B2B Collaboration and Transparency: It’s Time for a Better Approach

By Tricina Elliker

It’s the top of the year, which means we’ve had enough time to take stock of the year behind us, identify gaps in our strategy, and bring this new year in with a fresh new approach. But, just in case you were thinking about dragging in the old into the new–take heed. Current predictions in tech portray a landscape with seamless, integrated B2B and B2C strategies that lower frustration at every point in the customer journey. And we agree that it’s about time to improve key customer experience gaps.

Apps crash, point of sale systems freeze, laptops update software at the absolute wrong moment. It’s a reality we’re all used to at this point. But why? We spend so much of our money and our energy using hardware and software that so often it still manages to be full of problems.

So why do we still find ourselves putting up with buggy, laggy tech?

The Power of Transparency

While the B2B space used to be one of compromises, often mired in clunky solutions that didn’t work very hard to focus on helping customers, that’s finally changing. Industries that focus on B2B solutions are catching up to the customer expectations of the B2C space. Just because your clients are businesses focusing on their own customers’ experiences, that doesn’t mean their user experience isn’t just as important.

Ironically, AI is helping brands create a customer journey with a more human B2B digital experience. These kinds of collaboration tools could help brands understand the customer journey and pave the way for greater efficiency because transparency is a game-changer.

In fact, for 73 percent of consumers, trust is more important than price. And while B2C brands are trying to figure out the best way to be customer-centric, very few in the B2B market have bothered to explore this approach. A lack of transparency is holding the B2B space back and hurting the bottom line. Articles on the sales funnel often get close to advocating for B2B transparency by insisting the millennial B2B customer is demanding a more humanized and authentic style. But rarely is it explicitly stated that the best way forward is a collaborative, open approach in order to improve the customer experience.

It isn’t exactly surprising that these ideas haven’t yet caught on. In some ways, the transparent strategy flouts every piece of conventional wisdom in business. As a brand you’re supposed to be secretive and cut-throat. Openly collaborating with your customers by increasing transparency just feels too good to be true. But that’s the problem with conventional wisdom: It’s often not very wise after all because it doesn’t embrace complexity, and the world is a complex place.

Collaboration as Feedback

We’ve seen B2B companies solve big problems by investing in a great customer experience. They took the time to build long-term relationships and open themselves up to greater customer communication. And the results are astonishing.

Improving the customer journey is easier when you work directly with your clients, treating the interaction more like partners solving problems—together. So instead of treating the interaction like a supplier trying to make a sale to a customer or responding to a customer complaint because it’s expected, approach it as a chance to deeply understand customers and how they use your products.

But talk of outright transparency (to the point of treating B2B customers more like collaborators) has yet to become the status quo. While most brands understand the importance of feedback, many rely too much on surveys and other tactics that don’t offer deep insight into how their customers actually live and use these products and services.

Tech has the power to drastically change the ways brands understand customers, yet few B2B strategists are discussing the importance of using tech to improve collaboration. Tech’s perceived role in improving the business model is often still stuck on the ways new innovations can speed up customer interactions and increase input.

Quality over quantity

Using tech to slow down customer interactions and improve the quality of feedback while creating a good customer experience doesn’t seem to occur to many brands. But this kind of collaboration has the power to potentially improve every aspect of their brand and upend their entire customer journey map. It’s time more brands tried collaborating out in the open to fulfill their brand promise. Not only does this have the power to help them boost sales and provide  better products and services, it can drastically improve customer loyalty and customer retention.

Customer experience management (CEM) is more complex than just asking customers what they think directly and applying the answers they give you. You have to look under the hood with your customers, see the world the way they do, and and then use that to improve your product and your overall customer experience. Often your customers don’t realize how much feedback they have to give until they’re looking at the product with you.

One of the unique perspectives we’ve gotten at Mirror has been the power of collaboration. Because we’re in the B2B customer support space, we get to see this on several levels: We collaborate directly with our clients, but we also get to work with them to improve the way they interact with their own customers. In this way we’ve gotten a unique perspective, seeing what many different kinds of customers face along the sales and support journey.

The products we offer are extremely adaptable, so customers can build very dynamic workflows that get the right type of data back, allowing them to understand how their customers actually use their products. Live video support and guided video both allow our clients to see what their customers see and watch customers interact with their products out in the real world. That kind of feedback offers more value than any kind of survey ever could.

This goes beyond B2B. This approach has the power to shake up the way B2C strategies are devised too. While B2C brands are more focused on the customer journey, the majority still don’t approach their interactions with customers as opportunities for collaboration. But they should.

Customers in the B2C spaces are just as eager to be involved in designing the products and services they buy. We see this with live video customer support — Customers give feedback that helps product designers and customer support improve. Two very large aspects of the business benefit directly.

This is a revelation for many brands as they realize their customers have had important information and feedback to offer the whole time, but the way they were interacting with customers didn’t make it easy to learn from them. Once they start working with Mirror, their communication approaches change and that begins to affect the way they run their business — from their customer service all the way to their designs for new products.

Collaboration improves employee engagement, but it also improves client engagement

That’s because customers want to be proactive, especially when it comes to saving time and money. And making customers part of the process provides better data to guide brand decisions in the future. Your customers (and their customers, if you’re a B2B business) are actually eager to help you improve your brand. They’re willing to spend a little extra time and effort to improve the products they get to use. B2B businesses need to take their customers up on this offer and use it to improve their products and customer experience.

Depending on the type of business you’re in, collaborating with your customers might just reduce returns (in retail) or it might allow them to reduce risk in their lives (in insurance) — but regardless of what type of business you’re in, chances are your customers have been waiting for a chance to help you improve the products they buy from you for a long time.

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