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Next-Level CX

Release Date: September 1, 2020 • Episode #131

In their latest report, “Next-Level CX for B2B Companies,” Walker teamed up with the Qualtrics XM Institute to assess the current state of B2B CX. Host Steve Walker welcomes back guest Dr. Troy Powell to discuss the report, highlighting findings of low CX maturity in B2B companies, and how CX leaders can align CX programs and design truly exceptional customer experiences.

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Steve:
We've said it more than once on this podcast: B2C companies have been setting the pace on CX and B2B companies are trying to catch up.

Troy:
You can find a lot in this report. Really, the intent of this was not just to point out that there's a problem and provide a few real high level spots, but to try and get some recommended actions that people can take regardless of where they're at in their CX maturity, that really helps them.

Steve:
Exploring the newest report on how B2B companies can take their customer experience to the next level, on this episode of The CX Leader Podcast.

Announcer:
The CX Leader Podcast with Steve Walker is produced by Walker, an experience management firm that helps our clients accelerate their XM success. You can find out more at Walkerinfo.com.

Steve:
Hello, everyone. I'm Steve Walker, host of The CX Leader Podcast and thank you for listening. On The CX Leader Podcast we explore topics and themes to help leaders like you leverage all the benefits of your customer experience and help your customers and prospects want to do more business with you. There's no doubt that customer experience in the B2C world is different than B2B. We even have a few episodes dedicated to the differences between the two, and you can listen to those on our website, cxleaderpodcast.com. So how do B2B companies catch up with B2C? How do they take their customer experience efforts to the next level? Well, Walker and the Qualtrics XM Institute have teamed up to release a new report on "Next-level CX for B2B Companies" and this episode's guest is going to give us a quick overview of what's in the report. I'm really excited to welcome back a frequent guest. He is my colleague of many years and also I'm proud to call him my friend. And he really doesn't need a big introduction because he is Dr. Troy Powell and he is our vice president here at Walker, one of the real thought leaders in our business, in our industry. Troy, welcome back to The CX Leader Podcast.

Troy:
Thank you, Steve. Always a pleasure to be here. You keep inviting me back. I'll keep coming.

Steve:
Well, we always enjoy having you on and you always have a lot of interesting stuff to share. I think you are our most frequent guest on the podcast. But just in case one of our listeners doesn't know who you are, why don't you just give our audience, just for context, a brief background of your career and where you have come from and why you're qualified to discuss this topic with us today?

Troy:
Sure. So I've been working in CX for almost 15, actually just over 15 years now. So have predominantly worked a lot of my time on the analytic side of the fence. So helping companies analyze their customer data. And really from the beginning, you have a strong focus on trying to bring in operational data along with that customer feedback to really allow what the customers are saying to drive business strategy. And so over the last five to 10 years have been increasingly focused on how CX can impact and should impact the strategies that organizations face and help to really drive them forward in an economy that increasingly requires that we are delivering what customers want.

Steve:
Yeah, and one of our key constructs of our approach to business is that we believe that the good guys win when they take care of customers and include customer needs in their decision making. But the real key to that is proven that it has business impact.

Troy:
Exactly. Yes. And I think that's been proven out, like you're saying over time.

Steve:
That's why I'm really excited about this report. We haven't really done sort of a seminal piece in a couple of years. And I know this was something that we dreamed up with our partners at the Qualtrics XM Institute. But give us a little background on kind of how we got to this and and what was the impetus or the genesis for this report.

Troy:
Sure. So the XM Institute at Qualtrics actually produced a well, first created a CX and maturity model framework last year. And then they went out and did a survey of companies specifically focused on CX maturity. And so last year, they kind of published some results showing where companies across the country tend to be well relative to their CX maturity. So we utilize that data and we're given access to that data to look at the B2B. And how is B2B faring specifically, especially relative to B2C, and so that was really the undergirding data for this entire report, was us looking at that and seeing where there were differences, where B2B is really trailing, where they need to focus. And then we built this report to say not only what are the facts around it, but what are our suggestions on what companies can do in order to increase their maturity and to grow that over time.

Steve:
And this report is being released as of today?

Troy:
Yes, it should be live both on Walker's Web page and on the XM Institute Web page. And I'll be going out in an XM Institute email with their monthly email blast, which if you're not subscribe to that, that's a great resource that they recently started to to get more information out.

Steve:
Yeah, we would highly recommend that all the people that listen to this podcasts subscribe to the XM Institute, among other places. It's a great resource for CX pros. And obviously, if you're listening to this podcast today, we will make sure that you know how to get a hold of this report. But so tell us a little bit about the report. Just kind of give us the ins and outs, give us a little outline of it and what all can CX pro find in the report.

