I've spent my entire career building and commercializing enterprise software which, in aggregate, has generated billions of dollars in revenue–and, I think, has led to some important and lasting innovations. I’m proud of this and will always consider myself a product person first. But over the years, I've seen the primacy of product shift to the imperative of customer experience. That’s not to say that getting the product right doesn’t matter–it does. It’s just no longer enough.
When I jumped back into starting new B2B SaaS companies after three years as CEO of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, the fact that it’s no longer possible to compete on the basis of product alone became very clear to me. A buyer has so many acceptable alternatives in any given product category, how are they to decide? It’s time for suppliers to compete and differentiate by reimagining the B2B customer experience.
To digitally transform means a company has created a digital experience that seamlessly moves their customer through all phases of the customer lifecycle. I believe one of the most misunderstood assumptions about digital transformation is that just because a company has a digital product it has digitally transformed its customer experience. This is not the case, especially for B2B SaaS.
The buying experience for most B2B SaaS customers, especially at the enterprise level, is characterized by a series of disconnected steps not supported by a digital experience. Worse still, nothing about using a SaaS product helps the customer navigate a supplier’s process or procedure they require from a customer. Most of the supplier’s customer processes are separate from the digital product, and the tools suppliers use to manage their customers are internal facing and offer little to no direct value to the customer.
Instead, consider an end-to-end digital experience that allows sales teams to collaborate with prospects to create success plans, streamlines the handoffs post sales to ensure other teams are aligned around the outcomes promised, and then instruments these outcomes to measure progress against the promise.
A company offering such an experience would stand out from a company not offering this experience. This is what it means to compete on the basis of customer experience–and especially now this has become an imperative for any company to survive, let alone thrive.
A digitally transformed B2B experience must be a shared experience between the supplier and buyer. Both companies need to collaborate on a common definition of success that establishes the desired business outcomes expected by the buyer, how these outcomes will be measured to show achievement, and what metrics and milestones show progress along the way.
This kind of sharing and collaboration makes transparency part of the supplier and buyer relationship, where both parties agree on the outcomes that define success, and the metrics and milestones that will show progress toward achieving these outcomes. Transparency is a powerful strategy, especially now, for a supplier to differentiate their approach to a customer relationship. And transparency becomes a powerful tool for both the supplier and buyer to hold one another accountable for doing their part to achieve success.
We started MetaCX to enable this digital transformation for other digital companies. A reader might ask if we use MetaCX at MetaCX. We do, of course. We have one or more shared success plans with each of our customers and prospects. These plans include all the metrics and milestones that show the value we’re delivering to these customers in order to achieve their desired outcomes. It’s turned out to be even more powerful than we thought it would be for our customer to experience us managing them the same way they intend to use MetaCX to manage their customers. Their feedback: "What an amazing customer experience.”