P2P and the Consumerization of B2B Relationships

Do your experiences as individual consumers affect your expectations back at the office in your business-to-business (B2B) interactions?

It seems likely that they would — once you’ve experienced a certain level of service in whatever context, your expectations undergo a reset and the bar of expectation rises across the board.

Indeed as reported in Accounts Payable Customer Service and Vendor Relations in the Age of Self-Service, e-commerce expert Scot Wingo coined the term “Amazon Effect” to describe the ever-rising level of customer expectations.

A 2017 study brought further confirmation. The study B2B Customer Experience: Winning in the Moments that Matter by KPMG Nunwood, a subsidiary of KPMG, focuses on the B2B customer experience. Customer experience has become increasingly important in business. As the report’s executive summary observes, it is “becoming the prime source of competitive differentiation.”

One of the findings of the study is that indeed the rise of consumer expectations for customer experience does spill over from the business-to-consumer (B2C) world to the business-to-business (B2B) world. The study includes a look at the phenomenon of “consumerization,” where consumers carry their continually escalating expectations from the B2C world to their B2B relationships.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, people served well in their consumer experiences bring higher expectations to their business experiences. And the question they have in our minds, if not stated out loud, goes something like: “If Zappos (or Amazon or Disney) can do X, why can’t you?”

The study surveyed more than 130 businesses and 3,000 members of decision-making units in the U.S. and the U.K. In a section entitled “The Consumerization of B2B,” it explains how expectations are set by our experiences as consumers. Ongoing advances in technology give businesses new capabilities in terms of serving consumers, and competition drives better service, better experience. Leading businesses are very intentional about making exceptional experiences and positive memories. (Remember the Millennial generation in particular values experiences.)

Customers have become accustomed to a high standard of service. The report states: “As such, personal customer experience plays a significant role in the setting of expectations. This has led to the ‘consumerization’ of B2B relationships: the personal experiences customers receive have an impact on how they evaluate their B2B suppliers.”

There’s a simple, important underlying reason for this. It is that ultimately a business relationship is not “B2C” or “B2B” but “B2H” — business to human. Whether the human is an end consumer or a customer at another business, you are dealing with a human being. Admittedly B2B relationships are much more complex than B2C relationships, as the report acknowledges, but at root both are B2H relationships.

P2P customer service operates in the complex B2B arena, further complicated in that P2P is actually a part of the customer’s (buyer’s) organization! But P2P’s customer service is oriented toward the company’s vendors. Its customer service is a critical component in sustaining positive vendor relationships.

Because of the important role both procurement and payables play in the company’s vendor relationships, the KPMG study makes a point that P2P managers don’t want to miss: “In a customer’s mind, the separation between B2C and B2B does not exist.” Translation: your vendor-customers have increasingly high expectations, even of you.

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