The Importance of B2B Customer Experience Management and Loyalty Programs: An Interview with Loyalty Prime’s CEO Helmut Pöllinger

Largely driven by digitalization, the B2B space is undergoing rapid changes. In order to stay competitive, players in this space have a high level of pressure to deliver excellent omnichannel customer experiences and develop systematic methods for customer retention.

In his latest interview our CEO, Helmut Pöllinger, shares some interesting insight on the reasons for this pressure as well as the solutions to tackle it. He was interviewed by one of Germany’s leading B2B & B2C Retailers’ Business Networks, the ECC Club, in May 2021 and we are happy to publish the English transcript of the interview today!

Thanks a lot to the ECC Club for having us – it was a great pleasure to exchange thoughts with you!

“The pressure for customer experience excellence is increasing rapidly for B2B companies.”

ECC CLUB Interview with Helmut Poellinger, CEO Loyalty Prime

Introduction by ECC Club: We preach it again and again: The customer experience also plays a very important role in the B2B sector. That’s why we spoke to Helmut Poellinger, CEO of ECC CLUB member Loyalty Prime. He not only explains the five dimensions that determine whether “customer experience excellence” is essential for a company’s success, but also why dedicated customer loyalty programs are gaining a high level of relevance in the B2B environment.

ECC Club:
The relevance of the “customer experience” has been on everyone’s lips in B2C circles for some time now – and is also becoming increasingly important in the B2B sector. What developments have you seen here in recent years?

Helmut Pöllinger:
First, the simple answer: delivering an outstanding customer experience is something that every company should strive for today, no matter whether in the B2C or B2B space.

Having said that, it indeed seems that the “customer experience” has been a key success factor in B2C for a number of years already and is now increasingly finding its way into B2B as well.

Why is that? Well, that too can be answered quickly. Whether or not delivering the ideal of “customer experience excellence” is key for a company’s success depends on five (interlinked) dimensions:

  • Maturity of the business sector
  • Intensity of the competition
  • Market transparency
  • Interchangeability of products (low or easily copied unique selling points)
  • Simplicity of switching providers (low lock-in effect)

The more pronounced these dimensions are, the greater the pressure on companies to deliver an outstanding customer experience: if customers are not sufficiently satisfied with their experience with a provider operating in such a space, they will quickly and easily choose an alternative offering.

In the B2C sector you can see a very strong expression of the five dimensions almost without exception. Consequently, it is highly important for companies operating in this space to deliver excellent customer experiences in order to stay competitive.

BUT (and it is very important for all B2B companies to be aware of this!), the B2B sector, due to digitalization, is following this trend at high speed. Online marketplaces, price comparisons sites, and B2B rating platforms are increasing the pressure on companies to satisfy their B2B clients through an excellent customer experience. Only then will they be able to deliver on customer retention and advocacy – both of which are paramount for business success in the rapidly changing B2B business environments.

ECC Club:
A good customer experience ideally not only satisfies buyers, but also delights them and inspires them to become loyal customers that happily refer brands to their peers. What is the relevance of customer loyalty in B2B in your eyes?

Helmut Pöllinger:
Customer loyalty is crucial for all business success – again, regardless of whether operating in the B2C or B2B sector. According to recent studies, mature companies generate up to 85 percent of their growth through their existing customers. The often quoted statistic that it is up to five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one gives an idea of why.

In B2B, longer-term customer relationships are perhaps even more crucial: Purchase decisions tend to be less impulse-driven, more complex and typically take longer than in the B2B space, since an entire decision-making committee is typically involved. Such a committee could, for example, consist of the future users of the product, a budget manager, a procurement manager, and supporting researchers. All these “personas” or roles have to be convinced within the buyer journey, which costs the B2B company wanting to sell its products or service company time – and money. In order to be able to refinance these so-called customer acquisition costs, a buyer must remain a customer long enough to deliver a positive ROI.

ECC Club:
Speaking of customer loyalty: In B2C retail, having a dedicated customer loyalty program is very common. What relevance do loyalty programs have in the B2B sector and why is it worth investing in them?

Helmut Pöllinger:
Customer loyalty programs are indeed becoming increasingly important and widespread in the B2B sector. We have already touched upon the reasons for this in the two previous questions.

The benefits of such programs are, by the way, not limited to the “transactional” dimension (increasing sales, customer lifetime value, profits and profit margins), but go much further. At Loyalty Prime, we consider the following five dimensions that a customer loyalty program actively drives in both B2B and B2C applications:

  • Transactional loyalty: driving top and bottom line contributions by the client base.
  • Referral loyalty: the active promotion of positive company recommendations and reviews on appropriate platforms.
  • Engagement loyalty: the driving of brand engagement, which includes, for example, participation in product trainings, new product presentations, but also opting in for corporate communication channels such as newsletters.
  • Intimacy loyalty: which includes gathering valuable customer feedback to improve the product offering and customer experience, and the collection of valuable customer data as a basis for cost effective data-driven marketing.
  • Emotional loyalty: the active promotion of customer satisfaction and positive emotional attachment of customers to the company.

As an additional remark on the last point: while purchasing decisions are made much more rationally in the B2B sector – keyword Total Cost of Ownership – than in the B2C sector, any decision-making committee still consists of humans, who, in addition to their business motivation, also bring along personal motivators, needs and emotions.

This is where a B2B customer loyalty program delivers an ideal lever, as it offers benefits to both the individual employee and the client company as a whole. It also enables companies to address relevant players within their business accounts tailored to their different needs based on what we call 360° customer data.

ECC Club:
What specific benefits should B2B customers be offered in order to strengthen customer loyalty?

Helmut Pöllinger:
The first important aspect is the above-mentioned combination of individual, persona-based benefits, as well as benefits for the company/ business account as a whole. Examples include service offerings such as free product training and access to valuable forums for sharing best practices (especially interesting for the “user” persona), targeted discounts (crucial for budget managers and buyers), preferential customer support, access to special events as well as free advertising and sales promotion material (in a B2B2B or B2B2C model).

The second highly important aspect is that businesses make use of a state-of-the-art loyalty program technology, which enables them to deliver these benefits in a targeted manner based on data. This means benefits are not made available to everyone equally, but are allocated in order to achieve the desired results across the five loyalty dimensions.

By the way, this is easier than it sounds! If you are a retailer or in fact any business wanting to drive the 5 dimensions of customer loyalty, contact us today!