GuidesCustomer researchWhat does good B2B customer service look like?

What does good B2B customer service look like?

Last updated

25 May 2023

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Hugh Good

A good customer experience gives your business a better competitive advantage when selling your products and promoting your brand.

In business-to-business (B2B) transactions, customer service is a critical touchpoint to your brand image that helps you keep your B2B customers. After all, if a business cannot treat its customers appropriately, why would anyone want their products?

With that in mind, the following explores why it is essential to understand B2B customer service and how to do it right.

What is B2B customer service?

In a B2B model, the customers are businesses rather than individual consumers. This is opposed to the business-to-consumer (B2C) model, where the customers are individual consumers.

B2B customers can be small businesses or large corporations, and they purchase products or services for their own use or to resell to other businesses or consumers. 

Consumer electronics companies, such as Apple and Samsung, rely on various businesses, including semiconductor manufacturer TSMC, to provide them with essential components like processors and semiconductors.

In the automobile industry, B2B transactions are also common. The manufacture of vehicle components is often distributed across a range of specialist component producers, producing for many different brands. Automobile manufacturers then procure these components to assemble vehicles.

Simply put, B2B customer service is the customer service and assistance a business provides to another business that is its customer. It encompasses all the human or technical support a business provides to its B2B customer —from the moment the sales journey begins to repurchasing, helping with product setup, training, account management, and resolving any other issues.

B2B customers typically have higher expectations for customer service than individual consumers. This is because they often make larger purchases and may rely on the products or services to run their own businesses. They are usually business owners or decision-makers in their organizations.

With these factors in mind, B2B customer service should go beyond the usual assistance and also involve building personal connections and trust with the clients.

How are B2B and B2C customer service different?

Customer service follows the same basic principle for B2B and B2C—respond to customer queries promptly and resolve any issues which arise as quickly as possible. However, some differences exist between serving a B2B customer and a B2C customer. 

B2B customer service typically has more complex issues

B2B customer service issues tend to be more complex than equivalent B2C issues and can take more time and attention to resolve.

Deep B2B relationships may have ongoing communication, which requires engagement and consultation with various departments and people to provide the best solutions to meet customer needs.

As a result, the First Contact Resolution metric relied on heavily in B2C is not generally a useful measure for assessing B2B customer satisfaction. B2B customers tend to be more realistic about the challenges vendors face within the relationship. They don't expect their vendors to instantly solve complex issues in a single interaction.

B2B companies tend to have fewer but more high-value customers

The dollar value of sales is typically higher in B2B versus B2C relationships, as most B2B vendors have smaller numbers of high-value customers versus their B2C counterparts.

B2B companies may provide their customers, for example, with complex products and service offerings. This means their interactions with B2B customers tend to have higher revenue per product/service sold.

Consider a B2C scenario where a customer does not like a product and returns it. The company loses perhaps tens to a few hundred dollars (depending on the product). However, in B2B relationships, sales agreements can be in the tens of thousands, if not millions, or even billions.

If a B2B customer service relationship is seriously damaged, it can have significant revenue implications for the companies involved.

Multiple customer contact points

B2C customer service primarily involves a single customer who has purchased a product or service and contacts a company's support agent to address any issues they may be experiencing.

While this can also be the case in the B2B, multiple individuals often use a product inside a B2B company. It means that many different people could call for support on varying issues and levels and are still grouped within the same customer.

For a B2B customer, you may have different people calling about similar problems leading to duplicate support efforts by customer support agents.

Knowing customers at the company level

B2B providers need to better understand their customers at the company level. However, in B2C, it is rare to establish such a relationship with customers. This is because support teams engage with unrelated individuals who often have low repeat usage rates (although these rates may be higher for regularly accessed services, such as personal banking).

With B2B service relationships, you typically interact with many individuals within each B2B customer, giving you a much deeper understanding of your customer.

B2C products are often sold through third parties like retail, but B2B transactions are more likely to be directly between the purchaser and supplier. The direct link gives B2B long-term relationships and longer sales cycles overall, which creates a greater opportunity to gain customer knowledge.

Technology options

The technology used in the purchase process usually differs in the B2B and B2C environments and links with how customer service is delivered.

In B2B relationships, tracking all available, useful data and monitoring interactions and issues associated with the customer company is crucial to best understand your customer and ensure you do not miss important indicators and trends about them.

Why is B2B customer service important?

Good customer service is essential for expanding and retaining your customer relationships. Here are some benefits of providing customized, low-friction B2B customer service:

Better return on investment and customer lifetime value

Customers are more likely to purchase more products from a company after receiving great customer service.

Bad experiences can result in businesses losing much of their revenue as disgruntled customers take their business elsewhere. Therefore, it is clear that providing good customer service is the key to you maintaining your customer base and stopping them from looking elsewhere.

For B2B customers, changing vendors generally requires significant effort. However, if they get bad experiences from your business regularly, their chances of leaving increase. By perfecting your B2B customer service and improving the customer experience, you are extending your customers' value and investing in better financial returns.

