Nowadays it is increasingly difficult to have sustainable competitive advantage with only good products and excellent service (Lemke et al., 2006). In general, business-to-business (B2B) marketing activities focus on building brand image through price, technology and delivery attributes (Biedenbach & Marell, 2010). The growing importance of intangible attributes has forced marketing managers to look for new ways to differentiate products or services offered, as well as in building brand equity (Biedenbach & Marell, 2010). Lemke et al. (2006) explained that existing product innovations would soon become excellent commodities and services even though they could be analyzed and imitated by competitors, so that competition in gaining competitive advantage was in the customer experience.
The concept of B2B customer experience itself is still new and its definition and measurement are still controversial (Lemke et al., 2006). Hutt & Speh (2010) explains that customer experience is an internal representation and subjective response from customers who have direct or indirect contact with a company. Hollyoake (2009) also explains that B2B customer experience is about how companies understand customer expectations of experience at each touchpoints and contacts at all levels when business relationships are established. Shaw (2007) defines customer experience as a combination of physical company performance and emotions that arise and intuitively compared to customer expectations on all contacts that occur. In the context of B2B services, Biedenbach & Marell (2010) defines customer experience as the direct interaction of decision makers with service providers who contribute to their assessment of services received as well as in the selection of such service providers in the future.
While Hollyoake (2009) in the Figure above concludes the four main pillars of B2B customer experience; trust, interdependence, integration, and communication. Coyle (2007) explains that training, problem diagnosis, and field support during urgent times are factors that influence B2B customer experience, in addition, because the needs of stakeholders (users, managers, and executives of customers) are relatively dynamic,
A good B2B buyer-seller relationship depends heavily on whether or not the vendor is proactive in meeting the needs of these stakeholders.
Coyle (2007) created a B2B customer life cycle that describes the processes that shape customer experience in B2B. In contrast to B2C, the purchasing process is only a small part of the cycle on B2B. Vendors still have to continue to build and maintain relationships through training, service, and regular visits with employees of the buyer's company who have the authority so that the flow of information between the vendor and the customer remains smooth and retention arises from the customer by sending a request for bid / Request For Quotation (RFQ) ) to vendors. Often in this cycle, new customer experience is formed at the final stage (evaluation), so that the vendor representative (marketing or sales) must be able to predict and anticipate which B2B customers will provide sustainable benefits to the company. Hollyoake (2009) in his research found that many companies segmented based on potential value (profitability in the future) to prioritize resources and focus more on marketing and sales activities. Furthermore, Hollyoake (2009) explains that the segmentation pattern makes the company use a different sales method for each segment that results in customers receiving varied experiences in meeting their needs.
Lemke et al. (2006) in his research found seven factors that influence B2B customer experience; direct contact / communication (personal), flexibility, seller's understanding of customer needs, proactive sellers in understanding customer goals in buying products or services, proactive sellers in checking whether things are going well, fulfillment of promises, and salesperson employees' knowledge of the product.