Customer Experience News & Trends

What we all can learn about customer loyalty from 5 innovators

B2Bs might not be known for their flashy advertising or innovative customer loyalty plans the way B2Cs are. But these five lesser-known organizations built major customer loyalty and sales in ways you never imagined.

It may seem improbable for B2B operations to evoke the kind of loyalty that B2C ops can. After all, we’re talking about the likes of steel wire, software and loads of other things that work behind the scenes.

Customers don’t tend to love them with the passion they have about cheesy bread, mountain-fresh laundry detergent and tech gadgets, for instance. But “an easy, trustworthy partnership in B2B markets can evoke personal feelings every bit as strong as with consumer products and brands,” says David Michels and Andreas Dullweber, authors of a recent Bain & Company white paper, Do your B2B customers promote your business?

B2B loyalty difficult to develop

Why does it seem a little more difficult to cultivate loyalty in the B2B market? Customers evaluate the value of the relationship on less emotional criteria, the authors say. That includes:

  • Does the company create economic and strategic value for our business (or self)?
  • Does the company simplify daily operations or my personal work life?
  • Can I trust the company?
  • Do I like working with the people there?

Not exactly the stuff loving relationships are made of.

Still, there’s good news: Some B2B operations have famously loyal customers. And their strides to achieve that fortune are lessons nearly any organization can put into play.

One of the biggest keys is tirelessly pursuing customer feedback and using it to continuously improve service. And it pays off. The Bain & Company research found that B2B leaders in loyalty grow 4% to 8% above their market’s annual growth. That’s despite the nearly 70% of B2B leaders who say customers are less loyal than they used to be. Here are five big success stories — and how you can use them to your advantage:

1. Listen to the people on the end

MicrophoneB2B operations often have the disadvantage of being once-removed from the people who use their products day-in, day-out. Such was the case for Tata Steel Wire Division (TSWD). It sold steel wires to distributors and was under the assumption that its end-users used the product for the reason they designed it — to fence in farmers’ growing areas.

But when TSWD wanted to improve its sales with a better value proposition and new products, it went through its distributors to talk to end-users. Those conversations revealed big things: Some farmers wanted durability and others wanted an ease of installation.

Those were separate issues that could be solved — and profited from — using two different products with detailed customer service for each. One brand remained mobile while another was created to be more durable and included a higher price and longer warranty. The later turned out to be one of the most profitable products in TSWD’s lineup, Bain and Company reports.

2. Talk to the newbies

If B2Bs gather customer feedback, they often target customers who’ve been around a while. After all, those are the people and businesses they have the best relationships with.

Intuit, the makers of tax and accounting software, turned the tables and reached out for feedback from new customers. It was a move that not only helped the Texas-based company make improvements that all customers liked, but it also increased the likelihood new customers would renew and increase revenue.

When Intuit went after new customers for feedback, they learned that many didn’t realize the full capabilities of the product — so they weren’t learning as much as they could and getting the full value for their purchase.

Based on this info, Intuit’s ProTax Group formed a New Client Services team that walks new customers through product functionality to make learning the system easier and the company seem more personable and accessible. Customers in the program are 49% more likely to renew, and that’s led to a 50% increase in second-year customer revenue.

3. Keep customers in the center

Customer ExpectationsUCB, a Belgium-based drug maker, relies on feedback from its buyers and end users to keep customers at the heart of every business decision made. Senior managers and representatives from the C-suite — including the CEO — get detailed feedback from calls with hundreds of customers.

The company gathers feedback from physicians who prescribe the products and patients who use it regularly. That feedback is used on several levels — prompting the company to make customer-centric decisions that have built incredible loyalty over the years.

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