In the past few years, the importance and impact of customer service have grown dramatically. And so has the importance of B2B customer service. According to 90% of B2B CEOs, an excellent customer experience is essential to achieving business objectives.
B2B brands have fewer customers as compared to B2C, so making sure none of them shift to the competitors is important. One way to do that is by providing excellent customer service. And that is why we’re here today.
This article is your guide to acing B2B customer service. You’ll find the difference between B2B and B2C customers and 10 best practices to follow.
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What is B2B customer service?
To understand what B2B customer service let’s divide the term into two parts:
- B2B: B2B stands for business-to-business. It is a business model wherein your customer is another business.
- Customer service: Customer service is nothing but meeting the expectations of your customer and making sure they are provided with any type of assistance they need.
So, B2B customer service is the assistance provided by your business to another business that is using your products. In some cases, the person receiving may not yet be a customer but is intending to make a purchase.
The usual activities of B2B customer service are answering questions about the product, resolving issues and providing troubleshooting help, dealing with complaints or refund requests and collecting customer feedback. Companies provide various channels like email, live chat, phone support, and social media to provide business to business customer service.
The impact and importance of B2B customer service is higher. The simple reason is that there are stakeholders depending on a business—if adequate assistance is not provided it could bring huge repercussions.
The difference between B2B and B2C customer service
From afar one may not notice enough differences between B2B and B2C customer service. But there are quite a few factors that make B2B customer service different from B2C customer service. Below are some pointers that will help you understand the difference between B2B and B2C customer service.
Type of customers
The first basic difference between B2B and B2C customer service is in its name. B2B companies cater mainly to businesses. These could be small, large or enterprise businesses. The number of such customers may be fewer than a typical B2C business but the revenue inflow per customer is usually higher.
B2C businesses serve customers or the general public. Usually, there are no businesses that are customers to B2C businesses. The revenue from each customer is lesser but the customer base is larger.
In the case of B2B businesses, the product is used by different departments of the company. B2C products are used by a single person.
Number of stakeholders
There are multiple stakeholders that need to be catered to when it comes to B2B customer service. One client company may have multiple teams using a B2B company’s product or service, which requires tracking by the B2B provider.
Customer support representatives would have to be able to manage many different relationships and priorities. There could be multiple people making decisions in a B2B company and the customer success managers might have to talk to different stakeholders.
More effort, patience and skill would be required to deal with these stakeholders.
Degree of complexity
The problems faced by B2B customers are much more complex as compared to a B2C customer. A B2C customer being a single person may contact you to track order status or request a refund—there’s not much complexity involved in such issues.
But a B2B customer may have problems that require a lot more attention and effort to solve. This is due to the technical nature of B2B products. Many times the business depends on your B2B product—making the problem a high priority issue as well.
10 B2B customer service best practices
There’s multiple things you’ll want to do when you’re a B2B brand. But here are the 10 best practices that will bring great customer experiences and make your brand successful in the long run.
Instill a culture of customer satisfaction
Before we give you other tips about B2B customer service—here’s the first and the most important one. In order to ace customer service, each member of the organization must be dedicated towards it.
Being dedicated to delighting customers and, if possible, ensuring their satisfaction is the first step in providing an excellent customer experience. For the entire organization to be fully committed to the customer experience, employees must share a single aim of customer centricity.
A good way to inculcate the customer service culture is by talking to your employees and letting them know why it’s important for you. You should also allow your employees to build connections with customers that will help serve customers in a better way.
Incorporate human touch where you can
Automation in customer service is a bliss—there’s no denying that. But, human touch is irreplaceable. Especially in B2B customer service where the clients are important and their entire businesses may depend on your product. In fact, 75% of people still choose to interact with a human even when given automated options that would give quicker responses.
The key element that makes human touch irreplaceable is the empathy that can be demonstrated by a human agent. Your clients are able to feel a sense of being valued by your brand when an agent directly communicates with them.
It’s also obvious that a human can better understand your client’s problems. When empathy and intelligence are displayed by a human, retaining your clients becomes easier.
Keep the level of customer service consistent
A customer that keeps coming back to your support team would hate being treated nicely one time and poorly the next. As a B2B brand, your level of customer service should remain consistent because it will create expectation and satisfaction—which will ultimately lead to customer loyalty.
Now, there is no one way to keep your customer service consistent. Consistency in customer service is maintained through continued actions that over time compound to bring results. Some ways to bring consistency in customer service are:
- Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and understand the buyer’s journey to design processes that benefit the customer.
- Manage customer expectations right from the beginning of their journey with your brand.
- Maintain a positive and empathetic attitude towards the customer’s problem.
