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February 28, 2023

The Online Experience is THE Experience

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Working with many traditional B2B companies, we find that company leadership believes that the B2B world is different from the consumer-based online world. What people expect from their digital experience in their personal lives is somehow different from that of their work lives. This creates a huge blind spot for them as the work experience is more and more demanding a complete online experience, and one that is beyond just doing Teams meetings with remote staff.

Consumer brands have succeeded in creating fully digital customer journeys that convert prospects to customers through a seamless sequence starting at awareness all the way to buy and payment. All this happens without emailing or talking to anyone.

That seamless process is what employees and customers are now expecting to find with their work experience.

Why? Exposure and experience.

The pandemic forced older employees to interact with the world through digital interfaces at a level that they never had before. Before the pandemic, how many of your over forty staff or colleagues had done a Zoom call with customers much less colleagues? How many regularly ordered food through Grubhub? Or even knew what a QR code was?

To conduct their lives during the lockdown, the older analog-native population was forced to understand and learn how to use digital processes nearly over night.  There was no “putting it off until I have time” option, they were forced to start using apps and systems that they had previously ignored, because prior to lockdown, they did not see a need to use them to work, eat, or play. That need arrived and it forced exposure and fostered long-term experience.

Funny thing about well-designed and easy to use apps, people get used to them and they start judging other online processes by them. This older demographic has become more digitally experienced, savvy, and more critical of poor digital experiences or lack of a digital experience. “Why do I need to send an email to HR to find out how much PTO I have left?”, “Why do I have to call customer service to get status on our shipment?”

During that same period, the younger more digitally comfortable demographic is hitting higher levels of corporate leadership. As a result, their work habits are now more and more the norm. Those work habits are based on a “let me find it online” approach. Offline interaction (oh, by the way, email is an offline interaction) slows them down. Let me say that again, it slows them down from getting things done.

It is amazing the number of times I hear my fellow Gen Zers say that the “younger generation doesn’t want to talk to anyone! They won’t just pick up the phone and call to get an answer.” Well, first, often there is not a phone number to call, or at least one that does not end up in a voicemail maze. If there is a number to speak to someone, it will chew up extra time to explain what the problem is, time hearing about options that they already thought about or tried, etc.

In short, what we of the analog-native demographic consider avoiding social interaction is to digital-natives a time wasting, annoying, unnecessary step if the information were just put online so one can find it. The way they see it is, if they can get a mortgage online, why can’t they get prior order history from a vendor online?

What this means is that the offline experience (calls, in person meetings) that many of us are most comfortable with is the diminishing experience in the work world. The fully online experience, driven by consumer brands, is now the norm for more than just the “younger generation”, because people have now seen that a fully digital experience is possible in the personal lives. Those same consistent and easy-to-use experiences are expected in their work lives and the B2B companies that grasp this will have a massive advantage over their competition with all audiences: prospective employees, employees, vendors, and customers.  

Those companies that don’t realize that their people and their customers are expecting an online experience that is equal to their consumer experience are going to get punished by the market.  

There is only so long that people will be willing to “send an email” or “call our toll-free number” to get their question answered or problem solved, before they just choose another source for their company. In fact, they may already have.