Modern consumers have changed their behaviour over years and are most often doing extensive research before they approach a supplier. When they change their habits, you have to change. The key is to offer the same customer experience in all channels – so called unified commerce.
Because modern consumers collect information, compare and weigh up the advantages and disadvantages by themselves before making a buying decision, they have often come a long way in the purchase process before approaching a supplier. To create business opportunities and gain repeat custom, you need to achieve an experience that extends across and is the same in all channels. This is particularly clear in the B2B sector. To succeed here, it's best to start at the other end and collect information about your customers to achieve a 360-degree view.
What does a 360-degree view mean?
Often there are relatively few things that distinguish you from your competitors. This is one of the reasons why there has been a change of focus – from product, price and transaction – to a good customer experience in all channels.
A 360-degree view of a customer essentially means that you try to compile all customer data collected before the purchase, during the purchase and after the transaction is complete.
This should then be available in a single view, regardless of where and when the purchase was made. You’re striving to obtain a composite view of the customer that you can use to improve the customer experience regardless of where and when you communicate with them.
When the information is made visible in a structured way, historical data can help to give you insights. It’s worth looking at which products and campaigns have been successful, previous purchase history, maintenance activities and other things that seem interesting. Collecting real-time data is another thing – this is more about capturing customer behaviour and putting it in context to help understand who the customer is and what problem they are trying to solve.
So why do you need a 360-degree view?
Well, as we mentioned above, it isn’t just about selling your product, but about understanding the customer’s needs when they begin their purchase process so you can try to guide them on the way. Of course the journey continues after the initial purchase, with maintenance, delivery of consumables, purchase of spare parts, upgrades, manuals and much more. With a complete overview of the customer and their needs, you will also be able to maximise the customer’s value over time.
When you compile historic and real-time data and understand the behaviour in the customer’s journey, you can start to make predictions, present relevant products and campaigns, and customise content based on the individual or company’s needs.
Here are just a few of the main advantages:
1. Intelligent customer information
There are many interaction points where you communicate with your customers. This can be on the website, during a maintenance visit or on social media. Together, all of these interaction points generate valuable information that you can use to improve the customer experience. Studies show that the most recent interaction has an impact on the customer’s buying decision, and you can use this data to customise your communication with the customer in real time.
2. Better focus in marketing and sales campaigns
When you have the right information about the customer, coordination between your production, marketing, sales and customer maintenance teams can improve. You can achieve more with less effort. And your customer campaigns can be tailored to meet their specific demands or issues.
3. Better predictive intelligence
With complete customer information, you can adapt your e-commerce or customer portal to be more proactive during the customer journey. For example, if your customer has just bought a “large machine”, the current probability of a similar purchase is somewhat less. However, the customer may be interested in insurance or maintenance packages. Alternatively, earlier data can indicate that a customer may be looking for a replacement product, a spare part or want to make a reorder based on earlier purchases.
4. Improved customer loyalty
When you are able to offer the customer an experience that intuitively fulfils their needs, there is a high probability of increased loyalty. The objective is to improve the experience throughout the entire customer journey – from contact to sales and delivery, from installation to reorder. If all other factors are equal, there is a high probability that the experience a customer has during the buying process will significantly contribute to improving customer loyalty.
How do you create a 360-degree view of your customers?
Even the most conservative and old school of B2B customers prefer to carry out their research and information collection online. Today’s customers also rely more on other customers’ recommendations than on those suppliers. This is where an informative website, a straightforward e-commerce solution, an interactive customer portal, social media, marketing channels and other factors come into play.
Because the entire customer journey has moved online, a well-integrated e-commerce solution or customer portal can help you obtain a 360-degree view of your customers and give them a significantly better customer experience.
You can view a customer portal as a gateway to all of your services and data – and those of your resellers too. It’s a centralised way to create customer engagement by offering value-added interaction through system integrations, standardised data, self-service and transparency for the customer.
The biggest challenge for all B2B companies when it comes to creating an improved customer experience and customer-centric portal lies in being able to track an individual’s journey across a number of channels, different devices and interactions with different departments. This can lead to a disconnected and inconsistent customer experience.
A 360-degree view of the customer means that you collect all of your customer’s data in a single place. This is usually stored in a CRM system or a CDP (Customer Data Platform), where you save interactions in a single digital customer profile. A customer profile that you use to achieve the advantages mentioned above.
What are the next steps?
- Carry out an inventory of where you store customer data – both historical and real-time data. They may be spread over several systems and departments.
- Evaluate and agree on a shared system where all data can be collected and stored.
- Define what type of events you will collect and where. Then begin to make your data usable. Sort, clean and enhance the information.
- When the data is “usable”, it’s ready to be shared with other systems, for example the customer portal, which can act and create value.
- Identify and expand your opportunities for improving your customer experience in the customer portal. The quality of the information will get better and more relevant over time and will thus provide a better basis for reports, personalisation and customer segmentation.
Is it easy? Not particularly, but it's a necessary step to getting to grips with your customer experience and beginning the transition.