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In considering quality customer experience for today’s B2B enterprise success, I like to play devil’s advocate. This gets interesting because I am the CEO of a B2B enterprise tech integration and implementation company. Because I like challenges, here goes.

First, let’s start with the term B2B – it’s an outdated way to categorize how business is done. The reality is that business happens between people, not businesses because businesses only exist because of and for people. By reducing the power of human relationship to three letters, we leave out empathy, respect and making it personally relevant. In B2B, the buying customers’ customers are left out of the equation. The term B2B is, ultimately, faceless and that signals being out of touch with the whole point of being in business.

Second, the word ‘customer’ is a bit misleading because you have both external AND internal customers. Your users are the backbone of your business; if they’re not happy and able to produce at peak performance, it’s costing your business bottom-line revenues. So when the term ‘customer experience’ is used, it really needs to be ‘customer and user experience’ to be accurate.

Third, let’s look at customer experience. In our work as a technical implementation and innovation solutions provider, we care not only for our customers but THEIR customers. Everything we do is, ultimately, to provide greater value and easier delivery of products and services to the end customer. In today’s highly competitive marketplace, the only sustainable differentiator is customer experience. It is imperative a brand’s customer experience be not just good – good isn’t good enough anymore; the customer experience needs to be exceptional.

What makes an exceptional customer experience in an increasingly intangible world? A few of the factors are, in my mind, the following: on-demand accessibility, self-service, personalized connections, relevant and timely information, minimal learning curve, value at every touchpoint and invisible technology.

Say what? Yes, I said that – invisible technology. In other words, the technology behind the customer experience must be seamless to the point that the customer is not aware of it. That alone is a significant initiative because that means from any device, anywhere in the world, any time of day with every IT system within that brand’s architecture.

For enterprises that operate at a high-level of sophistication and service, I don’t know how customer experience would be delivered at all without technology, much less make it a frictionless, quality experience for an ever-deepening relationship.

Without technology, marketing efforts would take a lot more time at live events, doing random, buckshot marketing. It would likely take more time than any company would have available to attend such events, and with no guarantees of success.

But let’s say you have a brick-and-mortar location, say a car dealership. Maybe with a good location for high visibility, you could get some good traffic (no pun intended!). You could do cross-promotional marketing with buddy car dealers or parts vendors or customization companies. Once the buying customer is on-site, the regular selling process would kick into gear.

But even then, what about after they leave the store? You want to continue to cultivate that relationship, provide information to help that customer make an informed decision, and follow-through until they have purchased a vehicle. Even then, you want to continue to be in relationship to meet their maintenance needs, convert them into being a brand ambassador for you to their network and, eventually, help them buy their next vehicle. That all takes technology. And we didn’t even talk about the opportunity cost and lost revenues from not reaching the people who don’t drive by that dealership.

Having a digital presence and using technology to cultivate and maintain customer relationships is the standard for business today. You can reach more people. And it is so much easier to serve your right customers when they do 80% of their research online and enter your buying cycle as an informed customer.

Therein lies the key to success – you need to know what you want your customer experience to be and THEN determine what technology is needed to support it. Often, people put technology first but it’s the last decision based on what you want to achieve with your customers.

So is it possible to deliver a quality customer experience without technology? No. But technology is an enabler vs. being the key to quality customer experience. Keep the focus on your customers – both external and internal – and then make sure technology serves them well. That is a quality customer experience.

This post was originally published to Linkedin.

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