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Episode 76

Guillaume Portalier - Evolution of B2B customer experience

Posted on: 06 Nov 2023

Guillaume Portalier is the co-founder and COO of Waalaxy, an advanced lead generation platform for LinkedIn and email.

In this episode, we discuss how customer experience in B2B has evolved from the days of traditional physical marketing and commerce to what it looks like now in the digital transformation era. We take a look at the importance of personalization and how to make sure you remain customer-centric in an omnichannel reality. In this context, we also talk a lot about the need for streamlined chat support.

Links & mentions:


“In the digital world, you have access to lots of information about your prospects and clients. So you want to personalize their experience. You want to make sure that when they contact you so you have all the information available. And even more, it's great if you're able to tell they have a problem before they tell you they have a problem.”

Intro:Welcome to the Agile Digital Transformation podcast, where we explore different aspects of digital transformation and digital experience with your host, Tim Butara, content and community manager at Agiledrop.

Tim Butara: Hello, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. I'm joined today by Guillaume Portalier, co founder and COO of Waalaxy, an advanced lead generation platform for LinkedIn and email. In today's episode, we'll be discussing the evolution of customer experience in business to business with a look at the move from traditional to digital B2B customer experience, and a focus on more recent digital trends such as omnichannel experiences. And welcome to the show, Guillaume. Thank you for being our guest today. It's great to have you. Would you like to add anything here?

Guillaume Portalier: I think you did it right, so thanks for having me, Tim.

Tim Butara: Thanks for joining us again. And I think we have a great topic today. I think it's one that definitely a lot of our listeners will find very valuable. But I want to take a step back from what B2B CX looks like today, and I kind of want to look at this distinction or at this move from kind of traditional or physical CX, where there used to be quite a clear distinction between business to customer, so B2C on one hand, and business to business, B2B on the other. And I'm wondering what's the situation like as we move more and more into the digital? Is this distinction still so clear or what do you say?

Guillaume Portalier: Yeah, I would say it's not so clear anymore. Here at Waalaxy, we used to say that the difference between a B2C and a B2B, for B2B, they are basically B2C. I mean, C, so, consumer entering an office, basically. So what it means is, basically they have the same requirements and the same expectations as consumers. So, namely, they want to have answers very rapidly and they're quite, I mean, they expect a lot from their overall experience, not just the customer experience, but I would say the overall experience.

Tim Butara: Even though it's cheesy, I quite like the term human to human as kind of describing or kind of exposing that there isn't a clear distinction between two. Because when we use these acronyms, we sometimes forget that even if it’s B2C, even if it's B2B, ultimately it's a human who will end up buying either your product, your service, signing up to your SaaS service and whatnot. So we really shouldn't forget that.

Guillaume Portalier: Yes, that's it. And also, when you speak about digital experiences, to the contrary of physical experiences, I think it's really easy for people to switch from one product to another. So I don't know, if you as a consumer or customer standpoint, if you have questions about a product or service, a digital product, digital service, you will expect a very rapid answer. Otherwise you can just look for another service or another competing product on Google and in less than 5 seconds you'll have the competitors and you'll just move on. So that's also why I think it's very important to be extremely, extremely fast.

Tim Butara: So, yeah, there has to be this combination of speed and customer centricity in both, I guess. And I think that we'll have a question specifically dedicated to this a bit later on, but let's kind of first ease into it for a bit. So, yeah, we kind of discussed, we covered this transition and if we look at the situation now, what are the key elements of B2B customer experience, soo today in 2022?

Guillaume Portalier: Yeah, I would say it's not a secret that every companies tell they are customer centric, but I think digital companies must be customer centric, just that on another level compared to customer centricity of physical products and physical services. So, yeah, obviously you always want to be customer centric. It just means that when your customer’s interacting in the digital world, it's just a whole other level. Obviously it implies lots of technology compared to physical products or services.

