If you are in a business to business or B2B industry, it may seem that customer service isn’t as important. After all, your customers are in business too, they get it. But this isn’t the case. Just as B2C customers have high expectations of customer service, B2B customers also require a certain standard. By achieving or exceeding these expectations, you can build relationships and have loyal, repeat customers.
Why B2B customer service is different
Generally, B2B businesses will have less competition than B2C businesses. That’s why it can important to treat each customer more like a business partner than someone just making a purchase from the company. Once you secure their business, these customers tend to stay with you for longer periods and have great lifetime value – but you need to make sure you are fulfilling their expectations.
Another common mistake that B2B providers make is to de-humanise their process. While you may not be dealing with a person making a purchase for themselves, the human touch is still important in B2B. People working in other businesses will appreciate it and be happy to keep working with your company – and tell their employers this too.
Top tips to build relationships and loyal customers
There are different challenges with B2B customer service but at the heart of it all is offering a high quality, reliable service that takes responsibility for what you provide and deals with mistakes if they happen. However, there are some additional tips to help your team provide top quality customer service.
Know your customer
Knowing your customer is a universal recommendation for customer service but with B2B, this means know the company and the employees rather than just the person you deal with. By understanding the business, you are working with and the individuals involved, you can better organise your customer service.
Offer a range of support options
Gone are the days when a customer service phone number was all you needed to help your B2B customers. Now the emphasis is on offering a range of support options, known as omnichannel support. Exactly which options you offer depend on your availability to staff them, but examples could include:
- Live chat via the website
- Customer services Twitter account
- Email support
- Phone support
- Messaging app support such as Facebook Messenger
While you probably won’t offer all of them, it is worth seeing what kind of options best suit your customers – a quick question or a select box on a welcome email can help people give their feedback and for you to decide which options work best. Whichever you decide upon, you do want to go beyond just phone support.
Use tools that cut down on time
In addition to having different ways for customers to contact the business, it is also worth exploring have tools that cut down on time involved with communications and make the process easier.
One example is a series of ‘how to’ videos. If you find customer service staff receive certain queries repeatedly and these could be answered with a how do video, this is a great option. Create it and have a dedicated web page for these queries where you can direct customers. This saves them time and allows them to get the information they need. Plus, if it doesn’t answer the question, it sends them back to their chosen customer service route to query further.
When making this kind of video, you can even get your customer service team involved. This creates that human connection and if people do go through to customer services, they will encounter the people they saw and heard in the videos.
Analyse data to make improvements
Using the right software is also an important part of good customer service because it allows you to analyse data and make improvements. This starts with systems to request and collect customer feedback – what went well, what did they think could be improved? Being proactive to reach out and ask for this kind of feedback can be important to study where changes are needed.
One of the most common metrics used to measure customer satisfaction is the Net Promoter Score (NPS) but with B2B businesses, this might not always be the best metric to use. One of the reasons for that is that other businesses know this metric and can unwittingly answer based on what is needed, rather than what they genuinely think. Which doesn’t really provide accurate data for the business.
It may be worth establishing your own company benchmarks and reading the data against these to help decide what is working and what isn’t.
Use senior leaders where needed
It is important to empower customer service staff to deal with the majority of problems themselves, but it is also worth having the backup of being able to bring senior leaders into the conversation. This allows customers to have a sense of being important enough to escalate to someone higher up in the business if the situation warrants it. It also gives customer service staff an option when a situation is at an impasse.
Senior leaders shouldn’t be involved in every call but the ability to bring in someone more senior is something that will help relationships with customers and also act as a backup for customer service staff.
High quality customer service
Statistics show there is a strong connection between high quality customer service and customer relationships and loyalty, even in B2B businesses. Many of the guiding principles are similar for B2B and B2C but there are refinements to make to ensure you have the right service in place for a business to business customer base.
By offering high quality customer service and going the ‘extra mile’ for your customers, you can build relationships with businesses or people within them. This will increase the chances of them returning for another order but also of them recommending your company to others in their industry. This word of mouth referral business can be equally important for the company to continue to grow your customer base.