When it comes to customer service, you really want to go out of your way to make people feel appreciated. This is even more important in a day and age where everyone is used to getting what they want, when they want it. In fact, a significant portion of consumers are willing to pay a higher price for better customer service. So it’s not a question of whether you should dedicate some time to prioritize it. This should be a given.
That said, how to go about it depends in part on the kind of business you’re running. For example, B2C engagement with consumers is purely transactional: You pay X for a specific item, and off you go into the sunset. On the other hand, B2B sales come with a longer sales cycle, where establishing deeper connections with prospects is part and parcel of doing business.
So, how can you ensure you’re developing effective B2B support? And what are some best practices and tools that can help you delight your audience and overcome b2b challenges?
What Is B2B Customer Service?
B2B customer service is the process of providing customer support to businesses rather than individual consumers. This can include everything from answering customer questions, addressing concerns, providing technical support, and managing product returns.
This type of support is typically handled by a dedicated team of service representatives who are trained to deal with the unique needs of businesses. Because B2B customer service often requires a higher level of knowledge and expertise, it’s important to choose a customer service provider that has experience dealing with businesses in your industry.
What Makes B2B Customer Support More Complex?
B2B customer service is all about building long-term relationships, both with prospects and with existing and former customers.
Whereas a quick ad or commercial can gain a sale for a B2C company — think of a video of a cheeseburger when you’re oh so hungry — B2B entities have a steeper mountain to climb.
First, your products or services require a bigger investment. That alone is going to put some pause for prospects; not because they’re stingy, but because they want to compare their options.
This comparison game entails doing thorough research. Conducting online searches for how each offering solves their specific pain points, and what makes one product/service better than another. This is your chance to establish yourself as an industry expert by not only crafting effective inbound marketing strategies, but also being available to answer their questions as soon as possible: Via email, live chat, knowledge base, social media, phone, text, or online form.
Which specific communication channels to offer depends on your market research and your buyer personas’ preferences; but you should certainly provide several of them.
In addition, you have to establish robust customer support for people who’ve already become customers; and you want to do so for every stage of their relationship with you:
- Additional education
- SLA issues
- Software or product updates
- Follow ups
Why You Should Prioritize B2B Customer Support
Now, when a business is already spread thin with their regular business operations, it may be tempting to prioritize other things and deal with a customer support strategy later. Stop right now. No matter what’s going on at work, you should always keep B2B customer support at the forefront of your mind. Doing so will have a direct impact on:
Happy customers are long-term customers. And there are many ways to make them happy: make it easy to reach you, getting answers promptly, complying with SLA terms. You make their lives easier, they’ll love you forever.
Customer satisfaction goes hand in hand with customer retention. When you regularly exceed their expectations, they have no reason to go elsewhere to seek what you’re offering. And when you consistently deliver value, they are more likely to develop brand loyalty.
While you always want to allocate some of your marketing budget to keep your pipeline full with qualified leads, retaining existing customers is more cost effective than exclusively focusing on new ones. Also, repeat customers are willing to spend more, because they already know you’ll deliver.
Satisfied and repeat customers and are happy to tell the world about the benefits they’re receiving from doing business with you. They can either post about it on social media, tell their network during conversations, or even just provide a referral when you ask for it. Either way, you’re getting more people coming through your proverbial door.
10 Best Practices for B2B Customer Support
Alright. So customer support is the backbone of B2B companies. So what can you do to ensure you’re optimizing your efforts?
1. Provide Adequate Training
Since there are so many components and so many variables within a B2B customer support context, you can’t just give your support staff a script and have them memorize it. Everyone needs to be appropriately trained to (a) do their jobs efficiently, and (b) keep prospects and customers happy. Make sure they know each product and service like the back of their hands, that they have the soft skills necessary for their roles, and that they feel free to ask for what they need to better do their jobs.
2. Ensure Your Support Reps Have the Resources They Need
Even teams who are ready and willing to hit it out of the ballpark with customer service need the tools to do so. An integral one is a good customer relationship management (CRM) software. This will enable them to always have each contact’s entire file within reach, so that they can have conversations within context. You should also provide them with SOPs, and additional software to make their jobs easier — such as a help desk, an internal knowledge base — and the authority to make decisions to help customers on the spot.
3. Understand Your Customers
Every single target audience has different needs. And even within each particular audience, there are different stages in a buyer’s journey. To best serve them, it’s crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of what they need at any given moment. What are their preferred methods of communication? What are their apprehensions? What do they need right at this moment?
