NEW YORK: Most business-to-business (B2B) organisations are spending more on initiatives to improve their customers' experience, but few are getting a return on those investments, according to new research.

A report from Accenture – B2B Customer Experience: Start Playing to Win and Stop Playing Not to Lose was based on a survey of 1,458 sales, service and customer executives of B2B companies in 13 countries – suggested that three quarters (76%) may be wasting up to half of their investment on ineffective customer experience initiatives.

Fully 85% of B2B supplier executives considered the overall customer experience they provide in sales and service to be "very important" to their strategic priorities, while 70% recognised that, over the next two years, customer-experience related considerations would play a larger role in the overall corporate strategy.

But they also thought that business customers were becoming more like consumers in terms of how they viewed, interacted with and bought from their suppliers, conduct which extended to market knowledge, higher expectations and greater price sensitivity. Consequently, some 43% intended to increase spending on improving customer experience programs by 6% or more over the next fiscal year.

More than half the respondents admitted, however, that their customer experience programs had achieved little, flat or negative return in terms of retaining customers (55%) and building global revenues (52%).

Noting the changing nature of the relationship between company and supplier, Robert Wollan, global managing director of Accenture's Sales and Customer Services practice, said that companies were aware of this "but the majority are not designing and executing the necessary changes effectively".

The result was a host of missed opportunities. "Too many companies are 'playing not to lose' rather than 'playing to win'," declared Wollan.

The study grouped B2B companies into three broad categories – masters, strivers and laggards – according to their ability to plan and execute customer experience programs that deliver annual revenue growth.

Masters, who excelled at both defining and executing a customer service strategy, made up 24% of those surveyed and generated an average 13% annual revenue growth.

Strivers, characterised by moderate customer experience performance, accounted for 48% and delivered an average 6% annual revenue growth.

Laggards made up the remaining 28%; the large gaps in their customer experience strategy and execution capabilities resulting in a negative average annual revenue growth figure of -1%.

Data sourced from PR Newswire; additional content by Warc staff