B2B customer service is a critical part of managing your company’s customer relationships. When customers have questions during the sales process or encounter issues after a purchase, your service team can be the difference between a customer who remains satisfied or one who starts to look elsewhere.
Here’s what to know about why customer service is so important and how it affects your company’s success.
- B2B customer service is a complex process that can often be the determining factor between customer loyalty and lost business.
- Good customer service serves as a form of B2B marketing on its own. Through retention and referrals, it can increase your company’s revenue and sales.
- Even with great customer service, not every lead will convert into a customer, but companies can still learn from the experience.
- When a problem arises, B2B companies must respond with proactive customer service.
B2B Customer Service: A Quick Overview
B2B is short for business-to-business, meaning companies sell products and services to other companies, who then use them to accomplish business functions. Common B2B products include software systems, consulting services, office supplies, or outsourced functions like IT and customer support.
The main thing to know about B2B customer interactions — including customer service — is that they’re much more complex than traditional B2C processes.
B2B interactions typically happen over a longer time period and involve multiple people from each company. B2B customer service is conducted by business teams for other business teams, unlike the individual agent/customer interactions you see in the B2C world.
When thinking about the importance of B2B customer service, consider the following:
- 95 percent of B2B customers report that high-quality customer service is essential for them to develop loyalty to a company.
- 51 percent of B2B companies avoid vendors after experiencing poor customer service.
- It is 6-7x more expensive to obtain new customers than it is to retain existing ones.
The takeaway: your company’s B2B success doesn’t end with sales. B2B customer service is the key to retaining customers and ultimately increasing revenue.
The Good: Quality Customer Service = Higher Revenue
We already know that it’s much more cost effective to retain current customers than convert new ones. But how exactly does good B2B customer service affect revenue?
There are two main ways this happens.
First, satisfied customers who have positive experiences are more willing and likely to buy again from a company.
In the B2B world specifically, 62% of customers will make additional purchases as a result of good customer service. Given that just one B2B customer can account for a significant amount of a company’s revenue, this is a pretty big deal.
The second way good B2B customer service drives revenue is through referrals. A report by ThinkImpact found that 82 percent of B2B customers are open to referring a company after having a good customer experience. Not only this, but 78 percent of referrals generate viable leads.
Referrals are also the highest converting B2B lead-generation source, according to a recent SuperOffice report.
Despite these statistics, only 3 out of 10 B2B businesses have formalized referral programs in place. What this means is a bigger opportunity for B2B companies to capitalize on referrals to increase sales and revenue.
The takeaway: Good customer service is a form of B2B marketing in itself, driving sales and revenue through retention and referrals.
The Bad: You Can’t Catch ‘Em All
B2B customer service requires long-game commitment, and the unfortunate part of the story is that you just can’t catch ‘em all.
Every B2B lead costs time and money, and while the actual cost can vary by industry, converting leads into sales is an expensive process. It requires relationship building and the development of customized solution proposals. Many times, multiple sales reps and team members work on a single lead.
When you see a lead all the way through to the final stages before purchase only to have them choose another vendor or service provider, it can be disappointing and costly.
High-quality customer service can help you improve your conversion rate, but the truth is that number will never be 100 percent. Sometimes, you’ll lose out on leads. Even current customers will occasionally decide to go in another direction. The important thing to do in those situations is to be sure your team learns from the experience.
When you lose out on a potential client, your company can learn by:
- Debriefing on the process.
- Identifying what went right and what could be improved upon.
- Asking the client directly for feedback.
Asking a client for feedback even after you did not win their business is totally acceptable, and it can be one of the best ways to improve your team’s sales and customer service processes.
The takeaway: you can’t catch ‘em all, but don’t be discouraged. If your team takes tangible lessons away from the loss, you’re set up to improve for the next potential customer.
The Ugly: One Mistake Can Have Big Repercussions
B2B customers rely on the products and services they buy in order to operate. When the functions related to your product are mission-critical for your customer, even one mishap can be disastrous.
For example, if you provide CRM software services to a company and the entire system goes down, that company’s sales team is unable to work until the product is fixed. This leads to lost time and revenue — and an unhappy customer.
The reality is that no employee or company is perfect. The ugly part of this reality for B2B sales is that one missed customer service inquiry or a single system crash can do irreparable damage, no matter how much you try to rectify it after the fact.
What you can do is be prepared. Have a thorough understanding of the potential issues that could arise with your product or service and have a plan for how you’ll handle a problem situation.
When a problem does occur, proactively reach out to your customer to let them know you’re on top of it. Avoiding the problem makes it worse 100 percent of the time.
Finally, be ready to rectify the situation for your customer. If they lose revenue, you may need to offer them a discount on future services. To reassure them going forward, you may need to allocate more time and resources toward high-touch customer service until the dust settles.
The takeaway: Be prepared. It’s inevitable that you’ll run into a hiccup at some point with your product or service, and good customer service can minimize the damage.
Ready to implement a customer service solution that generates more B2B leads? Get in touch with us today to learn how we can help!