B2B insights

Nail Your CX in 2022: Advice from Barbara Stewart

Improving B2B CX

Barbara Stewart, Propolis’ resident CX Hive expert, on how to finesse your CX from taking a simple approach to the importance of transparency and trust. B2B Marketing’s Lucy Gillman reports.

With over 19 years in marketing and advertising across B2B and B2C, it’s safe to say that Baraba’s well-versed in the art of CX. She confesses to becoming cynical early on in her career: “I was confused as to where the customer was. We’d write briefs, do ads, but we’d never talk about the people,” she explains. “It was everybody’s agenda apart from the client’s. A whole human aspect was missing.”

Back to basics: What does ‘good’ CX look like?

For the self-proclaimed CX obsessee, CX is a specialism in and of itself. As she outlines, the pillars of ‘good’ CX centre on understanding:

  • The fundamentals of what people are looking for.
  • What mission they’re on.
  • What mode they’re in.
  • What’s their experience, goal, point of view and how you can support that.

She refutes the view that ‘good’ CX is about exceeding expectations in favour of a simpler view: get to grips with who your clients are, understand their needs and deliver on that. “Before digital we were so close to that,” she continues. “With all the buzzwords of growth hacking, digital marketing, we started gamifying CX rather than thinking about what somebody needs and how we can give them that.”

Her advice is clear: set aside the gizmos and gadgets. CX is all about simplicity. Don’t just talk about yourself and avoid all buzzwords and no substance; your clients won’t understand what your product or service solves.

CX isn’t just a marketing prerogative

Although traditionally found in marketing waters, for Barbara, CX starts in the c-suite. “They have to own the vision. They have to understand the roadmap and ensure that all employees have a great EX.”

She cautions against a marketing monopoly on CX, offering the view that it acts as a thread interweaving throughout your entire education. Marketing can help educate, support and bring the personas in. As she maintains, you need ‘agile’ minds who can take insight and distribute it throughout your organisation.

Don’t let rapid digital transformation hold you back

As Barbara outlines, B2B experienced “10 years of innovation in 10 months.” During this period of ‘Great Unknown,’ long-term relationships were solidified: confused and excuse-full organisations fell behind, whilst the reliable, agile and able to jump five steps ahead came out on top.

The past two years have seen a ‘cobbling’ together of solutions (“and rightfully so,” Barbara adds). She likens this to an extension cord: a series of unplugging and replugging to get your operational framework to work. However, for Barbara, it’s now time to think long-term.

2022 brings with it the opportunity to take stock: what do you as an organisation need to do now? What’s working? What’s not? As she argues, the time for excuses is over. “We’ve had these tools for a long time,” she maintains. “We knew that mass digitalisation and data were coming. The pandemic just exacerbated this.” Move forwards by looking at your foundation, your operational frameworks and plan your roadmap for true CX success.

Blurring the lines between B2B and B2C

For Barbara, there is ultimately little to differentiate B2B and B2C. As she argues, personas don’t change from B to C. “When I’m in business mode, I’m still Barbara,” she explains. “My biases are still my biases, my expectations are still my expectations.”

Although recognising that the B2B ecosystem is more complex than her counterpart, this doesn’t give B2B a free pass. “The ease I expect of Netflix I expect of B2B,” she continues. “Why is it taking me four hours to set up a system when it should’ve been four clicks of a button?”

It doesn’t stop there. As she maintains, emotional drivers are higher in B2B. A B2C consumer can unsubscribe and move on – what Netflix doesn’t have, Amazon Prime and the plethora of other streaming services will, she quips. “You can’t do that in B2B,” Barbara maintains. “I’ve lost time, money, and effort. I’m locked in. I’m not recommending you and the minute I find another solution I’m gone.”

She stresses the importance of organisation’s walking the walk. Simply put, don’t say you can do something that you can’t. As she states, you can forgive Netflix, but you can’t forgive a solution that makes your business less confident and jeopardises your client’s work.

Her key takeaway advice? Avoid doing the easier thing rather than the right thing. Trust and transparency are crucial to CX – and keep it simple.

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