Customer engagement is a hot topic amongst B2C companies, but research by Gallup shows that B2B companies would be wise to also take interest. With only 29% of B2B customers fully engaged, B2B companies risk losing the majority of their customer base. Here’s how B2B companies can improve poor customer engagement—and the bottom line.
According to Gallup, “only 29% of B2B customers are fully engaged—that is, emotionally and psychologically attached to the companies with which they do business. The remaining customers are either indifferent (60%) or actively disengaged (11%), and are ready and willing to take their business elsewhere.” And with B2B customer acquisition costs averaging $264, companies can’t afford that rate of customer churn.
In their article for Harvard Business Review, contributors Bevin Maguire and Jane Hiscock offer advice for B2B businesses on improving customer engagement. It begins with understanding how your company currently engages with customers and what you know about them.
“With our clients, we’ve found that a 30-minute call—clearly defined as a strategy discussion rather than a sales call—is a good place to begin gathering these answers. The discussion should be focused on the client’s top strategic areas, whether those areas are related to your business and offerings or not,” write Maguire and Hiscock.
Rather than meet with customers solely via audio conference, consider scheduling a video call for these strategy meetings. Because participants can meet face-to-face, video offers a more personal way to engage. It thereby helps create a safe space for customers to share information about what they’re working on. While the conversation is still professional, it’s less formal.
Video also gives sales people the ability to see whether the customer is engaged in the conversation or has checked out. Perhaps the customer is multi-tasking or responding to interruptions rather than focusing on the conversation. This kind of conversational disengagement is often the first sign that the customer is considering a competitor or simply not ready to do business at all, and it’s something that can be easily missed on an audio-only call.
Furthermore, don’t assume that one call will tell you everything you need to know about your customer. “Part of knowing your customers as individuals requires understanding them both digitally and offline. The customer you talk to on the phone is slightly different from the one you encounter on social media or through email; no channel gives a full picture,” write Maguire and Hiscock.
The best way to start to create that picture is with, well, a full picture. Meeting with customers via video gives you the opportunity to take note of what your customer is wearing, where he or she is taking the call, and how the environment is decorated. A picture on an office wall, for example, can tell you a great deal about your customer’s interests and personal life. It also provides an opportunity to engage in non-work conversation that can help shed further light on his/her priorities.
You can also use video internally to improve customer engagement. Maguire and Hiscock advise companies to “[a]lign cross-functional teams to specific customer-experience goals that give them a common purpose.” It is easier to get distributed teams together with video. What’s more, it enables teams to meet face-to-face, which is more conducive to the type of collaboration that’s key for competitive advantage.
Finally, don’t forget the value of a customer advisory board. “Customer advisory boards are a powerful way to engage clients and advance the relationship on both sides,” write Maguire and Hiscock. “They offer a forum for identifying what reciprocal value looks like, understanding your customers as unique individuals, and creating a future together.”
Ideally, your customer advisory board gathers annually for an in-person meeting that’s augmented with quarterly virtual check-ins. Using video for these follow-up meetings enables you to maintain a personal rapport, as it allows everyone to meet face-to-face. It lets customers know that you truly care about their business, their goals, and what they have to say. For the business, it also reinforces the fact that customers are indeed unique individuals.
B2B companies have plenty of room for improvement when it comes to customer engagement. That’s the bad news. The good news is that for minimal effort and cost, you can become a more informed and nimble organization simply by adding video to your customer’s experience.