Members of a Decision Making Unit (DMU) are consumers. The expectations that they bring to a business-to-business relationship will often have been forged by their own experiences with established brands, leading to the emerging sense of ‘consumerisation’ in the B2B world. As such, it is not unreasonable to look at B2B customer experience design through the consumerised lens, breaking down the different layers of the Decision Making Unit and applying The Six PillarsTM to each of their sensibilities. It could prove to be the difference between success and failure.

The users

In a DMU, the user tends to have a limited influence on the choice of suppliers, but they are the ones who get the most complete experience of the organisation, as they interact with a purchased service or product on a daily basis. In terms of advocacy, the pillars that matter the most to users are Personalisation and Expectations. When it comes to loyalty, however, users also favour the pillars of Empathy and Time and Effort.

Interestingly, Empathy has proven to be the most important pillar for repeated purchase and long-term relationships across all countries and DMUs. It’s a pillar that tests an organisation’s ability to see matters from a client’s perspective, and to show the emotional intelligence to deliver a response that is appropriate to the particular situation. Training can certainly help companies to master this. One B2C brand in the United States teaches its employees that the customer’s emotional response is of greater importance than the length of the interaction, and it would rather the individual ‘walked away happy’, even if the dialogue lasted for eight hours.

The influencers

Influencers, meanwhile, have no formal authority on purchasing decisions, but they are able to affect the retention or choice of supplier. In this respect, the pillars of Empathy, Expectations and Personalisation are of the greatest importance, and organisations should pay particular attention to these when shaping their customer experience design.

For example, when it comes to the pillar of Expectations, companies should keep a watchful eye on the way they conduct themselves. Their clients’ expectations should be realistically set and managed, and the business’ communication with them should be clear and open from the outset. It would be better for an organisation to set lower expectations and exceed them, rather than set high expectations and fail to deliver.

The decision makers

Decision makers, meanwhile, are those who give the final sign-off, either on their own or as part of a committee. In terms of loyalty, the pillars that have the most resonance are Empathy, Resolution and Expectations, whereas for advocacy the emphasis is more heavily-weighted on Personalisation.

Indeed, Personalisation certainly matters more to American organisations, who value the individualised attention and the business’ ability to tailor the experience to their particular needs, bringing a greater sense of ‘humanity’ to the interaction. In Britain, though, the pillar of Resolution carries more weight, reflecting the more transactional nature of the B2B relationship. However, this is an important area to master no matter what country the relationship is taking place in. A company’s CX design should ably account for the possibility of things going wrong, and put measures in place that ensure a swift and effective recovery, and one that puts the client in a better position than they were in before. Organisations should also maintain clear lines of communication, providing regular updates and realistic timescales.

Finally, one pillar that transcends all of these layers is that of Integrity. It is almost a prerequisite for any B2B relationship, and it’s binary, and no relationship can survive without a healthy degree of trust. And whilst trust is something that is usually built-up over time, effective customer experience design can help to accelerate the process. Companies should ensure that they are as transparent and open as possible, and that they deliver on their promises. Moreover, it’s often useful if the individuals who conduct the initial pitch are the same people who oversee the work, and these employees should also be able to evidence how they have afforded the client with good value.

Download our latest report B2B Customer Experience: Winning in the Moments that Matter

Dont worry when you forget the syntax of an HTML element, like and iframe, a link, a table, an image or anything else. Visit HTML CheatSheet and generate the code you need.