Responsive customer service is designed to foster commitment and trust. Yet when most people hear the phrase “customer service,” their typical understanding is from the end user’s point of view.
But we must remember that customer service — and the trust that it builds — is equally critical in business-to-business relationships.
There are significant differences between supporting a business customer versus a consumer… even if the goals are similar. In fact, according to an Accenture report, more than 90 percent of B2B leaders believe that providing a great customer experience is the key to reaching their company’s goals.
B2B customer service issues can be more difficult to solve… due, in a large part, to the complexity of the transactions. And the scale of potential consequences. After all, there can be significantly more money and time on the line. Longer sales cycles. And decisions that often are made by groups… rather than individuals.
Due to this complexity, B2B support teams are expected to have significantly more expertise. And more decision-making authority.
Because it’s such a high stakes opportunity, B2B customer service needs to be priority one… a process that must begin, even before the sale.
Of course, staffing a call center and training will be considered, as minimum requirements.
Achieving a fully integrated “customer-oriented culture,” however, involves significantly more dedication and discipline.
Top Six Priorities for Delivering Outstanding Customer Service
Hire the right people
While some relationship skills can be trained, it’s important to recruit staff who already possess such traits as charisma, patience and enthusiasm.
Customer service team members also require empathy to better understand customers — to read between the lines of requests — and to best align with real issues. Even more critical is their ability to help diffuse potential on-the-job, product related frustrations.
Technical proficiency always can be taught. The desire for nurturing, on the other hand, must be ingrained fully within one’s spirit. In fact, there’s proof that empathy actually can breed aspiration.
Consider a new study by Catalyst, which found some significant, constructive effects… when employees experience empathy from leadership:
- Innovation. When people reported that their leaders were empathetic… they also were more likely to report that they were able to be “innovative” — 61% of employees — compared to only 13% of employees, with less empathetic leaders.
- Engagement. 76% of people who experienced empathy from their leaders reported they were “engaged” — compared with only 32%, who experienced less empathy.
The goal of assembling the right team… is to attract and hire intelligent, collaborative and competent people. Who understand the value of their important tasks. And the impact that their work represents… for helping to define and shape, the brand’s promise.
Invest in the right tools
CRM software. All too often, distributed workflow — across multiple influencers on both sides of the sale — can lead to potential mix-ups and misunderstandings. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software will be critical to help manage those interactions. And aid in the ability to resolve issues quickly and efficiently.
Issue tracking systems. B2B “situations” often require a service team to delegate an opportunity to specialists. Without a tracking system in place, there may be confusion about the status of a particular “care” ticket. And who is handling, which opportunity.
Website chat and messaging. When considering purchases, typically customers generate a lot of questions… due to the complexity of B2B products. So, they may need more in-depth explanations. Or more supporting content… designed to help them evaluate that decision.
Website chat is well-suited to guiding customers through their journey… as it is delivered in real time. However, it’s important to allow the “chat” an easy path to escalate — to a call, when it may be needed.
In-person chat over SMS or messaging apps like WhatApp can help resolve issues… and keep the lines of communication open. Live chat and messaging both offer the benefit of instantly documenting interactions. Which makes it that much easier to keep track of who-said-what… and to collaborate on issues, as a team.
This tracking and collaboration should be integrated — and serve as a permanent record — of all interactions.
To chatbot or not to chatbot. As illustrated brilliantly by this Geico TV spot… apprehension continues to exist around talking to a robot. Yet artificial intelligence is improving at such a rate — that AI is moving into automated customer service roles, at a torrid pace of acceptance.
Enter the chatbot. Chatbots were invented to bridge human limitations. And, although sophisticated chatbots can be very responsive and much faster than human-run live chat, they are still limited. As software, chatbots can’t think… they can only process the information that they’ve been programmed to process.
Despite limitations, chatbots can be leveraged effectively for simple tasks. Or for guiding people through a decision tree. While they cannot replace human beings, chatbots can serve as the right tool for the right application. And what’s more, they can be programmed to work in conjunction with live chat.
Product knowledge boosts customers’ perceived value of the product. And, most importantly, it manages expectations early. Investing in education inspires customers to remain loyal… by helping them reach their goals faster.
Of course, this type of program can’t rely on a “one size fits all” approach. Instead, it’s important to recognize that different users — who depend on a brand’s products or services — have different objectives and backgrounds. Someone responsible for the technical implementation, for example, needs different information… than a sales executive.
Tailor documentation to different users
Provide product information tailored to each customer’s unique role. Engineers will need more technical data. Production managers must be fully aware of every shipping milestone. And installation crews require detailed staging instructions.
Delivering tailored documentation early — and making certain that updates go to the right people in each customer’s organization — can help answer questions and manage situations, in advance. So that those situations… are less likely to become eventual customer service problems.
Design a customer experience strategy
Since customer experience refers to every interaction a customer has with a business… a customer experience “strategy” defines the specific plans in place — to deliver a positive and meaningful experience, across those interactions.
Customer experience design aims to create a frictionless experience for interactions with an organization. It’s centered on improving processes. For setting and meeting customers’ expectations. And making it easy — as well as intuitive — for customers to find solutions to their problems.
Responsive customer service is a competitive advantage
Especially important for aligning Sales and Marketing, it’s clear that a commitment to customer service creates a distinct competitive advantage. In fact, delivering a clearly articulated brand promise — and building a service-oriented culture — will continue to pay dividends (long after the initial investments) for building product manufacturers.
If you’re interested in developing stronger alignment for your sales and marketing teams, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to get the conversation started.