Customer experience (CX) for business-to-business companies involves different metrics than B2C because the "customer" is a company. A new report from Forrester Research examines best practices for B2B CX measurement.

The report, "How Three B2B Firms Measure Customer Experience" [fee required], looked at the ways three companies – UnitedHealth Group's Optum, Cisco and Pitney Bowes – determine the quality of customer experiences and how they promote improvement. There are obviously different metrics across industries, but the report finds several common takeaways.

Key Points

  • Use journey mapping to help find the right metrics for understanding the customer's point-of-view.
  • To determine the metrics, customize the approach to different kinds of clients. Paul Hagen, the report's co-author and principal analyst for customer experience at Forrester, told CMSWire it is important to "pick a metric that captures the customer's perception," such as a customer's sense of value from the service or product.
  • It's about improving the experience, not just scoring higher. To support a value that a customer receives from a product or service, for instance, determine the processes that are helping to drive perceived value, instead of focusing primarily on driving up any numerical scores.
  • In a B2B customer experience, your "customers" could be all the users in the client company who interact with your product and service. Don't focus on "just getting the buyer," Hagen said. In fact, the most important customers in the long term might be the users of the product or service -- and they don't always include the buyer.
  • Getting measurement metrics/processes right for B2B customer experience has a clear connection to the bottom line.

Optum's Approach

Optum, the division of UnitedHealth Group that sells healthcare products and services to insurance companies, hospitals and pharmacies, started a voice-of-the-client program in 2008 to determine the drivers of customer loyalty.

Success factors in the measurement effort include using Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a key metric, a complementary use of qualitative research through interviews of top clients and prospects, an emphasis on client participation over higher scores when granting bonuses to account managers, and customization of surveys to the type of client.

Bottom line: customers who were Promoters (as defined by Net Promoter Score) had a 25 to 30 percent higher renewal rate than Detractors.

Cisco, Pitney Bowes

Cisco's key metric was "ease of doing business," determined via analysis as the top driver of customer and partner loyalty. The company employed such feedback tools as annual relationship surveys and monitoring of social media. It then quantified the areas affecting perceptions of ease of doing business, undertook related improvements, and let customers know how it is addressing specific issues through a "We're Listening" blog.

Bottom line: Cisco figures this kind of measurement led it to fix such things as navigation issues with its support website, ordering rules, and difficult tools that delayed invoicing – all of which saved a whopping $750 million each year, in addition to improving customer experience.

Pitney-Bowes CX Hierarchy.jpg

From the report, "How Three B2B Firms Measure Customer Experience"

Learning Opportunities

Pitney Bowes created a hierarchical system of CX metrics and made NPS a company goal. Individuals in middle management or product teams were measured against net satisfaction scores, and surveys were used to frequently measure customer journeys. Scores, qualitative feedback and drivers are reviewed with key stakeholders monthly, and there's a structured process for improvement.

Bottom line: customer satisfaction rose by 25 percent, and cancellation rates dropped seven percent.

Forrester's Hagen told us that it's "always surprising how long it takes to make the business case for customer experience" in B2B contexts. Many companies believe that their business customers become and remain customers because of personal relationships.

He said it is sometimes hard to make the case that costs for B2B customer experience -- "a longer term play" -- are worthwhile, but the three case histories in this detailed and meaty report clearly show the benefit that a well-measured effort can provide.

Image from Forrester Research.