The real pioneers of CX (NPS) programs in the noughties were typically in the business-to-consumer (B2C) world. These pioneers were operating in competitive markets, had large customer bases and a paucity of timely insight. Clearly, lots of incentive for generating high-velocity feedback loops with customers.
Business to business (B2B) business have been slower to adopt partly due I suspect to the additional complexity in mapping customer organisations and the dead-weight of reluctant sales teams. Ultimately the value of B2B transactions and long-term relationships is holding sway and we are increasingly seeing B2B CX programs. We have discussed this previously.
Which makes me wonder when will the last bastion of “product” centric cultures – such as FMCG or CPG businesses – step-up and integrate customer feedback into marketing cultures that are still brand focused and communicating almost exclusively above-the-line.
This “B2B2C” category has its own special customer feedback challenges – operating as they do indirectly through third party interests. However, much like the late B2B adopters, the benefits of getting close to customers are ultimately going to outweigh the barriers.
Let’s consider some of the forces at play.
The (physical) retail environment is becoming increasingly competitive in its own right and there is no such thing as guaranteed space on shelves. And whilst the online channel is opening up opportunities for direct consumer relationships – bricks & mortar stores still dominate many categories and create potential channel conflict.
Many FMCG businesses are actively looking to move to customer-centric cultures – to avoid the “commodity trap” and to differentiate from competitors. Decades of limited consumer contact has not prepared these businesses for the “age of the customer”.
Customers (in particular millennials) are demanding “experiences” and anything that engages them beyond a “product on a shelf” – that tells a story, generates a conversation, can be incorporated into a lifestyle – has a better chance of winning.
And whilst the demand rises, it is also notable that the ability (technology) to generate feedback is also rising. More of this in a later post.
Stay tuned for the last product company to step-up!