6 Trends Driving B2B Maintenance Buying Today
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You have a great product offering, competitive pricing, and the ability to deliver. But as competition grows, differentiation becomes even more important for resellers looking to deepen their impact. In saturated IT maintenance markets, one of the biggest drivers for a successful differentiator is your customers’ experience with your brand.
Below are six trends on how the B2B buying experience is evolving and what you can do to make sure your business stays ahead of the competition. These are the things your customers may not be consciously be aware of, but they’re behind what’s driving a large majority of their purchasing decisions.
Customer Experience Drives Purchases
According to Gartner, 89% of businesses are soon expected to compete mainly on customer experience alone (Gartner). Depending on how well you can deliver a positive experience over your competitor, this could be good news. By optimizing your customers’ experience, you have the chance to not only grow your business, but to build your brand, as well.
Besides the pride that comes with helping your customers, there’s real money in this strategy. According to a customer survey by American Express, 68% of consumers have spent more due to good customer service (American Express). These buying habits are being observed in both B2C and B2B customer behaviors.
B2B e-Commerce is Growing
B2B e-commerce sales are expected to outgrow B2C sales. Predictions from 2020 already had them reaching 6.7 trillion USD (CMS connected). With everything moving online, the nature of customer experience is growing to include even more pivot points. Twenty years ago, the average consumer typically used two touchpoints when buying an item and only 7% regularly used more than four (Marketing Week). Today the average consumer uses closer to eight touchpoints before making a purchase (HubSpot).
To be successful each interaction, from the first time a potential customer makes an inquiry to the follow-up from an issue that may have arisen several months into their purchase, needs to be aligned. It’s in your best interest to regularly audit the IT maintenance channels your customers are reaching you and how you’re tracking each interaction. For Channel Partners that means finding a way that empowers your team to be informed and proactive with common pivot points in maintenance services from renewals to seamless ticket and incident management. Which brings us to our next topic, a ‘Single Source of Truth’ on your customers’ maintenance data.
Having a ‘Single Source of Truth’ on Your Customer Data is a Differentiator
Many companies have certain processes they started in-house to help them stay on top of maintenance pivot points, like upcoming maintenance renewals, budgeting, etc. But more often than not, these processes are not built to scale. Multiple Excel sheets, company turnover, and human error are just some of the challenges resellers are facing around their customer maintenance data. In fact, according to SalesForce, 43% of companies see building a “Single Source of Truth” as the Top Customer Experience Challenge (SalesForce).
If your team doesn’t have an intelligent ‘single source of truth’ on your customers’ maintenance data, you are missing out on opportunities to scale your business and deepen your customer relationships. Of course, not all smart solutions are built the same and companies reviewing a new maintenance management tool may have different needs that are looking to have addressed. Whether you choose to try and build something in-house or look for a vendor partner, there are some overall good practices to keep in mind that can help you simplify your maintenance data.
Better Customer Service Doesn’t Need to Cost Your Business More Money
Yes, hiring skilled talent usually comes at a price, but that doesn’t mean it always needs to have an effect on your bottom line. In fact, 86% of buyers would pay more for a better customer experience (Walker). Keep in mind that better customer experience can happen in a variety of ways and not all of them are tied to increasing your company’s headcount.
Maintaining a smaller team but equipping them with intelligent tools that can anticipate problems before they arise is one way many resellers are finding they’re able to keep their customers happier. These kinds of insights not only grow customer satisfaction with your company, but they grow your customers’ trust, as well. As you look to expand your offerings, having a client base that trusts you makes them more open to giving you an opportunity to take on more of their business’s needs.
Personalization is Key
A large part of sales and marketing teams time is spent in customer segmentation. Companies are taught to segment their accounts into specific tiers and their clients into specific types of decision makers within those tiers. Often even with this segmentation, companies fall short. This is because segmentation’s aim shouldn’t be just be reporting or profit prediction, it should be customer personalization, as well.
Each customer has a personalized journey that took them to your company. Although they may share similarities, in order to build the best customer experience, companies need to respect that journey for what it is and the knowledge it can provide. With 56% of consumers willing to share data in order to receive faster and more convenient service, there’s no reason not to ask more questions around what they need at every pivot point (Salesforce).
Solve Everyone’s Problems More Intelligently
The more opportunities a company has to listen to their customers the more opportunities they have to learn new problems and solve for them before other businesses. Up to 50% of consumers are likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t anticipate their needs and keeping tabs on your customers as a reseller is no small task (Salesforce).
This is where AI can play a pivotal role in helping you, help your customers. But it’s important to be discerning when reviewing a new solution. Many companies have begun marketing an “AI” or “smart” solution. The options for who does what and how can start to feel overwhelming leading many partners to loose focus on why they began evaluating all these tools in the first place. This is why when reviewing a new tool or vendor, it’s important to ask, “How does my vendor’s artificial intelligence actually benefit MY business’s needs?” Smart vendors are great, but their AI should be solving for your business and your customers’ business problems, not their own.
Our data science has talked about the importance of centering AI around our Channel customers and their end users’ needs as the first priority for any solution we’re building. This is because AI is not a unique offering, by itself and it should never be sold that way. Any company that uses it as if it is a self-explanatory offering owes a larger explanation to their customers.
Most AI development is meant to solve a problem but as our data science team likes to remind customers, not all problems are your problems. Sometimes a problem identified as being solved by a company’s AI has little to do with what you would perceive your problems to be. As impressive as the work behind an AI powered solution may be, if it’s only helping the vendor to do their own job more easily, then it’s not really benefiting you as a customer. Don’t be afraid to ask you smart vendors for specific examples of how their AI solution has found and solved issues for their existing customers.
When looking at the data, it’s clear. Driving better customer experience also drives business growth. CloudCover’s unique platform has been helping resellers and their customers create better overall maintenance experiences by normalizing disparate data into easy-to-read custom dashboards. Below are some more resources we recommend on this topic:
- Blog: How Does Artificial Intelligence Benefit Your Business? The Question You Should Be Asking Your Smart Vendors
- Learn: The CloudCover Platform
CloudCover just published a new report, There’s Money in Your Data: Revenue Growth Opportunities for Channel Partners and Their Customers. If you’re interested in learning about how intelligent data solutions can further empower your business, you can download the report below.