What's a "Customer" in B2B?

Steve Bernstein
Steve Bernstein Member Posts: 132 Expert
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edited August 14 in CS Conversations
Customer Success Folks: Agree or disagree??   In B2B, end-users (generally speaking) are NOT "customers" because they don't influence buying decisions. Sometimes an End User can be part of the "Stakeholder" team/buying-committee, but in that context they are wearing a different hat, not having an "end user" posture. That's not to say that we ignore end users, but just that we may need to change how we prioritize work to focus on engaging "stakeholders" as the top priority. What is your perspective?

PLEASE contribute your thoughts. Next week I'll put together a follow-up post to summarize what everyone is saying.  There's a rousing and lengthy discussion on LInkedIn (here's the link to the discussion there) that I'm replicating here so we get coverage when I post back the summary of responses (if you already participated on the LinkedIn post then I have your response and THANK YOU!)

Steve Bernstein
Head of Voice-Of-Customer Programs at Waypoint Research Group


  • Russell Bourne
    Russell Bourne Member Posts: 61 Expert
    Second Anniversary GGR Blogger 2023 GGR Blogger 2021
    edited August 2020
    @Steve Bernstein, I take "customer" to mean the entire company you're serving, as opposed to any individual who works there.  

    Within a customer there are multiple buyer roles you can define for the people who work there.  To name a few: financial DM or stakeholder, technical DM or stakeholder, coach, champion, detractor, operator, and so on.  Attrition and backfill in any of those roles opens the chance for temperature shift.  In my experience, the "higher" the role, the more at risk you are when attrition happens.
  • Naveen Nair
    Naveen Nair Member Posts: 5 Seeker
    edited August 2020
    @Steve Bernstein This is definitely a highly contentious topic, especially when you're trying to design/review customer strategy and end up with 2 different camps in the meeting. Here's my take on it:

    End-user customer daily usage is definitely the best metric to use when tracking adoption, stickiness and real value proposition to the client organization. Which naturally drives the need to offer products, functionality and training geared towards that group.

    Decision-makers & influencers are who will sign off on renewals, up-sells and expansions and as such determine whether the relationship continues to grow over time or not. This then drives your engagement model, sales strategy and customer satisfaction initiatives. 

    Leaving aside the exception case you mentioned when someone belongs to both groups, I like thinking about the two different groups as driving different customer strategies. Is either one more or less important, i'll leave that question to others but I strongly believe that without both it doesn't matter who an organization defines as their true customer, you will fall short.