Could You Compete Against a Customer Experience Giant?

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What if tomorrow you woke up and found out that you suddenly had to compete against a customer experience giant – the likes of Southwest, Apple, or the Ritz Carlton. What if one of these well known and deeply loved brands swooped into your marketplace? Would your customers stay? Or would they happily test out the new entrant? Would they be delighted to have options instead of being forced to do business with you and your usual group of hardly differentiated competitors? Could you compete against a customer experience giant?

This is exactly what happened to the B2B supply industry when Amazon joined the industrial distribution market last year.  Product categories covered include: lab equipment, occupational health and safety, janitorial and sanitation, office, power and hand tools, and the list goes on. In true Amazon fashion, orders over $50 or more receive two day shipping. In addition, they offer free 365 day returns and financing through their corporate lines of credit. Overnight, B2B suppliers were faced with competing against a company with a notoriously delightful customer experience.

Not surprisingly, there’s been a healthy amount of debate around how willing customers will be to trade in personal service for faceless procurement. But new research by Acquity Group shows that buyers have been quite willing to at least give Amazon Supply a try. Now, to make matters worse, Google is joining Amazon in the fight for the B2B buyer as it rolls out services to the electrical and electronics industries.

The threat of massive disruption is very real – whether it’s coming from new market entrants or aggressive Amazonian growth strategies. And just because your customers are doing business with you today, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t willingly trade you in for someone who can better serve them. The question is then, are you ready?

Do your customers love you?

Not, “Do your customers like you?” or “Are your customers satisfied with you?” Do your customers love you? If your customers are only tolerating you or “ok” with you then they’ll be ready and willing to try out faster, cheaper, or more innovative alternatives.

What to do about it

Stop measuring Customer Satisfaction and start holding yourself to a higher standard. Measure customer love by tracking NPS or regularly asking them, “Do you love doing business with us?” It’s a higher standard, but you’ll be glad to know the answer if/when Amazon comes knocking.

Do you know how to earn their love?

It’s no longer enough to think you know, or have a pretty good idea, or (even worse) just go by the old HIPPO standard (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) on what customers love about doing business with you – you have to know. Every decision made should be grounded in customer data.

What to do about it

Use Voice of the Customer software to systematically listen and take action on customer feedback. Connect survey data to existing operational metrics to see how changes being made to the customer experience impact your Key Performance Indicators. In addition, make it a point to regularly check in with front line employees to ask about any new challenges your customers are facing or get employee input on how you could be better serving customers. Whatever you do, make sure you absolutely know that investments made to improve the customer experience will result in customer love.

Are you only competing against your competitors?

Amazon customers who have bought books, gifts, or streamed movies from Amazon already have trust in the experience. Their consumer interactions have trained them to know what to expect from the company. In the same way, the customer experience giants are already “training” your customers on what they should receive. Innovations in how legal services are purchased (LegalZoom), finances are managed (LearnVest), and eyewear is sold (Warby Parker) could all be having an impact on what your customers expect from you.

What to do about it

Stay abreast of innovations happening outside the walls of your industry. These things impact how customers perceive your company and what they expect from you. “It’s just how things are done in our industry” won’t cut if a customer experience leader decides to enter your market.









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