your assessment of how easy and enjoyable it is to collaborate with you and your staff?
Customer experience originally was introduced in 1999 by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore in their seminal book, The Experience Economy. Ultimately, companies must consider the sum total of all of experiences their customers have with their company throughout the duration of their relationship. Each customer touchpoint becomes a critical means of developing loyalty and customer retention.
And all you thought you were selling was widgets.
Consider your current midmarket manufacturing or IT mindset. (Any startups and small businesses out there with an expansion goal – pay attention as well). The technical and engineering complexity of your products, services and systems dominates your customer acquisition strategy. With your focus on capabilities, data, calculations, design and integration, what room is left for a “touchy feely” customer experience?
Midmarket customer experience is “soft stuff” from your perspective. It may be your source of competitive differentiation.
Now consider the duration of your more complex IT and engineering projects. These can take years and involve virtual global work teams. There are humans involved – your internal customers – in assessing and interpreting many informational handoffs. An emotional and experiential component for the project team is created as project champions emerge and challenges are overcome.
What is the sum total of the experiences your internal customers accrue with your company, their employer, throughout the duration of their relationship with you? Your internal customers can become your best business development ambassadors based on their experiences.
Positive internal customer experience can result in satisfied, retained and loyal staff. Your employees become assets to the sustainability strategy you’ve created for your company. If employees choose to move elsewhere, they will create projects and specs with your company in mind as they move you into a relationship with their new employer.
Now consider the experience your external customers glean when working with your employees. When dealing with manufacturing, engineering and IT projects, this experience simply isn’t a matter of handing off output to the next folks who need it. The quality of that hand-off creates an experience; it represents a customer touchpoint.
Do your customers look forward to receiving your company’s output? Alternatively, do your customers anticipate “the usual” need for rework, instead? Have your sales people over promised, creating a legacy scenario where your engineers consistently under deliver? Do your internal processes identify inconsistencies in design before, or after, the prototype is run?
Focus on creating external customer experiences by leveraging how your internal customers deliver output, and outcomes, to your valued customers. This strategy showcases your staff’s capabilities. This strategy creates a solid foundation for the sustainability of your own company and your customers’ organizations as well.
Babette N. Ten Haken, President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, catalyzes collaborative business transition, startup growth, and professional development. She works with non-traditional sellers: engineers, small and midmarket manufacturers, and technical startups. Her book on collaboration strategies and tools, Do YOU Mean Business? Technical / Non-Technical Collaboration, Business Development and YOU is available on Amazon.com.