B2C Influences on B2B Customer Expectations

Shannon Gronemeyer     Customer Centered Strategies

We’re pleased to introduce our first guest blogger, Shannon Gronemeyer of Customer Centered Strategies.

CCS is one of E.G. Insight’s alliance partners, and is a natural fit with our business due to the firm’s sharp focus on using customer insight to drive tangible changes that improve the overall customer experience and bottom line business results.

For more information on CCS visit their web site at ccsdelivered.com. Thanks to Shannon for letting us share his perspectives with you.

There are noticeable differences in the way B2C and B2B companies engage, interact with, and serve their respective customer bases. Traditionally, this was based on the significant differences in expectations from those customer groups. However, research indicates that this expectation gap is closing at an alarming rate.

And this shouldn’t be surprising. At the end of the day, the B2B buyer is a consumer too. As such, they have become accustomed to dealing with B2C brands that provide intuitive, interconnected, accessible, real time, personalized experiences. It would be unreasonable to think these same consumers readily change hats when entering their B2B buyer roles, and not expect to interact with their vendors in the same way.

The Evolution of Customer Expectations

Recently, a client of ours shared a quote from one of their largest customers that perfectly describes the convergence of B2C expectations on the B2B world:

“Shouldn’t I expect the same level of service when I spend $50M with you, as I do when I buy a $50 pair of shoes?”

The truth is, the propagation of digital capabilities in our everyday lives has established entirely new standards for the way we do business. Expectations are increasing for:

  • Ease of engagement
  • Access to information
  • Response time
  • Seamless experiences
  • Knowledge of interaction history
  • Capture of profile details (even needs, wants, preferences)

Thanks to disrupters like Google, Amazon, Uber, Netflix, and apps for daily banking and grocery ordering, we see plenty of examples of ways customer expectations are evolving. In studies conducted by Salesforce and McKinsey, the importance of modern customer experience technology capabilities on customer expectations is glaringly evident:

  • 70% of consumers say technology has enabled them to easily take their business elsewhere for an experience that matches their expectations.
  • 75% of consumers expect a consistent experience regardless of their chosen communication platform (mobile, in-person or social)

These studies further demonstrate how these changing B2C expectations are impacting the B2B environment at an accelerated rate.

  • While 64% of B2C consumers expect companies to interact with them without delay, 80% of B2B customers expect companies to interact with them in real time
  • And while 72% of B2C consumers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, that number is 89% for B2B customers

But before investing heavily in next generation CX capabilities to create an “Amazon-like experience,” it is critical to understand what your specific customers value. In other words, what improvements will result in them buying more, buying more often, staying longer, and referring others.

It’s Critical to Understand and Prioritize Customers’ Needs

This is another reason Voice of Customer (VoC) is so important. Unless you properly understand your specific customers’ requirements and the significant cost, time, and potential disruption associated with major technology enhancements, you may not even deliver the change in customer experience or buying behavior you expected. You should start by validating what your customers need, value, and are willing to pay for as they interact with your specific product or services.

In addition to selecting the right customer experience capabilities, prioritization is also critical. Your customer base may not be interested in certain B2C type engagement models, or they may not be ready for them based on a variety of factors like their own internal limitations, complexity or employee demographic.

This blog entry originally posted at: B2C Influence on Customer Expectations

Business-to-Business Sales, Customer Experience, Guest Blogger, Service Improvements

E.G. Insight Announces New Alliances

E.G. Partners with Sales Execution and Process Improvement Firms

Saint Paul, MN, April 9, 2018 – The leaders of Business Efficacy, Customer Centered Strategies and E.G. Insight wish to announce their entrance into a formal alliance. The three firms bring distinct competencies and service offerings to the relationship, but have a common focus on enhancing the customer experience for business-to-business clients.

“I’m excited about collaborating with these two firms, led by experts in sales execution and process excellence. Linda Maxwell (Business Efficacy) and Shannon Gronemeyer (Customer Centered Strategies) and their teams have capabilities that will only enhance the value of the work we already do with our clients,” said Eric Engwall, President of E.G. Insight.

“We’ve recognized that our clients would benefit from a more robust solution to their customer experience initiatives. The strategic customer feedback we help our clients gather only has value when companies take action on what they learn – and Business Efficacy and Customer Centered Strategies are uniquely positioned to facilitate the changes that should be a part of any voice of the customer process.”

The three-firm alliance brings together a set of capabilities to help organizations listen to customers and channel partners more effectively and use the knowledge from that feedback to make tangible improvements for customers and their own organizations.

About the collaboration, Shannon Gronemeyer, President and CEO of Customer Centered Strategies said:

“We know from experience that voice of the customer programs – whether transactional surveys, relationship surveys, or the interview-based feedback that E.G. Insight excels in – tend to expose the processes and work flows that get in the way of serving customers effectively. Our job at CCS is to refine those processes or introduce new tools that yield better service for customers while also helping our clients to reduce costs and increase profits.”

