B2B businesses need to keep a focus on service as a new study suggests buyers are increasingly dissatisfied with suppliers who have taken their eye off the ball because they are concentrating on their digital offer.

A global study from Accenture Interactive – Service is the New Sales – surveyed 748 B2B buyers and 1,499 B2B sellers across 10 countries and 16 industries.

This isolated B2B leaders from the laggards via weighted responses given to 12 questions across three key pillars of B2B transformation (organizational strategy, activities, and infrastructure) to distinguish between organizations leading the way and those falling behind.

The study found that 80% of frequent buyers report that they will have switched suppliers at least once within a 24-month period, for reasons that include:

  • Sellers not meeting buyers’ needs: To survive in the digital ecosystem, some B2B sellers have focused on digital upgrades only to find themselves disconnected from meaningful dialogue with long-time customers. Conversely, other sellers remained focused on traditional sales cycles, without making the digital investments critical to modern commerce. The study finds that for the leaders, this is an “and” not an “or.”
  • Failing to marry technology and human interaction: With so much focus on scaling up digital platforms, the high-touch, relationship-driven side of the business has taken a backseat in the B2B space. Laggard sellers in this survey were more likely (62%) than those with a service mindset (48%) to invest in sales plays that lacked salesperson support.
  • Organizational disconnect: The majority of laggard sellers (69%) identify “cultural resistance to change at the board level” as a primary challenge; leaders on the other hand, are more than four times more likely to have complete senior stakeholder buy-in for digitally-enabled customer service efforts.

The study found that leaders taking a service-over-sales approach are already benefitting from their efforts, with 96% reporting higher profitability and 97% reporting increased market share.

And it identified three key steps to take, including:

  • Leveraging technology to unlock data: B2B leaders are twice as likely to have centralized and regularly updated data sets that inform all service channels and conversations, personalizing offerings and improving engagement.
  • Assembling a digital-human team: the study found leaders place high levels of importance on facilitating a two-way dialogue with customers, using digital tools like chatbots and augmented reality, as well as human-centric efforts like field sales representatives and call center teams.
  • Starting changing from within: leaders are more than twice as likely as laggards to have fully integrated marketing functions across channels (48% vs.19%) and are more likely to have partially or fully integrated their sales and marketing teams to collaborate on most objectives.

Sourced from Accenture Interactive; additional content by WARC staff