Reduction in customer churn

Customer churn occurs when customers stop using your products and services, which can be a major problem for B2B businesses.

Excellent customer service helps your customers better navigate your products and services, reducing your levels of customer churn.

A B2B customer service team should continually aim to meet and exceed customer expectations. This ensures they build trust and long-term relationships and ultimately minimize churn.

Greater likelihood of advocacy for your brand

Customers may recommend businesses they use after receiving a satisfying experience, which helps businesses grow their customer bases. The interactions between a customer and your support agents are memorable points of contact for these customers.

While B2C customers typically recommend business through social media or word of mouth, B2B customers often share their experiences with stakeholders and colleagues.

With time, these experiences can influence the health of B2B business relations. This increases the chances of customers renewing business deals.

B2B customer service best practices

While many businesses offer a wide range of services, only a few prioritize providing exceptional customer service.

In the B2B sector, good customer service is a huge differentiator. You typically deal with smaller numbers of higher-value relationships, which will be the foundation of your success.

To underpin this success, here are six best practices for B2B customer service that will ensure the growth and appeal of your brand in the long run:

Focus on getting the right answer rather than a fast answer

When dealing with B2B customers, there are many moving parts. These include varied areas of engagement, multiple points of contact, and diverse levels of technical knowledge.

Customers want their issues solved in a single interaction, regardless of the time it will take. Also, it may feel great to respond immediately, but it is less meaningful if the response has no resolution. 

Focus your energy and resources on getting the right answers rather than responding quickly.

Keep it human where you can

Automation in the customer service sector has the potential to take much of the negative friction out of service delivery. But, the human aspect of it is irreplaceable. This is especially true in B2B customer service, where the quality of the relationship between you and your customer will ultimately determine your success.

Most people prefer support from a human rather than automated options, even though they may provide faster responses. A human agent can demonstrate empathy and understanding, making the human touch invaluable.

Clients feel valued by your business when they communicate directly with a person. Additionally, humans tend to understand a client's problems better. Retaining your customers becomes easier when you can display emotional intelligence and empathy toward them. 

Invest in excellent phone support

Some customers prefer reaching support representatives through traditional phone calls. Still, most businesses employ phone support with minimal humans and greater digital automation. It is common to hear stories of customers getting stuck on phone calls waiting to contact customer service.

As a B2B business, it's important to approach this issue differently.

Offer excellent phone support with caring human staff on the phone lines. Minimize the use of automation, and if you do implement it, ensure it's on a small scale and straightforward. Above all, provide your customers a quick and efficient means to contact support representatives whenever they need assistance.

Make customer service meaningful internally

Your B2B customer service team knows your customers better and understands their needs more than almost any other part of your business. You should recognize your team's meaningful work and give them the credit they deserve. In addition, interact with them, inquire about what your customers care about, and listen to their responses.

Engaging your customer-facing employees enables them to make a real impact on the company's initiatives. This can transform their output into something more expansive and meaningful.

Empowerment also has financial benefits because the company's sales growth generally increases when it emotionally connects with its customers. Your B2B customer service team will likely feel a greater sense of satisfaction knowing they positively impact the company initiatives through sharing their expertise about customers with the wider business.

Listen to and implement customer feedback

Customers sometimes offer constructive feedback and insights from surveys, but some companies deem these comments out of scope. Instead of dismissing customer insights, it is essential to understand where they are coming from.

Involving customers in your business processes is crucial in B2B customer service. This is especially true when your main goal is to make your customers feel like they are partners.

When you take time to understand and dig into these requests, it has many benefits:

  • Your customers know they are understood and heard when you consider their insights. Even when you do not develop exactly what they request, they generally will feel more positive about your brand as you try to listen to them.

  • You can move forward with product building more intentionally since you understand the customers' motivations from their requests. You can then create products with features that meet various needs.

Use your data

Business data helps you make informed decisions by giving you a comprehensive overview of your needed improvements. Use your customer data to know how consumers use your products, whether they are satisfied, and if they want more.

Developing a customer journey map is one way to use B2B customer service data. The map helps your team proactively identify and resolve customer issues before a customer reaches out. It helps to identify bottlenecks in business processes, problems with the product, and even strategies your team could customize to increase productivity.

In B2B, there are generally different personas within a customer population. Ideally, you would create customized paths and experiences for each of them. Hence, you should explore whether there are multiple types of customer journeys, as one size does not fit all.

Use your customer data to personalize the customer service for each persona. For example, some customers may need support on account management. This information is unnecessary and extraneous for people not in that sector.

FAQs

How important is customer service in a B2B?

Good B2B customer service gives you a competitive edge by allowing you to create loyal customers who guarantee the business with long-term relationships.

What are the biggest challenges B2B customer support and customer success leaders face?

A lack of team communication is a big challenge when providing customer support. Service agents also face the challenge of not knowing the answers to a customer's question. This is frustrating and may lead to poor customer experiences.

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