Troy:
You can find a lot in this report. And I'll tell you that!

Steve:
I heard in quite a quite a document.

Troy:
Exactly. There is definitely some detail. You know, we get some high level insights. But really, the intent of this was not just to point out that there's a problem and provide a few real high level thoughts, but to try and get some recommendations, some recommended actions that people can take regardless of where they're at in their CX maturity that really help them. So if we start out just looking at, again, the data saying, hey, what do we see as some issues facing CX in B2B? And a few of those are very low maturity. So we're talking well over half of the companies surveyed were at the first stage of maturity.

Steve:
Half of the B2B companies in the survey or at level one maturity?

Troy:
Yeah, well, there is, I think fifty four percent in total. And then when you look at B2B, it was almost two thirds or 64 percent of B2B companies are in the first stage of…

Steve:
Wow.

Troy:
…maturity. And so they're just really investigating the idea of how CX supplies, how to really use that as a you know, as a pillar for their strategies. And so, you know, first of all, that was kind of surprising to us. But then again, we often work with companies that are a little bit farther along and some of those starting out companies are just they don't even know who to go to sometimes to to figure this out. So we definitely wanted this report to be something that a brand new to CX company could use. So some of our recommendations are geared towards that. You know one of the other big things we found is that, you know, they're just there's a disjointed customer experience with B2B, right? There's complexity. There is all these things we have to deal with. And customers are often just getting kind of passed around feeling like the experience they have and one part of the organization is very disjointed from the other. And that's a problem facing B2B. And then another final issue that we focused a lot on is that a lot of our processes are and systems are really poorly designed to support the front line. So really, we haven't set the front employees up with a system and process that helps them to deliver a designed, streamlined, consistent experience. And so front line employees are often playing the hero just to get something to work for the customers. And so trying to figure that out, how do we fix that was another area of focus.

Steve:
So just the general immaturity of B2B relative to others, although it doesn't sound like B2C is, you know, there's a lot of room for them to improve as well.

Troy:
Yeah. They're not exactly blowing it out of the water either.

Steve:
I would assume that has something to do with the complexity of B2B. We've for a long time have known the B2B is different. It's more complex than B2C because you got multiple buyers, multiple providers, product service, ongoing relationships, that kind of thing, and then just poor design of what happens. And we see that with front line employees all the time. Right? That they kind of throw their hands up sometimes or they're… that they're the ones that figure out how to make it work at the end of the day for the customer.

Troy:
Yeah, it definitely is. And we see that because of the complexity issues and all of the… And the fact that a lot of the experience is complex and therefore delivered through humans, you know, I think that happens much more in B2B, you know, again, a lot of B2C and…

Steve:
B2C could just be transactional. You buy the product and you're done right?

Troy:
Right. Yeah. And it can be digitized a bit more easily. But so it's easy just to rely on, hey, we've got good salespeople, we've got good implementation people. They'll figure out how to make it work for the customer versus thinking, hey, what can we do for a process standpoint to really enable those experiences to be easier to deliver and therefore more consistent?

Steve:
Were there any surprises in the findings, anything that was surprising to you as a longtime observer and practitioner in this field?

Troy:
Yeah, there were two… I guess just the general low level of maturity was somewhat surprising to me. But again, once you started thinking about it, it makes sense. Just the growth of CX as an industry and of that focus. You know, it makes sense that there's a lot of people that are kind of early on in the process. And the other one that was interesting, but then again, made sense once we talked to thought about it, is this idea that there's a different path to CX maturity for B2B and B2C. And again, this was on average, not every company follows this path, but with B2B companies, there was this progression. It seemed like, as you know, as you're advancing all of your competencies, initially, there seemed to be a lot more focus on advancing activation of CX within the organization, which is the idea of really getting people on board with the idea that customer centricity is important, giving them the tools necessary to understand and bring the customer view into their decisions, and really enabling the organization to to focus and take some action on the customer experience. And then once they've kind of gotten to that piece of it, then the next area that gets a lot of focus is on the taking action piece. So how do we now respond to what customers are telling us now that we care a lot more about what customers tell us, how do we take that and actually improve the experience? And so that that piece of really activating the organization first was definitely a little different than we saw in B2C where they were able to get customer insights, take some action on them and kind of use that to propel more customer focus. And the organization seemed like with B2B you really had to get the organization on board before you could even start doing some of the CX… core CX practices. And that makes sense because it was after the fact of looking at it, because how many CX teams can just go out and start surveying and taking action on the customer? And you can't because the customer is owned by all of these other people in the organization that's, you know, again, fairly complex. So you really do have to focus on getting the organization aligned around CX before you can really start, you know, making a big impact.