In the digital world, you have access to lots of information about your prospects and clients. So you want to personalize their experience. You want to make sure that when they contact you so you have all the information available. And even more, it's great if you're able to tell they have a problem before they tell you they have a problem.

Sometimes you're able to detect that they’ve encountered a problem or a bug or anything, and then you push them some information about that and you have this possibility to really be proactive. And I think this makes a big difference in how they feel and how they feel treated and the overall customer experience.

Tim Butara: I think one of the most important points here, Guillaume, is proactiveness. I'm really glad you mentioned this.

Guillaume Portalier: Yeah, definitely.

Tim Butara: And also one other, you mentioned that you have all of the, that companies now have all of this data at their disposal and they have a lot of options for personalization. And one thing that I kind of assume about B2B, maybe that's still a little bit different in B2C, is that B2C will rely a lot on this data-driven personalization, whereas with B2B you will also need to combine data-driven insights with kind of first-hand human insights obtained from, I don't know, conversations with clients and stuff like that.

Guillaume Portalier: Yeah, that's entirely true. Though, again, I'm really a big fan of this idea of B2C and B2C kind of merging and having both the same expectations. But it's true that in general, in B2B, you might have more information coming from a previous call or a previous conversation that you will want to integrate to the other set of data you have.

And then again, I think it's important to make the distinction between– because B2B is a big thing, and within it you have different types of customers. And so I think you can draw two clear distinctions between– so we at Waalaxy are what we call a product-led growth company. And so this means that we're very close to B2C in our marketing approach, in our customer experience approach.

And so we don't have salespeople. We don't have account based management. So we don't have this additional information that we might have if you compare to a more classic sales-driven organization where you have salespeople that are here to perform demos to eventually or perhaps answer questions on the phone, and account-based management, where you follow your clients and give them better taste about the new features.

And so I think it's a bit different, the customer experience looks a bit different, whether you're a sales-led organization or a product-led growth organization. But overall, the end result is kind of the same. You want to leverage all the data you have, and you want to enter as fast as possible and be proactive in your relation.

Tim Butara: What about if we look at the kind of explosion of different various digital channels that we've seen, whereas before, maybe, you know, 15 years ago, it was mostly just the Internet and then kind of moved into the smartphones, and then now you have all of these different channels, and as a result, you have multichannel and omnichannel experiences. How do these factors into B2B customer experience and everything that we've talked about so far?

Guillaume Portalier: Yeah, I think it's kind of the same of the outbound strategies or sales strategy that you have. So first, you have kind of the basic want to know strategy where you would cold call or cold email your prospects, and now you have the possibility to have a very broader outreach experience using, as you mentioned, omnichannel strategy. So you can contact them on LinkedIn, you can send a cold email, can have a cold call, you can have cookies. You can retarget them on social platforms, social media platforms.

And I think it's kind of the same for your customers because what's the goal of an omnichannel strategy overall, whether it's for customer success or to get new clients, that sales prospecting, the goal is to show yourself everywhere it's possible. And so there's a famous cognitive bias, which is called the mirror exposure effect, that basically says that the more you're exposed to something, a brand or product or service, and the more you tend to like it.

And that's why you actually see Coca-Cola ads basically everywhere. And of course, everybody knows Coca-Cola. You don't need an ad to know that Coca-Cola exists. But the more you see Coca-Cola ads and the more you're likely to have a positive opinion about Coca-Cola, then I think it's kind of the same for your customer experience.

Everywhere your clients are, you want to be. And if you didn't have the possibility to reach out, for example, I don't know, the classical way would be emailing, so you send an email to your clients because you want to have them. But as you know, when you do emails, there are lots of people that just don't read their email, don't open their email, because, you know, people tend to get lots of email.

But you can maximize your success by adding another layer, for example, LinkedIn, or again, not directly ads, but more social media content. So you want to, I don't know, weite on LinkedIn, depending on your industry, you might also want to be on TikTok, Instagram, ec. So I think it's important to diversify your channel when it comes to maintaining the relationship with your clients.