4. Be Customer-Centric
Let’s say that you truly are a world wonder. Your extraordinary IQ and talent have elevated you to the top of your industry. Wonderful. Save it for when your parents boast about you to their friends. Your focus should always be on what’s in it for your customers? How will their lives improve by doing business with you? How can they be the hero of the story? Address everything from their point of view.
5. Make Everything as Easy as Possible
Have you ever called a customer service line, only to hear a recording that all lines were busy, then the line went dead? How much did your heart sing with joy? When someone is reaching out to you with a question or concern, they already encountered a hiccup. Making it difficult to get them resolved will leave them frustrated. Keep doing it, and they’ll be angry. This is why it’s beneficial to offer a variety of options to get answers. Other things you can do to make things easy for them is to enable them to make payments through your website, or watch or read educational content on demand.
6. Personalize Experiences
This is yet another example of how having the right CRM strategy and an effective B2B marketing strategy will help you become a better business. The more information you gather about each customer, the better able you are to provide them with exactly what they need. Know what previous communications have been about. Make suggestions based on their previous purchases, identify upsell opportunities, address them by name in marketing emails, send them content that’s relevant to them. This personalization will let them see that you value their business and aren’t treating them like fungible goods.
7. Be Proactive
Be thorough with your service that you can anticipate a customer’s future needs, as well as identify potential risks — such as software downtime or needing to install updates. Then act to have it have as little an impact as possible to your clients’ operations. Be transparent. Let them know what’s going on and what you’re doing to address it. If someone made a mistake, own it and make up for it. This fosters trust and lets customers know that you’re always several steps ahead.
8. Be Prompt With Your Responses
Answer all questions as soon as possible. In fact, set up automated responses to let them know that you received their communication and that they can expect to receive an answer within X time frame. Never leave people waiting or wondering whether their message was lost somewhere in cyberspace. This will cost you customers; and if it happens frequently enough, your reputation.
9. Follow Up
Once an issue has been resolved, follow up with customers to inquire how things are going. Have they encountered any additional hurdles? Is there anything else you can do to make their experience better? Even if everything’s been fine, it’s good practice to also reach out to new customers to ensure that their onboarding process went on without a hitch.
10. Ask For Their Feedback
Always ask for feedback. Whether it’s praise or constructive criticism, it’ll help you gauge how your customer service team is doing. You’ll know whom to reward, who should be in leadership positions, or whether you need to provide them with additional training or resources. Either way, all information received is useful.
3 of the Best B2B Customer Support Examples
Now, let’s look at some real-life examples of companies who are winning at life — at least from a customer service perspective.
HubSpot offers multiple ways for customers to reach their support team. This includes their knowledge base, live chat, email, phone, requesting a call back, Twitter, or asking the HubSpot community through their discussion forums.
Do keep in mind that some of these options are only available to professional and enterprise accounts; but even their free CRM accounts have access to the HubSpot community help. Customers can also get real time updates on outages, and get training, consulting, and technical support.
IBM knows that customers only remember two kinds of experiences: Bad ones and excellent ones. That’s why they offer innovative tools, such as artificial intelligence, frictionless interactions, and dedicated customer success specialists that ensure their clients have a full understanding of their softwares and cloud storage.
They also offer a client portal where you can log in and check the status of everything relating to your account. In addition, they provide a wide array of resources, such as courses, digital learning subscriptions, technical articles, tutorials, developer education, and a myriad other tools to ensure their customers get everything they need to optimize the use of their services.
Slack offers a comprehensive knowledge base organized into easy to browse categories. You can also contact their support team via landing page form, social media, or customer account. Their whole concept is about communicating effectively, and they deliver on that promise in the way they interact with their customers.
In addition, customers get an actual person addressing their concerns, in real time. And tagging specific individuals ensures that the right person gets the communication. They also offer an omnichannel experience, enabling customers to report bugs through the app, responding to support tickets through Twitter, and providing 24/7 email support.
The Best B2B Customer Support Tools
While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it provides a great starting point to make your customers feel like a priority.
Quick question? Let them get their answer in real time. Repetitive questions? Implement a chatbot to address them and free up the time of your service reps to focus on more complex issues. It’s also a more conversational way for people to engage with you than email or online form. Or hey, maybe some customers just don’t like talking to people. If they still need your service, live chat is invaluable.
