Designing a winning experience for your customer’s customer

May 10, 2010

When I started to blog on customer experience I promised to write about the B2B products world and differentiate it from B2C. Well one big difference is that a business customer has a customer of their own, so when exploring “customer experience” you have your customer’s customer to put into the mix.  That’s an obvious characteristic but one that is relatively little explored and only infrequently systematically exploited to improve business performance. I did my usual comparative Google search and looked at the number of hits for the term “customer’s customer” vs the number for “customer” and the results were striking – just 56,000 for the first search vs almost 480 MM for the second. And when I actually dug in and explored the “customer’s customer” hits only a relatively small number (some linked to below) were worth reading. 

Yet targeting the experience of your customer’s customers offers a real opportunity to differentiate yourself. For companies whose offerings are used intact and experienced as-is by their customer’s customer, a clear opportunity is to make this end-user experience better. For example, PDC client Becton Dickinson Medical, a company that produces syringes and IV catheter systems, has a key objective to ensure “first-stick success” to improve patient satisfaction. And they use their performance here as a key selling point to physicians and hospitals who are their direct customers.

But even companies whose products get consumed or embedded in their direct customers products can go after enhancing the end-user experience. Specialty chemical companies like Noveon Consumer Specialties are particularly amenable to this approach. Noveon (now a division of Lubrizol) makes rheology modifiers (technical speak for thickeners) that go into personal care products like shampoos and body washes manufactured by consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies like Unilever and P&G. In particular, one of Noveon’s major products, called Aqua SF-1, was developed to make a major impact on the end-use consumer’s aesthetic experience by enabling the CPG’s to make those clear or pearlescent products with suspended bubbles and beads that are so visually appealing “on-the-shelf” at your local drugstore.

Another straightforward way to target your customer’s customer is to develop and deliver unique “content experiences” to them by providing information via publications, web-sites, direct-mail, TV spots, etc. on your role in their experience of your customer’s customer’s product. The most obvious example here is direct-to-consumer advertising like the iconic Intel Inside program, but there are other approaches to consider. In particular education of your customer’s customer via articles and case studies in the trade publications your customer’s customers read is an underexploited vehicle.

Now that we have challenged you to target your customer’s customer, what should you do about it? The most important thing is to explicitly include your customer’s customer’s needs and issues in your product development efforts so you can improve their experience all along the customer experience cycle. The Fujitsu company (a $ 47B Japanese provider of IT hardware/software solutions to a very wide range of businesses) went so far as to create a cadre of more than 300 “Field Innovators” to go out and discover what their customer’s customers needed. But you don’t have to have an army of consulatants like Fujitsu to bring your customer’s customer’s needs into your process. Just include them in your customer visit matrix, systematically define their priority requirements and include these requirements in your product concept idea generation sessions.

 And there is an additional option to consider  – i.e. approach your direct customer with the offer to collaboratively explore with them how working together you can improve the experience of their customer. Such partnerships can lead to new product/service ideas like the ones above but often they take the form of logistics or integrated supply chain operations improvements that will impact the customer’s customer’s experience at points along the experience cycle outside of use. 

Well, now that I’ve gotten into writing on the B2B thing I think I’ll continue in the same vein for upcoming blogs. So look for future posts to explore the unique characteristics of the B2B customer experience.

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One Response to “Designing a winning experience for your customer’s customer”


  1. […] 13, 2010 In my last post I encouraged my B2B readers to incorporate their customer’s customer’s experience […]


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