Recognizing that critical elements of the B2B customer experience are services and consultative recommendations from sales and account management professionals, Linda Maxwell’s firm Business Efficacy also has a key role to play:

“In B2B environments, sales execution and the overall customer experience often come down to behaviors. If the actions of the sales organization aren’t aligned with the stated goals of the organization, you’re going to have a much greater challenge accomplishing those goals routinely,” said Maxwell, Business Efficacy’s CEO.

“Our focus on sales process and sales leadership effectiveness helps to ensure consistency in behavior and in results. Adding the customer feedback and process improvement capabilities of E.G. and CCS makes certain that we’re working on the right behaviors and supporting people with tools and systems to make jobs easier and service to customers even better.”

If you would like more information, please contact Eric Engwall at
1 (651) 288-1460 or email at info@eginsight.com.

Strategic Customer Feedback – E.G. Insight, Inc. – Saint Paul, MN

Customer data is no longer a precious and elusive asset. If anything, many companies are so awash in customer information it has become a commodity. The new challenge is one of making sense of the data on hand and using it to inform decisions and inspire change. In the words of one executive, “Data we have. It’s insight we lack.”

E.G. Insight has, for more than 25 years, helped organizations to acquire strategic insights from their most important customers. Through high-touch methods that build relationships while capturing actionable customer feedback, E.G. equips its clients to gather “close data” from critical customers that augments whatever big data they’re already using.


Process Optimization – Customer Centered Strategies – Minneapolis, MN –

You’ve done the work. The voice of the customer data has been gathered, reported and shared. You have developed a more intimate understanding of the critical success factors in your customer relationships, and have learned about areas that may be negatively impacting experience and loyalty.

What next?

Leveraging the insights provided by our clients, Customer Centered Strategies (CCS) works with organizations to address the issues affecting their customers’ experiences. Even better, CCS’ process optimization services make measurable improvements in business performance and profitability. CCS works with clients to map existing processes, identify and prioritize improvement opportunities, define the desired business process and ensure execution of process and technology changes that will improve customer relationships and overall performance.


Sales Execution and Performance – Business Efficacy – Minneapolis, MN

The secret to overcoming sales performance challenges can’t be found in a three-ring binder or on a flash drive. Achieving a true sales transformation can only happen when sales leaders are engaged in a process that’s custom designed to address their unique needs. In an industry high on quick fixes and low on follow through, Business Efficacy stands apart for its commitment to helping clients execute on its custom-made sales performance solutions.

A team of experienced consultants takes on the true barriers to high performance. They assess quickly and speak frankly. And though they lead the change, they work side by side with clients to empower the organization to take ownership and to drive real and sustainable growth.


E.G. Insight in the News , ,

Listening to Solve; Listening to Relate

I recently had a conversation with a friend that was facing a tough decision and was feeling a certain amount of distress over the predicament she was in. As she described her challenge and the difficult choices she faced, I did my best to be a good listener. I asked questions, tried to help her see possibilities, evaluate the pros and cons of each and come to some resolution on the issue.

I admit that I probably missed a few signals along the way that my attempt to help was causing more anxiety rather than less. So I was surprised when the conversation halted abruptly and she said, “You’re not getting it! How can you be so obtuse!?”

After searching my brain for the definition of obtuse—insensitive, imperceptive, dull-witted (ouch!)—I wondered how my sincere desire to help had backfired. It was at this point that my friend added, “The problem is, men listen to solve while women listen to relate.”

I don’t know how accurate the gender portion of that statement is, but I recognized immediately that at least in this example she was right. My friend just wanted to be heard, but I was trying to fix. I was asking analytical questions aimed at finding a solution, while she was looking for empathy and understanding.

In our business we’re all about helping our clients to listen – to their customers, their employees, and their partners – and then act on what they’ve heard. We’re big on the belief that more listening is a key to better relationships and better businesses. The idea that more listening can cause friction, rather than ease it, was one that I hadn’t really considered.

But there are several ways to listen, with different intents and purposes. Whether with friends, family members or customers, the key is to recognize the situation and the needs of the person you’re speaking with. There are many times, of course, the customer does need someone to help them solve a problem or respond to a challenge. In those instances active and inquisitive listening is appropriate. Asking broad questions and following them up with narrower queries to probe for detail is critical to gaining a complete picture of the customer’s situation and begin identifying a solution. Like the line of inquiry from an investigator, some questions are aimed at finding options and alternatives, and others are designed to eliminate them.