Steve:
We're talking to Troy Powell, my colleague, and also one of the thought leaders behind a joint project between Walker and Qualtrics XM Institute and a new report that we're releasing today, this week on next-level, CX for B2B companies. Well, it sounds like there's a tremendous opportunity for CX pros to leverage this tool. And as I like to say, often on this show, it is a very good time to be a CX pro because most organizations, and I think particularly B2B organizations, are differentiating based on the customer experience. So if I'm a CX pro out there, what kind of insights does this report have for me and how could it help me be better in my job?

Troy:
So we spend most of the report definitely is focused on kind of two big imperatives that we lay out for B2B CX leaders, one of those being how can we… that we need to go out and and really align our organizations around the customer. So that whole activation of of CX concept. So how can we align organization both culturally, but also really aligning it structurally to say we are dedicated to creating a more streamlined, consistent customer experience? I think that's really a first goal or one of the big imperatives we're focusing on. And then the second one is around being proactively designing or redesigning customer experiences to ensure that the customer is having the best, most consistent experience they possibly can. And even there, we kind of have a strong focus on this idea of the human digital balance, saying that, you know, one of the things that has been noted over time is how B2B kind of lags in the digital transformation of the business compared to B2C. And we think that's true. But also part of it is because something we mentioned earlier, this idea that there is still a need and the requirement that a lot of experience gets delivered through the humans and with the complexity that that's in place with a lot of these relationships, and you can't create a digital channel for all of that. But then there's a lot of things that customers expect to be done easily, quickly and digitally. So, you know, from a B2B organization it's this idea of we've got to figure out that balance and really understand what do we deliver via humans, what do we deliver digitally and how do we make those to play better together? So that's designing the experiences, you know, go through a lot of different factors. But one of them is definitely around this human digital balance.

Steve:
Yeah. And that a lot of that springs from people, individuals, experience as B2C consumers digitally. You know, when you can track your Uber on the phone, but you can't do it for a delivery at your business, you kind of say, well, what's the deal here? And so that that is definitely an influence on B2B, that consumers are leveraging the experiences they have as individuals in the B2C world and bringing that into their B2B environments. And I think also that this whole COVID situation has hastened the digitization of many, many businesses. So we've got that phenomena going on as people are trying to figure out how to do things with social distancing and, you know, not physically being present. So maybe some of this stuff is going to help accelerate some of the organizations to activate and align and then redesign.

Troy:
No, I think I think that's a really good point, because often what held back some of this transformation and some of this design was it was the fact that, well, sure, we know it's broken. We know it could be easier, but our people are really doing a great job of putting a Band-Aid on that and making it work anyway. And then we've had to in some cases, the people haven't been able to do everything that they used to do. And so this becomes a time it almost forces companies to undertake some transformations that they probably should have done years ago. And so I think we are seeing some of that. And hopefully that does kick start a little bit of this.

Steve:
Well, let's move in to sort of what the opportunities are. I mean, what opportunities did we maybe not consider prior to now but this report starts to highlight for us as CX pros? How can people take advantage of this?

Troy:
Yeah, well, and we we took these kind of, you know, two big imperatives and really broke it down into six recommendations. And each so kind of three for each one just to keep it nice and symmetrical like you want in a marketing piece, so we have six recommendations. And then within those recommendations, there's a whole host of very specific suggestions that we give and we really break those out into, here are some suggestions for companies that are just starting out in CX. And then here are some suggestions for companies that are a little bit farther down the path of a potentially higher level of maturity. So you really will fit people, hopefully, wherever they're at with the idea behind it. And so it's like one of the human digital balance is something that we take on as a recommended area and have some suggestions in there for that. The other one that's really near and dear to my heart was the X and O story. So for those who don't know you, X-data being the data we gather from customers about their experiences. So understanding and what they're feeling about the experience that they're having and then the O-data being the operational data, that is more of the internal data that tells us what's going on in that interaction. And so we point out the one big area that will help with alignment of the organization and then start bridging into the ability to redesign, as is integrating, doing a better job of integrating X and O data. And so that's been a focus of ours for a long time and really of CX for a long time, but with maybe less progress than any of us would really like. So we have suggestions in there. For brand new companies one of the suggestions that I think is a little unique is instead of starting out with what surveys are we going to deploy, how what how we can get more X-data and then thinking about what O-data to align with it is to actually start with what O-data do you have? What operational metrics are you tracking and managing around some real key customer interaction points? And let's understand what are we tracking and managing? How are we determining based on those metrics when that experience was supposedly good enough? Now let's go out and collect the customer's perspective on that and really looking at how we can get X-data that's going to align with those operational metrics and inform the company in some new and different way so it can actually start changing potentially some internal operations. And that becomes a way to get a really big win on how X-data is affecting the organization. So that's a suggestion we provide for really every company, but especially new companies. And then for those who are further along and already maybe integrating these data, how can we set up some X and O alerts? So where can we use operational data and experience data to derive what are the operational triggers that indicate a customer might be having a really bad experience? Now, let's use those internally to alert us in real time that, hey, this customer might be getting into the place of having a really poor experience. Let's intervene. So those are the kinds of suggestions we're providing. Some of them are not terribly new and some of them we think are kind of a different way or a way to flip the script on how CX used to approach things.

