A growing 'consumerisation' trend within the B2B market is shifting the sales process beyond the direct control of the seller as enterprise buyers start to mimic consumer shopping behaviours, making the customer experience more important than price in many cases, according to research from global business technology firm Avanade. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

The global survey examined the changing sales process and buying patterns of business and IT decision makers, and found that the customer experience now tops price as the most important factor in a buying decision by an enterprise decision-maker. Notably, business buyers said they are willing to pay up to 30% more for a product or service that offers an improved customer experience.

Among the study's other key findings:

  • Businesses no longer have control over information shared about their products or services, as 61% of business decision-makers reported that third-party sites and feedback from business partners, industry peers or social channels are more important than conversations with a company's sales teams when making a purchasing decision.
  • Companies are enlisting new people and departments to manage the customer experience. Customer service and call centres, IT and marketing are the leading groups now playing a larger role in the customer experience, and therefore in the sales process.
  • Some 70% believe that technology will primarily replace human interaction with customers in the long term. Anticipating this change, many businesses are already making new technology investments, changing business processes and redesigning organisational roles. More than 80% of companies said they had changed at least one business process over the previous three years to better interact with customers.

According to Mick Slattery, Avanade' executive vice president of global service lines, "Businesses have lost control of the sales process, and B2B and B2C buying models are merging. It's no longer business-to-business or business-to-consumer. Those businesses that understand the nature of today's complicated customer relationships are creating longer-term and more lucrative relationships with customers."

Many B2B companies are also updating their business processes to adapt to a new style of work influenced by mobile devices, collaboration tools and social technologies. The survey found that businesses are changing processes to embrace the new business buyer and by increasing customer sales and support technologies (44%), increasing the number of employees interacting with customers (40%) and adding automation to the sales process (32%).

And there are direct business benefits from making such changes. The research noted that businesses investing in technology to support better customer service, and modifying internal roles, are already reporting positive results. Specifically, companies making these changes said they were experiencing increases in customer loyalty (61%), revenues (60%) and customer base (60%).