Achieving excellence in business-to-business (B2B) customer service (CS) requires expertise across numerous fronts. While CS is only part of the larger customer experience (CX) system, it requires understanding the human nuance of your customers’ interactions and communication—their unique challenges and pain points.
Providing the best level of B2B CS means having the underlying technology to make all of those human connections appear seamless and instantaneous. It’s a tall order, so we’ve created this resource to offer insight into what it takes to develop a successful B2B customer service strategy.
What Is B2B Customer Service?
B2B customer service involves direct support to other businesses. For example, acting as an invisible intermediary between a business and their customers. To be successful you must have a knowledgeable connection to the company’s unique systems and processes.
Outsourcing B2B CS requires deep, industry-specific care that can’t be reduced to one-size-fits-all support. B2B customers have more complex needs than standard consumer CS, such as:
- Multiple levels of company interactions
- Support for internal processes
- Sales and training support
Every company brings unique challenges that employees face across multiple departments in their given industry. B2B CS benefits immensely from a company that provides a complete customer experience, where highly-trained agents unify everything from public-facing systems to tracking inner-company solutions.
B2B Customer Service Means Your Business is Our Business
With B2B services, support is a long-term relationship between agents and teams. But this can look very different from one industry to the next.
For instance, Global Response works with numerous challenging industries, including finance and healthcare—both of which bring regulatory hurdles requiring highly specialized knowledge. When working within the education sector, flexibility is needed to keep up with the direction of institutions and technology (such as moving from physical classrooms to online courses).
B2B CS means an expansive understanding of everything from software as a service (Saas) to marketing and inventory/warehousing to e-commerce. Unique industries require precise, accurate, personable care. The client’s business is directly impacted by the quality of service they receive.
B2B Customer Service vs. B2C Customer Service
There are distinct differences between business-to-business and business-to-consumer customer service.
Both B2B and B2C exhibit these shared qualities:
- Agents who are great listeners
- Empathetic service—customers feel seen and heard
- Self-service options for the end users
- Analytics to prove CS is making targeted improvements
- Industry-specific tailoring of support
- Building relationships for brand loyalty
With B2B CS, building relationships can be about longer-term support. This means often working with the same client team members: In more complex businesses, it means keeping track of multiple separate teams.
With B2C CS, solving issues may be for one instance or a handful of issues. Where B2B emphasizes ongoing support (often simultaneously extending consumer-level care to users), B2C means a higher level of involvement in team training and turnover as you acclimate new hires.
Other unique differences between B2B and B2C customer service include:
- B2B may involve multiple purchases from long-term clients more often than B2C.
- B2B issues can be more complex than B2C issues—involving technical systems, logistics, and other problems requiring a deeper understanding of the client’s unique moving parts.
- B2B customers often have a greater sense of urgency. Their needs can be directly tied to their operations (and profits).
- B2B brand loyalty often revolves around a direct connection between the customer and specific representatives who handle ongoing support.
Companies That Rock Their B2B Customer Service Strategy
There’s a reason certain companies continuously rise to the top with their strategic customer experience aptitude. We’ve noted the following examples of what makes for a great approach to their CS-specific approach to CX.
Qualtrics provides a wide range of B2B CX services. Their work with Johnson Controls is a great example of their ability to improve CS efficiency for companies with extremely complex operations.
Johnson Controls provides over 100 brands of support structures for building infrastructure, along with complementary technology and services. They needed expert help with their 20 separate business teams using 13 unique vendor systems.
Qualtrics developed a single, comprehensive platform for Johnson Controls that consolidated conflicting systems into unified support. This resulted in better, specialized services for their most loyal customers—all while saving costs on separate vendors.
IBM has long been recognized for excellence in B2B CS. With its roots going all the way back to 1911, IBM’s cornerstone has been its ability to adjust to changes in technology, often redefining its role in the marketplace on multiple technological fronts.
In the case of IBM’s Cloud Storage, they provide every customer with a team of specialists to train them on their product. Notably, they also ask for feedback, resulting in high retention rates and long-term customers. This illuminates a quality Global Response holds dear: the key to great CS is superior CX.
CustomerGauge is a B2B CX that recognizes other B2B CX companies that display excellence in service, including an annual award.
In this instance, they highlight Medallia as a B2B vendor that exhibits CS characteristics every B2B CX should strive for:
- Uncovering actionable CX drivers
- Customer and employee feedback
- Chat logs
- Actionable reviews
- Cross-functional use
- Customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) integrations
Why Is Customer Service Important in B2B?
Providing B2B CS means understanding an industry’s internal operations and supporting their own B2B or B2C end users. The best quality care originates from providing personalized attention to every level of a company’s needs.
It’s about serving internal operations and logistics as much as having solutions for appointments, warranties, or health benefits.
B2B Customer Service Best Practices
Businesses have unique support needs—not only are they different from consumer needs, but each business requires individualized attention.
CS must serve the depth and breadth of each industry. As customer experience experts, Global Response brings together siloed systems and departments, so the resulting CS excels from a fluid combination of knowledge and technology.
The following are universal qualities that set the standard for your B2B customer service strategy:
Provide Swift Support with Omnichannel Service
Multichannel allows businesses to connect to agents in numerous ways, such as phone, live chat, email, and direct messages on social media. But multichannel support doesn’t go far enough to ensure care is seamless. Often one channel needs transitional time to remain in the loop.
Omnichannel support—as we provide at Global Response—means all channels are interactively engaged at all times.
CS should help your client reduce long wait times while shifting seamlessly across all customer touchpoints.
Customer service communications should traverse phone support to chat and other channels without extended waiting or redundant recaps between ever-changing support agents.
B2B CS Should be Linked to Revenue for Valuable Insights
A solid B2B customer service strategy will be well-researched, touching on all of the client’s operational priorities that involve their customers. Ongoing results should be directly linked to your analytics in order to see the immediate impact of training and implementation.
Your success should be tied to the client’s success, via data that tracks retention, loyalty, and positive public sentiment.
B2B Customer Service Provides Rich Features and Cost Savings Through Outsourcing
Great CS means acting as an extension to your client’s company. It could be a burdensome expense for your client to train their employees for multilingual services or develop a regimen for 24-hour year-long support.
Outsourcing comprehensive CX services helps companies grow their support team—at pace, scale, and budget. This creates customer service that is consistent across all channels, at all times.
CS Should Serve Everyone with a Personal Touch
Staffing a robust support team means providing inclusive, multilingual services. The underlying technology helps users connect to the best support, but it’s the attention to care well-trained agents provide that reflects the heart of a company.
Empathy and instantaneous knowledge about products and services communicate to every customer their needs are a top priority. Empathetic service also means your agents are trained to think about issues and problem-solving from the customer’s point of view.
Inclusive, personal CS means being prepared with solutions for the following questions:
- How does it impact your client’s customers when things aren’t going right?
- What frustrations are customers feeling?
- What causes their greatest sense of immediacy?
- What is the first action you can take to reduce their anxiety?
Make Strides with Your B2B CS with Global Response
With more than 40 years of experience serving our customers and their brands, Global Response’s omnichannel support means all customer touchpoints are simultaneously available—all the time.
Whether support needs to come from the desktop, mobile, or in-store, we streamline and synchronize your various channels for seamless end-to-end customer service.
We’d love the opportunity to help you make the most of your customer experience services. Get in touch with us today.