Steve:
You know, this discussion of X and O data is fascinating to me. Could you give kind of a practical example there of how the O-data might inform the X and then later on you might be able to build these triggers or these early warning systems?

Troy:
Yeah, for sure. And I think your call centers are a great place to start. You always have a lot of, you know, a lot of operational data and usually you are getting some kind of X-data already. But one of the ways we've seen it, this kind of script flip work is one of the big key thing we're focusing on is time to resolution. You know, it's always something that's focused on in call centers. And usually there is a certain threshold set for what's a good time to resolve with the bad. A lot of times that's internally focused, right? Well, if we can get these things resolved in a short amount of time, we use more man hours. It's more efficient. Well, that's an easy way to just go out and start asking customers what did they think about the time it took to resolve the issue. And what you inevitably find is there's a wide variation. It depends on a lot of factors. You know, they what they expected it to take, how complex or easy the case was. But, bringing that in and using that data to help set smarter thresholds that apply not only to internal operations, but also to the external customer perspective, there's one easy way to get a quick win. And what you often find is that there is some efficiencies you can gather on the internal side by understanding that better as well. And then with the call center, you once you're starting to gather more of this experience data and their satisfaction with the resolution and with the call, you can start to build out what are the operational triggers. So sure, time to resolve one. But it's often you have many times where they transferred who was handling the call. There's a number of factors that can affect it beyond just time to resolve. And so if you can understand those, you can start to, you know, throw little flags up to say, hey, this case has had, you know, two transfers. It's now taken four days and some other factor. This is really a high red alert that this customer is probably getting upset. Let's intervene.

Steve:
Well, that's a perfect lead in for our classic question that we ask every guest on The CX Leader Podcast. And I know you've had the question a few times, but Troy Powell, what is your take home value today from today's podcast? What can our CX leaders, our CX pros do based on the information you've shared today that make sure that they're doing the best they can to improve their program?

Troy:
Well, I think the first thing they can do is download the report and look through it. Use lots of suggestions in there. And the second thing, which, again, we kind of mentioned, but is kind of this idea of bloom where you're planted. We know that CX starts in all different ways and different organizations. And the path that you'll have to take in order to expand the focus will be different with different actions. It'll be take different amounts of time, but really it's that CX is critical. And so wherever you can start to focus there, but really quickly be trying to think about how and where to expand, you know, so how can you get more allies? How can you build a bigger team? Where can you find some ways to really prove the value of CX and a very small way or a very big way, whatever you have, the capability and the position to do. And we think that this report has the least one, if not multiple suggestions to help people, regardless of the situation there in.

Steve:
Troy Powell has been my guest on the podcast this week. He's the vice president of advisory services here at Walker and a real thought leader in the industry and the profession of customer experience. Troy, thanks for being a guest on The CX Leader Podcast. And if any of our listeners would like to continue the dialog, can you just share where people can find you?

Troy:
Sure, you can find me on LinkedIn, of course. You can also email me at tpowell@walkerinfo.com, and I'll be happy to… happy to chat with you.

Steve:
Well, thanks again for coming on the show this week and sharing this exciting new report that you've been a big part of producing. So thanks for all you do, Troy.

Troy:
Your welcome, my pleasure.

And if you want to talk about anything you heard on this podcast or about how Walker can help your business customer experience, feel free to contact me at podcast@walkerinfo.com and be sure to check out our website, cxleaderpodcast.com, to subscribe to the show, find all of our previous episodes, the series that we organize them in and our contact information in case you want to drop us a line or let us know how we're doing. The CX Leader Podcast is a production of Walker, we're an experience management firm that helps companies accelerate their XM success. You can read more about us at Walkerinfo.com. Thanks for listening and we'll see you again next time.

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