It’s much easier to have a relationship with retail (business to consumer or B2C) customers because they are buying for their own benefit, while business to business (B2B) buyers are often part of a team collaborating to make purchasing decisions in the workplace.
We decided to look at what we can learn about customer service from B2C companies and what new techniques are needed to improve service to B2B buyers.
What’s the difference between B2C and B2B customers?
B2C customers normally purchase just one or a few items at relatively low prices. Typically, they will be looking at specific features to meet their needs, social proof and online recommendations, and they will be interested in keen pricing and discounts. They want to engage with brands that provide personalized experiences and match their values, beliefs and expectations.
While B2B buyers will bring these personal shopping habits to the workplace and will still be looking for a good price it probably isn’t their top priority. They will be researching the market for products that meet their organization’s specific needs and will want high quality content that allows them to review detailed specifications and data on reliability. Above all, they will be looking for evidence that you can solve their problems and top quality customer support.
Your buyers’ purchasing process is complicated and time-consuming and might require input from legal, financial and operational teams. They might want to speak with subject and product experts and are likely to have their own specialist areas of knowledge. They will want and expect their suppliers to make their purchasing process as frictionless as possible.
The B2B buying journey
In a B2C customer service setting people will most frequently want a simple solution like a product return or refund for something they have bought for themselves. The number of possible outcomes is probably quite small, so the route to customer satisfaction can be quite straightforward and short.
In contrast, B2B buying is more involved and detailed. While B2C customers are unlikely to speak with the same representative again, the complexity of the B2B process makes repeated contacts with the same people much more likely, so consistency is essential. Some B2B companies might even have dedicated customer service support for their high-value clients.
B2B products and services meet specific business requirements and often involve technical knowledge. The issues and questions that arise during and after the purchasing process are likely to be more complicated with multiple stages, each with their own queries and resolutions. Effective systems, documentation and trusted approaches and methodologies will all be needed to deliver high quality customer service in a B2B context.
As a result, B2B customer service could involve multiple customer service representatives, account managers, and various technical teams whose responses will all need to be coordinated before an issue or query can be resolved.
Top tips for B2B customer service
Keep your customers – once customers have chosen to work with you it will be important to meet their expectations, which will be evolving all the time. Customer loyalty schemes will improve retention rates by making sure you respond quickly and effectively to their needs.
With email functionality built in to your ecommerce platform you can target different customer segments and send reminders to people who have abandoned their purchases. You can also use your ecommerce platform and purpose-designed processes and workflows to capture and share your buyers’ feedback on their overall experience and how they would like you to improve.
Be proactive – in a B2B environment there are many touchpoints that can inform your customer service, sales and marketing teams about likely issues and their resolutions. The secret is to integrate key enterprise and customer relationship management (CRM) systems and knowledge hubs, so your customers can benefit quickly from your combined experience and understanding of their needs.
Moving forwards, every issue and its solution can be shared and analyzed as a learning opportunity. When common challenges are identified a proactive approach to solve your customers’ problems before they know they have them will add value to your service. It will increase customer retention, reduce ‘ad hoc’ customer service requests, and help you to manage your customer service resources.
Support self-service – many B2B companies have streamlined their processes during the pandemic, focusing on digital self-service options to deliver speed, transparency, and expertise throughout the customer journey.
You can improve customer satisfaction and make the best use of your resources when you provide a convenient and easy to use self-service portal. With a simple login, your buyers can use your ecommerce site to access their current order status, buying history and credit arrangements. They can even have tailored menus of their own preferred products with a favorites list for easy reordering. If they would like some help during their ordering process, they can speak to one of your customer service team members who can then complete the order on their behalf or hand control back to them.
A helpful self-service library of ‘how to’ articles and videos, product documentation, basic troubleshooting, and frequently asked questions will allow your customers to resolve most straightforward issues, leaving your support team with more time to work on the solutions to more complex questions.
When you integrate your ecommerce platform with a reliable single source of information about your customer’s history, recent activities, and preferences you can automate many processes. Your customer services, sales and marketing teams will have valuable data to provide useful, timely and relevant offers and promotions that will help you to increase their lifetime value to your business.
Become more customer-centric – with the right ecommerce solution and integration with your key business systems you can create a customer-centric organization that will consistently deliver outstanding customer service.
As a leading B2B ecommerce platform powering manufacturing, distribution, and service businesses around the world, Cloudfy allows you to deliver outstanding customer experiences. You can create an impressive online store with full integration to customer orders, pricing, product and stock data with a range of enterprise resource planning (ERP), warehouse and accounting back office systems.
Book a free demonstration today to find out how Cloudfy can help to improve service and satisfaction for your customers.