Tim Butara: And I think here again, data plays a very important role, because how do you know which channels your preferred clients and customers use if you don't have the information about which channels they use, right?

Guillaume Portalier: Exactly.

Tim Butara: And one other thing that we kind of briefly started talking about but haven't really pinpointed it, is chat support. Right. We talked about how the response to the customer needs to be fast, needs to be timely. And streamlined chat support is one of the most important tactics that you can use here, one of the most surefire tactics. So how important is this for B2B organizations? And are there any industries or use cases where it's particularly essential?

Guillaume Portalier: I would say any B2B SaaS it’s essential. And I think we already see this move from traditional call centers to the more digital approach using the chat support. And I think there's also a generational move where overall, in general, older people like to have someone on the phone to take the time to ask their question and have a proper human being, even though it's proper human being behind the chat support, there are a group of people journey older people that want to have someone on the phone.

And for people that are my generation, so like in their twenties, thirties and forties, we tend to like more of the chat support where it's both instantaneous and also you have the time to do something else for like two minutes waiting for your answer, and then you come back and you have the answer.

So as we move forward, I think chat support will play an even bigger important role. And as it comes to SaaS products and B2B SaaS products, again, it's so much easier to leverage your data when you're using a chat report because you have all the information about your prospects in real time. And I think also one of the biggest factors obviously is your ability to handle way more people at the same time using chat support.

For example, here at Waalaxy we have more than 10,000 clients and 80,000 users. So we have a lot of people using our tool on a daily basis and it would be almost impossible to have someone on the phone to answer questions about, you know, products and features. And today we have like seven people that are on the chat support and they are able to reply to like hundreds of tickets every day in less than two minutes. So I think it's way more efficient.

And again, it's a way to– I mean you can automate other things with the chat support, and I'm not even speaking about all the bots that you can set up depending on most commonly asked question. To be frank, I'm not really a big fan of those. I'm sure there are organization where it's super important and it plays a big role. But for us, what we've seen is, you know, in the end, people want to speak to a proper human and they're just not really comfortable– again, if you want to be really fast in the way you're giving an answer you can't really have like ten questions to click before you can actually speak to a proper human.

And I think we've all come through this horrible experience where– I'm thinking about my phone subscription, for example, my mobile phone subscription, where they say they have a chat. The truth is they don't really have a chat. It's a bot and it's awful because 90% of the time they don't have an answer to your question. And so that's a horrible experience and obviously that's not what you want to provide. So I think you're better off having a proper human and maybe one or two questions to qualify the problem beforehand, but not much more.

And then also, again, you can automate lots of things. As I was saying, you can automate lots of things, but not necessarily all the questions from the blog, but more what we call set replies. So usually when you have a service or product you tend to have kind of the same questions coming again and again.

And with the use of set replies you can– we’re using basic variables such as first name so that, you know, the person has the impression that the message is not really– it's tailor-made. And you can write a proper message that goes into detail about the questions or whether it might be a feature question, pricing question, or even sometimes a bug question where you have a record in bugs or you have a, currently, you have a bug, you know exactly what to say and you don't want to set the sensor like ten times a day. So you have a set-up reply and boom with a shortcut you can access it very rapidly and it plays a huge role in how fast we're able to answer our customers here at Waalaxy.

Tim Butara: I mean, in this last case, even if you were doing even if you were, like, replying to emails and you had to send out a very similar email to, I don't know, five different people, you probably wouldn't go, about reinventing the wheel and kind of trying to produce unique copy for each of them, because it's kind of assumed that the time that you got the copy right, this is the right version of the copy, and you wouldn't want a different customer getting a worse version of your email just because you want it to be different.