Sometimes, however, customers just want to talk. They appreciate sharing information with someone who is not a colleague, but still knows their business. They’re looking to learn, to understand, to share their expertise, or to build rapport with a trusted contact from a key supplier – to relate. There is no problem to solve, and no solution is necessary. The key to being a good listener in that context is to use questions to express understanding and expand the conversation, rather than limit it.

Since that conversation with my friend I’m doing my best to defy the stereotype. On one or two occasions I’ve actually asked my wife how she wanted me to listen—to help her make a decision or to be a sympathetic ear. I’m hoping to get better at this so that some day I won’t have to ask.

Business-to-Business Sales, Customer Feedback, Customer Relationships, Voice of the Customer , , ,

Communication is key – do you know what I mean?


I recently agreed to meet my coworkers for lunch near our offices. I casually told them I would meet them “down there” after completing an errand. “Down there,” to me, meant the nearby food court. “Down there,” to them, meant the elevator lobby on the main floor of our building—big difference.

I ran my errand and walked to the food court. They took the elevator to the main floor and waited for me. Time dragged slowly for both parties. I thought they were late. They thought perhaps I had forgotten them, been held up by something, or was just dragging my feet.

We finally found each other at the food court. There was much laughter about what exactly “down there” meant. No harm, no foul. But this could have happened with a customer, or an important supplier or partner, and involved a much more significant issue than lunch.

As with my coworkers’ interpretation of “down there,” it’s easy to misconstrue generic customer feedback about broad themes like “service” or “price” or “communication”—the type of one-word answers that often arise from surveys. Take “communication”: Is the customer concerned with the frequency of the communication he or she is receiving? The quality? Is the communication poor at a senior level? Or does it need work within middle management? Is it the tone of communication that is a problem? There are lots of paths to follow within such an extensive topic. And lots of opportunities to completely miss your customer’s point.

This is why the most effective voice of the customer initiatives are designed around getting precise, granular feedback. Face-to-face/interview-style approaches maximize opportunities for clarifying participant comments in real time. Combined with structured interviewer education and training on probing techniques, a conversation-based approach will help you best understand specific customer concerns and avoid jumping to inaccurate conclusions.

At best, nonspecific customer feedback offers very little guidance in providing actionable, tangible solutions for your customer. At worst, money, time, and effort can potentially be invested (and wasted) in an area that isn’t even a primary concern.

Is your company’s feedback initiative structured to capture your customers’ actual challenges and expectations?

Customer Feedback, Uncategorized, Voice of the Customer

Repairing Relationships with an At-Risk Account

Using the Customer Review process to rebuild confidence with a B-to-B account

The Challenge

For two months, an Account Executive at our financial industry client had been trying unsuccessfully to get in front of one of his key customer contacts. His customer believed they were receiving less than optimal service, response time was high, and personal attention to requests was low; in short, the relationship at this point was strained.

Once the Account Executive managed to secure a meeting, the customer contacts our client met with were on guard and unwilling to invest much time in the conversation; they agreed to one hour, maximum. At the outset, these contacts were entering the meeting with great reluctance, a significantly negative view of our client, and, very likely, plans to move on to a different provider.

The Solution

Our client had recently contracted E.G. Insight for development, implementation, and analysis of the Customer Review process (CRp® feedback process). An interview guide tailored to meet our client’s specific business needs was created, targeting the topics of most relevance to both our client and their customers. Issues such as service, delivery, quality, and value were discussed and numeric ratings captured. The process had been rolled out to a variety of our client’s customers.

The client team administering the CRp recognized that inviting this particular dissatisfied customer contact to participate could be a way to schedule what was turning out to be a very elusive meeting. The formal review process—rather than a casual business meeting—would demonstrate to the customer the seriousness of our client’s intent in meeting and listening. The structure of the CRp, and its focus on openly and nondefensively gathering feedback, helped the customer feel comfortable agreeing to meet. Our client was able to get back in the door.

Although the customer’s initial attitude was somewhat resistant, as the CRp began they started to open up. To the interviewers’ delight, the customer—previously not wanting to give more than an hour of their time—agreed to keep the productive conversation going. The interview lasted two hours. By the end of the interview, the customer contacts were described as “leaning on the table, thoroughly engaged and smiling.” They praised our client for their sincere engagement and willingness to partner.

The Results

With the eager participation of all, several effective action items and improvement suggestions were developed. Most of these plans were able to be implemented immediately, allowing quick resolution for many of the customer’s prior concerns. The conversation also served as a platform for additional constructive dialogue going forward.

In the words of the Account Executive involved with this interview, “Bless our having this process and being able to use it to get in the door.” She went on to praise the conversational format of the CRp and the effectiveness of using it with at-risk customers.

Best Practices, Business-to-Business Sales, Customer Confidence, Customer Feedback, Customer Relationships, Customer Trust