The same way you like to do online searches to learn about a subject at your own leisure, plenty of people like to have the alternative to look for answers on their own. And providing customers with your own knowledge base means they get the information straight from the source. They can also browse through related topics or even discover things that may not have been on their radar.
Help Desk Automation
Help desk automation ensures that (a) nobody falls through the cracks, and (b) that service requests are addressed in order of priority. It can also be set up so that specific questions are routed to certain individuals who have the skills and knowledge to better address them. This kind of software can also consolidate multiple requests concerning the same issue.
Customer Feedback Surveys
When all is said and done, the best people who can tell you how you’re doing are those whom you have served. While you can ask them open-ended questions or to just leave you a review, sending them surveys makes it easier for them by providing them with a structured format. Their answers can be a goldmine of insights. And if you notice that the same issues or suggestions keep coming up, implement solutions to address them. It’ll significantly improve your customer service and make your audience feel heard.
Keeping track of all of your customer service metrics lets you know what’s working and what isn’t. For example, how many service tickets do you get during a particular time frame? How long does it take to resolve each of them? Are there any repeat issues? How many tickets is each rep resolving? Are there any indications that your team may need additional training or resources? All of these insights will give you a roadmap of how to move forward to provide optimal service.
How HubSpot Is the Ultimate B2B SaaS Solution
Software as a Service (SaaS) has become the way to effectively run businesses. Cloud storage, easier scalability, integrations with popular tech stacks, fast updates, and user-friendly interfaces have turned this technology into fundamental aspects of any business.
And when it comes to customer service, HubSpot is the ultimate SaaS solution for B2B companies. Some of its most practical tools to make this process easier for you include:
Customer Relationship Management
HubSpot’s CRM keeps all of your contacts’ information in one easily accessible, centralized location. This includes their names, companies, lifecycle stage, prior communications, past purchases, and previous customer support tickets. This eliminates the need to transfer customers from department to department or putting them on hold while you figure out what’s going on with their file.
Help Desk Ticketing
You can immediately create support tickets and assign them to specific team members. HubSpot can also organize them based on priority status. And no matter where the communication came from — social media, email, online form, live chat — all information is kept together in one place.
You can use HubSpot’s Workflows tool to automate repetitive tasks. You can also set up keywords so that the most adequate customer service representative gets notified of when someone needs assistance. You can also create Workflows to send Thank You emails, as well as lead nurturing and follow up emails.
HubSpot’s personalization tokens enable you to show information to your contacts based on their property values in the CRM. This includes addressing them by name, and showing them relevant information on website pages, landing pages, and follow up emails.
Conversational chatbots can take care of frequently asked questions and address simple queries. This is an ideal solution to provide some form of customer support 24/7. The bot can even generate service tickets, and notify a team member to follow up with the customer.
Customer Service Portal
Life is so much easier when you can just log into your account and check everything relating to your account. Any account. And your customers would appreciate it too when conducting business with you. HubSpot makes this possible and lets your clients review everything relating to project status, transactions, purchases, knowledge base, and previous communications. They get their answers as soon as they need them, and your team is not tied up answering repetitive questions.
The same way logging into an account to check the status of anything is a lot easier (and preferable) than calling someone, HubSpot stays on top of frictionless transactions with their Payments tools. Purchases are secure, and you can send your customers payment links through their preferred method of communication: live chat, text, or email.
Customer Feedback Tools
HubSpot’s Service Hub allows your customers to submit their feedback regarding their interactions with your company. You can also use their feedback tools to create surveys, use net promoter scores (NPS), customer effort score (CES), and customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys. You can also track all of the feedback in a single dashboard.
Customized Reporting Dashboards
Whether you prefer line graphs, pie charts, or whatever strikes your fancy, you can create reporting dashboards to better understand how your customer service team is performing and how quickly issues are getting resolved. You can report ticket volume, response time, feedback, and whatever else you may want to monitor.
No matter your industry, if you’re a B2B business, customer support has to be one of your main focuses. At the end of the day, happy customers are what will keep the lights on long-term. So make sure your customers are aware that you value them as much as your business itself. It’ll always be worth it.
Alejandra Zilak is a content writer, ghostwriter, blogger, and editor. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism and a Juris Doctor. She's licensed to practice law in four jurisdictions and worked as an attorney for almost a decade before switching careers to write full time. She loves being part of the Bluleadz team and implementing SEO best practices with her content. When not working, she loves to read, write fiction, and long distance running.