The only thing I love more than eating a pizza is making a pizza. It’s a challenging business. There’s the skill of achieving ideal dough for excellent crust depth and crispness. Choice of toppings (obviously, no pineapple). Where to cook, at what temperature and on what kind of stone. Pizza perfection can be hard to attain.

So I was intrigued by a recent controversy about a Michelin-starred chef who “audaciously added wholemeal grains and cereals” to the sacred Neapolitan recipe of a margherita pizza. This chef changed a recipe that is, more or less, 150 years old. His “crunchy” version of the beloved margherita instantly polarized pizza pundits.

His simple experiment sparked powerful results around one of the most sought after attributes a brand seeks to offer: positive customer experience.

It’s a salutary reminder about the power of customer experience to be a doorway to better things. Better things include improved repeat purchases, revenue, social media engagement, brand recognition (for good reasons), net promoter scores, referrals and more.

In the digital economy, B2C customer experience happens, and is shared, in seconds – widely on social media with excitement or distaste. In B2B, customer experience occurs at the same speed as B2C, but the ability for a customer to make changes is usually more time consuming. It is simply more complex to change out your SaaS vendor than it is to, say, change pizza restaurants or recipes.

But optimizing the customer experience in B2B is as important as B2C but can be complicated by a number of factors.

Multiple Buyers and Buyers Who Aren’t Customers

Purchasing committees and procurement teams goaled on negotiating economies of scale often make the end customer hard to find. Multiple buyers who aren’t necessarily the customer make for complex purchasing behavior. Non-customer stakeholders bring different agendas to the purchase decision, some of which don’t relate to the purchase. Cost becomes only one decision criteria along with previous purchasing relationships, supplier reputation and more.

Complex Offerings = Complex Customer Experience Journeys

The path to purchase in B2C is relatively straightforward as there is usually one, or a few, items to purchase. B2B purchases can feature a “pizza-with-everything” style spread of products and/or services. There are bundles, solutions, industry specific offers, follow up services, volume-based discounts and more. Mapping B2B journeys rapidly becomes complex as marketers seek to navigate a complicated breadth and depth of offerings.

Buying Committees

Increasingly, cross-functional teams who are geographically distributed make B2B purchase decisions. B2B brands face the challenge of figuring out how to create associations between multiple decision makers across multiple locations, some of whom bring different purchase priority criteria that influence the final decision.

So what is good B2B customer experience?

There’s no doubt there are complicated quirks at play that are unique to the B2B landscape, as well as each company. Despite that, providing an excellent, memorable experience to bring your customer back bakes down to five simple ingredients:

  • Accessibility: how easy is it for your customer to do what they want?
  • Emotion: how does the experience make your customer feel?
  • Function: does the functionality do what your customer needs it to do?
  • Holistic: are you interacting with your customer in a useful, simple and beautiful way at every stage of their buying journey, including post purchase?
  • Two-way connection: are you communicating and creating engagement opportunities for your customer?

We often view customer experience as a kind of art form. The obvious experience elements of imagery, interfaces, ads, shopping carts, page loads, navigation options and types of interactivity dominate. Yet the art of delivering the best customer experiences nearly always anchors in customer-centric design. And the best customer-centric design is grounded in powerful science that is driven by even more powerful technology.

The art of delivering the best customer experiences nearly always anchors in customer-centric design.

Customer-centric design demands a deep understanding of each customer type and their defining characteristics. That insight powers the ability to design meaningful (and personalized) experiences for each customer type. As customer preferences and expectations change fast, it also demands an organizational structure that is agile enough to respond effectively.

The criticality of getting customer experience right is as essential for B2B marketers as it is for chefs to use the right ingredients. Yes, B2B marketers have a more intricate challenge than simply skipping pineapple on a pizza, but the returns of greater customer satisfaction, loyalty and revenues make the extra effort more than worthwhile.

Check out current Customer Experience trends in the Cisco Connected Customer Experience Report series.

Discover how Cisco can help transform your customer experience to improve satisfaction and loyalty.



Joseph Puthussery

Vice President, Marketing

Digital Marketing