- Keep response time even across different customer touchpoints.
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Be proactive with your customer service efforts
The best B2B brands are sitting around waiting for customers to come with an issue to resolve. Instead, they are actively working to avoid such issues from happening in the first place. This is what proactive customer service is all about.
Since a B2B customer’s concerns are so much more complicated than those of a B2C customer, proactive customer service is a good practice to keep customers happy. Customers will likely be angry and dissatisfied by the time they reach you, but if you are proactive in providing customer care, you may avoid this.
An excellent example of proactive customer service is Facebook. A basic user manual is offered to each new user of Facebook. Additionally, Facebook offers instructions for every new feature it introduces. By doing this, they are anticipating questions that customers may have in the future—and being proactive with their customer service.
Make use of personalization
You and your competitor might be selling the same product, but what will differentiate you from your competitor is the level of personalization you can provide in your customer service. We’re not the only ones saying this: 54% of customers want all their experiences to be personalized while interacting with a brand.
Using customer data and their previous history with your brand is the number one way to personalize their customer experience. At Keeping, you can use Shopify or Zapier integrations and get hold of all customer data to deliver personalized customer service.
You also don’t want to keep personalization inconsistent. Instead, offer personalization at each stage of your customer’s journey.
Personalization in customer service also promotes longer B2B customer relationships. This also means that to be able to deliver personalized customer service in B2B, you must know your customers in and out. The more detailed knowledge you have about your customer the better will be the quality of personalization.
Sign SLAs with important clients
In B2B customer service, some clients may have different requirements than others. The degree of complexity of their problems may be more and hence the level of attention required by such clients will also be more. A simple case of one customer being more important than the other.
While B2C customer service works on a first come first serve basis, this may not be the best practice in B2B customer service. This is where Service Level Agreements (SLAs) come into place.
The SLAs resemble prenuptial agreements in certain ways. It outlines a shared understanding between you and your customers as well as the services you provide (including customer support), their accessibility, and your obligations.
The fact that you sign it before signing a sales contract ensures that everyone is aware of your support capabilities and restrictions. Based on your current support bandwidth, the seriousness of the problems, and the complexity of the problems, a SLA can assist you in re-prioritizing your support tickets.
Collect and act on customer service feedback
Customer feedback is the key to improving your customer service in the long run. As a B2B brand you should actively collect customer feedback. There are multiple ways to collect customer feedback from your B2B customers. You could use NPS or CSAT surveys or send out customer surveys via email.
The collection process should be continuous to ensure you don’t miss out on important feedback. Another way is to talk to your customer service agents and ask them what your customers are feeling.
Companies often collect feedback but never act on it—which makes the process of collecting feedback pointless. You must implement systems that deal with customer feedback. For example, feedback about technical issues must be routed directly to the IT department. Whereas, if a customer asks for a better buyer experience your product and marketing department should receive this feedback.
Furthermore, you can set up guidelines and playbooks that tell the customer service staff as to what shall be done with different types of customer feedback.
Provide self-service options
We’ve talked about B2B customer issues being complex but it may not always be the case. Sometimes, your B2B customer may also have simple issues like password resets, tracking orders or billing issues. For all such issues, you can provide self-service options.
Given that they collaborate with other organizations, most businesses should ideally be staffed with technological professionals who can deal with these simple issues on their own with just a little help from you. A variety of consumer self-service solutions, including a knowledge base, FAQs, community forums, and chatbots, can act as this nudge.
Train your customer service agents
You can’t just give your support workers a script and have them remember it because a B2B customer service setting has so many different elements and variables. To accomplish their duties effectively and satisfy customers and prospects, everyone needs to receive the proper training.
Make sure they are intimately familiar with every product and service, possess the soft skills required for their positions, and aren’t afraid to ask for what they require to perform their duties more effectively.
The basic training must be provided when an employee joins the organization. Apart from this, regular training programs for customer service employees at different levels should also be provided.
Use the right help desk solution
Your customer service strategies, employee training, playbooks and feedback implementation would be of no use if you’re not using the right help desk for your business needs. A help desk is meant to improve your customer service efforts, automate tasks and boost productivity. Before you invest in any help desk solution make sure that you check out all the features the help desk has. It should have the right features that your B2B brand needs.
Keeping is the perfect help desk solution for brands that use email as their primary platform for providing customer support. With Keeping you can:
- Allocate tickets to the most suitable support agents.
- Tag tickets and set labels based on parameters like urgency.
- Integrate Shopify and Zapier which gives you access to even more features.
- View and analyze reports such as average response time, several open tickets etc
If you’re a B2B brand providing customer service via Gmail, check out Keeping today!