Many pundits agree that the B2B and B2C customer experiences have a great deal in common. After all, ultimately, a person is buying something--whether for himself or his company--so has a vested interest in that product or service meeting expectations.
With few exceptions (like financial services) the commonalities diverge when it comes to long-term customer relationships. Sure, some B2C consumers want "relationships" with their favorite brands. They want special offers, unique experiences, in-depth information, and the like. They want their value to be recognized. B2B customers expect that, as well. But they also expect that when a vendor sells them a complex product or service, that provider will stick around long enough to help ensure their (at least initial, if not long-term) success with it.In the past a common complaint among B2B customers was just that: "Company XYZ just sold us this product, and then disappeared before we were able to use it successfully." Yes, this is a simplification. Customers have to take some responsibility for their success (like goals, metrics, and a roadmap); there are services organizations and value-added resellers to help buyers succeed in implementing and using what they've purchased. But the point is that many B2B customers want a "relationship" with their provider. In other words, they want a partnership with a vendor that's as interested in their success as they are.
Vendors that also want that partnership recognize the value of long-term customer relationships--value like retention, advocacy (referrals, testimonials, and the like), up/cross-sell opportunities, and more.
The challenge often is recognizing a truly customer-centric B2B vendor when you meet them. Some companies are great at talking the talk, but fall short of walking the walk.
What criteria do you look for in a vendor when purchasing a complex B2B product or service? Is it customer references, NPS, retention percentages, reputation in the market? All of the above? What is usually the most important criteria in the final purchase decision?