What does B2B customer service mean?
B2B customer service encompasses all the service interactions between a B2B (business to business) company and its audience of business customers.
From the moment they begin the sales journey with your brand all the way to renewing or repurchasing, your B2B customer service is the help and care you provide along the way.
From helping with product or service setup to resolving issues, your customer service is vital for providing both technical and human support to your B2B clients.
Differences between B2B vs. B2C customer service
What is B2C customer service?
In B2C customer service, your customers are individuals. Your revenue is made through multiple transactions with multiple consumers, and your tailoring of customer service is likely made to the importance of their query.
For example, if your customers need help with your product or service, you might direct them to self-service options – such as an online help center or webchat. And if the customer is at risk of leaving, you would likely send them through to an agent. Though tailoring your business to consumer service is important, it’s likely that you’ve adjusted it for an audience segment or particular need, not an individual customer.
What is B2B customer service?
In B2B customer service, your customers are entire businesses. You might be dealing with the needs of multiple stakeholders across different areas of the business. You may also need to adjust your approach because of the financial magnitude of the customer; unlike with individual B2C customers, one customer might be worth a significant amount of revenue. Their expectations for service are likely to be higher than B2C customers as a result.
It’s better to provide highly tailored customer service to these types of customers. With revenue opportunities being so great, you might offer them personal consultations with sales representatives or frontline staff who can resolve problems, rather than referring them to a generic digital helpdesk.
Why is B2B customer service important?
Great customer service is vital for retaining and expanding important customer relationships.
There are myriad benefits to providing friction-free, customized customer service to your B2B audience:
Better return on investment and customer lifetime value
We’ve found that customers are 3.5 times more likely to purchase more after a great experience. We’ve also discovered that on average, businesses risk losing 9.5% of their revenue after bad customer experiences.
It’s clear that providing excellent customer service can be the difference between your customers remaining with you, or looking elsewhere. Though changing a vendor is a significant effort for B2B customers, if they receive bad experiences over time their likelihood of leaving increases.
By improving your B2B customer service – and therefore improving your customer experience – you’re actively investing in your financial returns and extending your customer lifetime value.
Reduction in customer churn
Customer churn is a real issue for B2B businesses. According to Statista, customer churn rates were 25% as of 2020, with 21% specifically for online businesses. By helping your customers navigate your B2B products and services with excellent customer service, your likelihood of customer churn reduces.
In our research, we’ve found customers are at least 2.9 times as likely to trust a brand after a good experience than a bad one. If your B2B customer service team is able to continually meet expectations and exceed them, your customers are much more likely to trust you to continue performing well and to stay long-term.
Greater likelihood of advocacy for your brand
Customers are 5.1 times more likely to recommend a business after a satisfying experience – which can help you to greatly expand your customer base. Your service agent-customer interactions are often the most memorable touchpoint for your customers.
While B2C customers may recommend you through word of mouth and social media, B2B customers are more likely to talk about their experiences to their colleagues and other stakeholders. Over time these experiences will influence the overall health of the business relationship, shifting the likelihood to renew or annual spend.
B2B customer service best practices: how to do it well
Putting customer confidence first
According to Gartner, post-pandemic B2B buyers have strong opinions on how they’d like to interact with your brand. 43% would prefer not to interact with a sales rep – but those B2B customers experience 23% higher regret for their purchase.
It’s clear that customer confidence is the key to a satisfying B2B experience. Providing your customers with a high-value B2B customer service means their confidence in their purchase decision – and your brand – will increase.
The right channel, the right time
More than ever, B2B customers want to access your customer service through the channels they prefer.
B2B customers’ preference for digital self-service or remote human interactions changes depending on the stage of the sales journey they occupy. Deloitte’s Global Contact Centre study found that these customers change their channel preferences based on the complexity of their issue.
For example, the simpler the query, the more preference there is for self-service solutions – but for complicated questions, B2B customers prefer speaking to a human customer service representative.
Providing an omnichannel B2B customer service means your customers can find the answers they need through the channels they prefer, rather than forcing them to use ones that don’t suit their needs.
Empower your B2B customer service team
Your B2B customer service team needs to have useful insights and customer feedback delivered to them to help improve the quality of customer service they provide. Make sure you’re empowering your support agents with automated insights and clear actions to give them direction on how they should handle customer issues and requests.
Embrace customer personalization
Though your B2B customers might have multiple stakeholders, your customer service needs to be tailored to that business’ needs. Gartner found that 64% of B2B buyers can’t tell the difference between digital experiences from different brands – meaning that your digital brand experience and frontline personal service need to be memorable and personalized to their needs.
Offer empathetic service
It’s likely that your B2B customer service team is going to interact with your customers more when they have an issue than when things are going well. To add further complexity, your customers might not only be dealing with their own issue but will also likely be thinking of their customers’ potential requirements as well.
As a result, your frontline staff’s approach needs to be empathetic, not just sympathetic. Your B2B customer service team needs to understand how your customer is affected by an issue on a business level, rather than just seeing each issue as a single problem to be resolved.
Although an issue may seem to be resolvable, a build-up of multiple issues can damage the relationship long term. Understanding the strategic impact or problems and reflecting that understanding to the customer is critical for maintaining the relationship with the stakeholders
Anticipate as well as react
Great businesses don’t just provide brilliant customer service – they anticipate when their assistance might be needed. If you support your B2B customer service team with helpful tools, such as real-time alerts and trend prediction, your team will be able to anticipate issues and handle them instantly, instead of solving issues long after they’ve happened.
Streamline with customer experience software
Your frontline customer service agents are the first to handle customer issues that can turn into real problems. To ensure that you’re able to resolve issues quickly, flag potential problems, and provide standout customer service, you need customer experience software that can keep up. Learn how our customer experience management software can streamline your B2B customer service.
B2B customer service examples
B2B industrial suppliers Grainger understood its customers’ new needs post-COVID and created a new e-commerce website hub that transformed their products and services into easily navigated resources. This meant that their B2B customers were able to not only easily source supplies, but find information at each stage of their recovery journey. This adaptation is a good example of thinking like your customer, rather than thinking like a seller.
Closing the loop can often take B2B service providers longer due to the more complex issues they might encounter. Tetra Pak was aware that even though it was meeting its deadlines for customers, they still weren’t happy with the service they were receiving.
The company decided to gather customer feedback and develop a more customer-centric culture. Using customer experience management software, Tetra Pak is now able to follow up with customer issues within 48 hours.
Providing assistance not just when needed, but ahead of time puts B2B companies ahead of their competitors. Ingersoll Rand, an HVAC business servicing B2B clients, uses AI for customer segmentation by location and Internet of Things (IoT) enabled products to keep an eye on customer requirements. Combined with real-time alerts on any climate or weather changes, the company can proactively extend a hand to customers as problems arise.