Tim Hamilton, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Austin, is founder and CEO of Praxent, a custom software and web app development firm that has been named for three consecutive years to the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the US, most recently as #2,118 on the 2019 list. We asked Tim about the false assumptions guiding B2B customer experience innovation attempts that fail. He presents an alternative for predictable innovation that wins:

Technology is revolutionizing customer experiences. Over the years, B2C customer experiences have improved significantly because of it. Starting in the 1990s with brands like Amazon and Ebay, it has burgeoned into the plethora of customer-experience-based technology companies that we have today.

Customer experience advancements in B2C industries are leading to more pressure for B2B brands. People buying B2B products are also part of the B2C consumer base. As B2C products set a high bar for speed and ease, customer expectations for frictionless B2B experiences are rising as well.

While B2C has long innovated around customer experience, B2B lags behind. B2C customer experience ratings typically fall between 65 and 85 percent, where B2B companies average less than 50 percent. With around 17 percent of B2B companies achieving poor financial results when it comes to customer experience innovation, there is incredible opportunity for game changers to rise above the competition.

How to Change the Game of B2B Customer Experience with Digital Innovation (Start with a Paradigm Shift)

According to Accenture, 90 percent of B2B executives cite customer experience (CX) as a very important factor to achieving their organization's strategic priorities, but only 20 percent of B2B companies excel at creating and implementing CX strategies.

B2B companies that want to disrupt CX in their industries must engage in a paradigm shift. The result will be a digital CX innovation strategy that creates new avenues for profit.

Traditionally, most product strategies focus either on the customer or the product:

  1. Customer-focused Product Strategy: Efforts are made to better understand and market to the customer, including segmentation, demographics research, psychographics and personas. Findings drive product design.
  2. Product-focused Product Strategy: Efforts are made to improve the product by creating more or better-functioning features, benefits and unique selling propositions. Product design is driven by the product and developers.

While understanding the customer and designing an excellent product are essential to creating an incredible customer experience, neither present the key to unlocking game-changing CX strategy. It's a mistake to fall in love with your product and forget your client, as there must be a focus on the customer. But it's also a mistake to focus too much on the customer.

The Often-Overlooked Factor in CX

There is an often-overlooked third factor that should inform CX innovation at its core. For a truly innovative digital customer experience that achieves exactly what customers want and will pay for, the focus of the strategy needs to be on the "job-to-be-done."

3. Product Strategy focused on the Job-to-be-Done: Efforts are made to help customers have better experiences achieving the jobs they want done as a result of using the product.

Economist and professor Theodore Levitt helped businesses understand "jobs-to-be-done" by asking them to think about what people really want when they buy a drill. They don't want a drill for the sake of having a drill--they want the holes that the drill creates.

Focusing customer experience conversations around the hole--what the customer actually wants--rather than on the drill or the person using the drill opens the door for creative insights that fill gaps in an industry.

We forget the fact that customers don't buy products and services. They hire solutions to get an array of jobs done.

Clayton Christensen's Theory of Jobs to Be Done details how to find out what drives purchases. By conducting user interviews, companies can better understand exactly what customers seek in their purchases. Building on that information, it's now possible to design frictionless, speedy and easy experiences that are relevant to customer goals.

  • What is the job the customer is hiring the product to do?
  • Will it create the progress the customer is looking for?

Focusing on the job to be done unlocks new avenues for improving or introducing products in meaningful ways. When new or improved products begin to address CX in a job-centric way, it creates customer preference for those products. As a result, the companies offering better experiences rise far above the competition, often driving their industry in a whole new direction.

Achieve ROI with Jobs-to-be-Done Innovation

Innovation is expensive--from researching to designing and building new or improved digital products. It's only worth the investment and risk if you can confidently expect a profit. With "job-to-be-done" research, B2B companies can identify the exact purposes for which customers will hire their digital product.

With that foundation in place, B2B companies must follow-up their discoveries by designing innovative customer experiences that not only win new business, but also generate high returns.

Published on: Jan 21, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.