Almost every B2C (Business to Consumer) organization knows that high-quality customer service is critical in today’s market. But many B2B (Business to Business) and B2G (Business to Government) firms fail to pay enough attention to customer service, this is a critical mistake.
The B2B/B2G customer is also a B2C customer and expects the same service from their business partners – technology partners, marketing firms, real estate, consultants, etc. – as they get at Nordstrom.
This will become even more so as a new generation of leadership takes over that sees less of a line between their professional life and their business life. As the managers and leaders of tomorrow take over they are going to expect, frankly demand, their relationships with business vendors look more like the business relationships they have in their personal life. This will mean they expect a 24/7 personalized friction-less online experience. Just as firms must adjust to a new generation of workers they must also adjust to a new generation of business customers.
In this Forbes article, How To Humanize Customer Service For B2B Organizations, Shep Hyken provides four areas that every B2B leader should consider in their customer service game plan:
- Understand the customer: Customer support agents must have information about the customer – both the company and its employees. Support must be able to see the entire picture, which includes the customer’s profile, history of purchases, problems and more. A good system should be able to bring all of that information together. And while you may get info on the company as a whole, you must remember that you are dealing with a person (or people) inside that company. Having access to this information is essential, as it is the basis for delivering a good customer experience.
- Provide omnichannel support options: Giving customers options for how they connect with you is prevalent in the B2C world, but not as much in B2B. Still, customers from any type of business want to be able to connect with you in the way that’s most convenient for them. Cater to those preferences. Some may want to use the phone. Others might want to engage in chat, a ticket system, or even a self-service option. Not all options may be used, but all may need to be considered. Furthermore, the system you use to manage your customer support must consolidate all of the customer’s information, regardless of the channel the customer uses. It must appear seamless.
- Use multimedia support tools to save time and provide clarity in communications: This is one of my favorite ways to deliver support. Using video, audio, screen sharing and other multimedia tools can create a great customer experience. For example, an agent can create a custom video for the customer. That is a powerful way to interact. Something as simple as a how-to video can be just as effective when presented the right way. Using company employees as the “stars” of the video also creates a Human-to-Human connection. There are many ways to use multimedia to enhance and humanize the customer’s experience.
- Use metrics: This is another favorite topic of mine. Measuring performance and analyzing data can help identify which customers need more help and support. Companies can be proactive in reaching out to help, rather than reacting to incoming support requests. Measuring performance can help you spot where more training is needed. TeamSupport suggests that tracking customer satisfaction can shed light on “at-risk” relationships. For example, if a particular agent gets negative reviews from a customer, while the rest of that customer’s reviews about other agents are positive, it may indicate a personality conflict. Again, a good software system can spot this and give the company the information needed to build a stronger relationship with its customers.
What shines through in each of these four areas is the critical importance of having the technology for delivering world class customer support. It is not enough to assume this will happen through existing sales and operations channels. The modern B2B/B2G firm needs to ensure that the customer support function is treated with the same importance as sales and finance. Having a customer support leader that reports up to the same level as the CFO, CMO, CIO, etc. should be a no-brainer for any CEO today.
Bottom line: B2B companies must be sure they have the people, processes, and systems to deliver the world class customer support their customers expect, and that means putting it front and center in terms of leadership and resources.