Leaving 2020, we look back at a year full of unexpected challenges that affected virtually every person and every industry around the world. As the word “unprecedented” rings through our mind, we look ahead to 2021, learning from what has ultimately been a year of challenges but also innovation and progress for many industries. We reflect on the people who helped our companies get through the last year — a year with so much unknown that it became crucial to trust and rely on the people supporting your business.
In the past year, the way companies interacted with customers shifted. Before, marketers in both B2C and B2B worlds had a tendency to lose focus on customer service and focus too much on the sale. But in 2020, it became clear that all marketers have to focus strongly on customer service to build relationships and earn the trust of their customers rather than relying solely on new sales. This focus on the customer is arguably even more important in the B2B world where relationships tend to be less transactional and involve many stakeholders.
Especially in the ever-changing world of today, it is crucial for B2B companies to continue to focus on customer support. The customer experience can affect not only your reputation in the industry but ultimately your bottom line as well. Did you know customers are willing to pay up to 16% more for a better customer experience? As we enter 2021 — and what we hope is a post-pandemic era — focusing on customer relationships and maintaining a balance of delivering on promises while making your customers feel supported will be crucial for success. Here are five B2B customer service best practices for the coming year.
1. Understand your customers and focus on them.
In order to build a strong B2B customer experience, you have to know who your audience really is.
In the world today, a one-size-fits-all approach will no longer suffice — you need customized experiences and offerings that will drive value for each of your unique customers. Only 14% of large B2B companies are actually focused on the customer, which means there is a huge opportunity to differentiate your company within the B2B world simply by providing outstanding customer service. Making your current customers feel supported and understood while also adapting the same mentality for prospects as they come through your sales pipeline, could ultimately help you grow your business overall.
Tenfold, a vertical software application provider, also reminds marketers to keep in mind that while many B2C relationships are more about a one-time purchase, B2B companies are more likely to rely on long-term relationships. That means you need to understand your customers and adapt to them as they grow over time. When you do that, the growth will in turn come for your company as well.
2. Be a partner, not a salesperson.
Developing strong customer relationships will ultimately result in customer satisfaction.
Your customers need to know you understand their business goals and objectives and that you are there to support them. When you first start developing relationships with customers, make sure they know you care about their business, not just making your sale. Customer bases for B2B companies are continually trending toward consolidation. If this trend continues, fostering resilient customer relationships could one day be the key to maintaining business after a merger.
According to FreshDesk, since B2B sales most often involve more stakeholders than a typical B2C sale, it becomes important to be seen as a valued member of your customer’s team. If it isn’t feasible to truly position yourself in this way, attempt to, at minimum, prove yourself to be a valued asset to key team members.
Make not only your primary point of contact but also their entire team see you as an advocate for their business, and they will trust you to help them grow their business. If you can understand their needs, bring relevant solutions to the table and prove ROI, you will set yourself up for a long and successful partnership rather than a one-and-done, transactional sale.
3. Deliver on your promises.
Sometimes customer support can be as simple as doing what you say you will.
Customers want to know they are supported by the people they choose to do business with. Even when something doesn’t go as planned, be transparent with customers and provide them with options to improve in the future. If you tell a customer or a prospect you will get them a sample by the end of the day, do it. If you are trying to build a customer journey with marketing automation, show the client the statistics that prove the tactic or tool to be valuable. Provide an example whenever you can. Don’t forget, you may need to provide different data points for different audiences throughout the customer journey.
You will also need to make sure that all your teams are aligned. In the B2B world, too often sales and marketing can lose sight of each other’s important roles in the overall business. This can be confusing for customers. Be sure that anyone — whether it’s sales, marketing or a customer service team member — who interacts with a potential customer is aligned on the ultimate goal: creating a positive experience for the customer. Even though the sales and marketing teams aren’t directly considered members of the customer service team, all these groups still play a role in forming the customer’s overall experience.
This concept also extends directly to customer service teams. Make sure your team is readily available for any and all potential questions from a customer. Managing expectations is important, but making sure someone is available when they should be can be a key differentiator in overall customer satisfaction. Business to Community reminds readers that acquisition is often more costly than retention, so being intentional about maintaining a positive relationship with customers is truly worth the time and investment. It is worth nothing that between 30-40% of B2B customers offer referrals — but only if they have had an overall positive customer experience.
4. Ask for feedback.
A simple survey can help you improve your business.
One of the best ways to continually improve your operations and your business model is to ask for feedback — both from audiences you interacted with and from those who may not have been as interested in your offerings. Asking for feedback from only highly satisfied customers won’t really show you any areas of improvement. Understanding what works best and what doesn’t work at all for each of your different audiences — big or small, content or complacent — will help you better serve your customers throughout the customer journey. A simple customer satisfaction survey can help your B2B company improve the overall experience and help you fine tune your processes and your people.
Further, B2B companies can often become complacent in long-term relationships, so having your account management teams regularly and intentionally check in with customers can help keep your company at its best. You don’t have to wait for a formal survey to gather this feedback. According to Hubspot, 80% of B2B customers now expect companies to respond to them in real time. Taking the time to understand how and when your customers want to be communicated with and how their customer journey is going on a regular basis will ultimately help you in the long run.
5. Be flexible.
Following a year full of adaptation, maintain your ability to pivot in the future.
As we look ahead to 2021, flexibility will remain a key focus for all industries. We have come together in ways we would have never imagined in 2020 and shifted focus based on the ways industries grew and adapted. B2B companies need to maintain that same flexibility as they continue to support customers in the new year.
Our final point of these B2B customer service best practices is to make sure your customers feel understood and that you are providing value-added services to them. Show your customers you care by continuing to bring new ideas to the table and encouraging them to grow. You need to earn their trust, do what you say you will, and continually work to better the customer relationship in order to ultimately grow your business.
As you and your customers prepare for 2021 and what could potentially be another year of change, be sure keep these B2B customer service best practices top of mind. A positive customer experience can be the key to a long-lasting business relationship.