So probably if it weren't, as you just pointed out, for chat support, it would probably just end up me being copy pasting the same text like three times or four times and I guess the effect would be the same. So, yeah, that makes perfect sense. And I'm glad that we started talking about chatbots because I wanted to ask you what you think about those. And I figured that probably in B2B, there has to be at least, even if you do have a chatbot, to kind of start out the conversation, there has to be this transition or hand off to a human chat support person that will actually be able to address the needs and pains of the customer.

Guillaume Portalier: So, for chatbots, it's not entirely garbage, don't get me wrong, but I can see a handful of use cases. I don't know. For example, you have a very precise question about the pricing model. So I think you don't necessarily need, unless your product or service is very complicated and has a very complicated pricing, I think it's easy to just have an answer like, I have a question about pricing and then behind this you have a very thorough and clear explanation of how your pricing works. And then if the person has another question, maybe he or she can speak to a proper human.

Also you might want to gain some time by asking exactly what's the problem. Because what you see sometimes is as, it's a chance, sometimes people just come and say hey, I have a problem. And then they are waiting for you to come and say hey, how can I help, etc?

And you have another category of people that are just like hey, my problem is this, and then you can start immediately to see what the problem is. But when you have people that are just like hey, how are you? You might want to gain some time by having a bot that automatically says hey, how I might help, please describe your problem or your question to help me understand. So that might be of help again. And a bunch of other very general questions, it might make sense.

And probably in the future as AI improves, bots will make more and more sense and particularly the feature that allows you to, basically you can answer your problem with your own words. It's not like I offer you a choice between four questions, for example, and you really have a space where you can write your problem in your own words. And then you'll have a bot analyzing the text and the question or the problem and based on that, the bot will offer you predefined answers that we would have to find on our end.

I mean, it already exists. We've tested it. But I think as there are so many ways to ask for basically the same question, I think we're not quite there yet in terms of AI performance, but I'm sure at some point we will get there and then it will make more sense to have a bopt to really help you treating the customer inquiries.

Tim Butara: Do you maybe have any other predictions or expectations for business to business customer experience? Maybe not just in the context of chat support, but like in the broader context.

Guillaume Portalier: Yeah, basically a sum up of everything we've said. So more digital experiences, more omnichannel, more bots, that's for sure, because companies want to save money and it's cost efficient to have one bot instead of ten people answering, even though it's not as good for now, when it will be for sure, you'll see a lot more bots.

And again, the necessity to be quicker and quicker. And I think especially with– again, companies always say, okay, we're customer-centric and our top priorities are customers. But for digital products and digital services, I think we'll get even further. And yeah, you'll see even more tailor-made relationships because customer relationship is in the end, it's– companies tend to understand more and more of how important it is.

Because, you know, there is a famous saying that goes like, it's like ten times more costly to acquire new customers versus just retaining one existing customer. And I think it's true, and I think companies tend to realize this more and more, especially in the digital world, where you can try more things.

And in the physical world, it's hard to tell exactly what types of people are not using your product anymore, what types of people are coming in to buy your products once more, and in the digital world it’s way more easy. So you have way more data, and again, it will be more data driven, that's for sure.

Tim Butara: That's definitely one prediction that we can 100% count on that will definitely take place. Thanks so much, Guillaume, for sharing your expertise and your thoughts with us today. Just before we wrap up this great conversation, if our listeners would like to reach out to you or maybe learn more about you, learn more about Waalaxy, where can they do all that?

Guillaume Portalier: Yeah, so basically, I'll share with you my LinkedIn profile. And so I'm happy to chat with you on LinkedIn. I'm only on LinkedIn. I mean, we don't really use emails. And again, for Waalaxy, I'll also share a link. If people use this link, they'll have a two month subscription for free. So if they want to try the products, I think it's a good opportunity.

Tim Butara: That's awesome. Thanks so much again, Guillaume, for joining us today. It's been a real pleasure.

Guillaume Portalier: Yeah, Tim, thanks. It was also a great pleasure.

Tim Butara: Well, to our listeners, that's all for this episode. Have a great day everyone, and stay safe.

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