By Juntae DeLane
Senior Digital Brand Manager
University of Southern California
Founder, Digital Branding Institute
There are big differences between B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) customers. In this blog post, we explore what exactly B2B customers expect from those who they do business with.
B2B versus B2C
The B2B customer relationship varies from the B2C relationship in some key ways. B2C companies often focus more on getting new customers than their current ones. While in the past consumers accepted this, they are becoming more and more critical of it over time.
B2B consumers have always expected more. In many cases, the product or service chosen by this type of consumer is related to their performance, job, or career. The stakes are high. The right choice can lead to distinction and promotion. An incorrect choice can lead to consequences.
Ultimately, understanding what your customers expect from your B2B company is incredibly important. It will help you create a truly profitable business. It is key to have not only an amazing product or service but stellar customer service.
Everyone knows this, and yet many companies still treat service like it’s an inconvenience at best. However, it can actually have a big impact on customer retention. In fact, according to research from Salesforce, 80% of consumers say that the experience that companies provide is just as important as its products and services.
So, how can you meet the expectations of your B2B customers?
Here are some approaches you can take.
Consistency Is Key
All positive and healthy relationships have a few big things in common. At their foundation, there must be solid communication and genuine trust. Businesses want customer service teams to be trustworthy. They want access to skilled communicators that they can rely on to answer their questions. If they have a problem, they need to know that you can solve it.
This is why many companies choose to use service software with extensive SLA management capabilities. Such software helps to make sure that no customer gets ignored. If an agent makes the mistake of not responding to a customer in a timely manner, they will get an SLA notification letting them know that it is time to follow up.
This makes communication reliable and timely. It also keeps things consistent. Rather than being shuffled around to random agents who might have no idea of their specific needs, customers work with the same agents. They also get quick responses from them. This makes B2B customers feel like their business is valued.
Take the Time to Deliver Correct Answers
B2B professionals are busy. They have employees and projects to manage and problems to solve. They require a different level of engagement than B2C customers. While giving ineffective half-answers quickly is common in B2C, it very unpopular among consumers.
According to Dimensional Research, 72% of customers consider having to explain the same problem to multiple people a poor customer service experience.
Professionals would likely not contact you at all unless they had a genuine issue. If you waste their time or fail to offer any genuine support, you are likely to lose their business. They likely barely have the time to contact you at all. So, they definitely do not want to contact you multiple times about the same problem.
It is important that agents do not buckle under pressure. Even if it takes a little longer, invest the time into making sure a satisfactory solution is reached. This will be useful to the B2B customer. Also, it will prove that you value their time and business.
Make Information Accessible Without Conversation
It is important to offer comprehensive customer support. However, for most enterprises, offering 24/7 customer service is just not realistic. Many B2B customers may expect this. However, for most businesses, it is just not a smart use of their time, money, people, and resources.
Having available human agents that can help customers during business hours is still valuable. However, adding a strong self-service solution to the mix can prove highly useful. This can include things like tutorials in both written and video formats. Create helpful content so if your customers want to solve a simple problem, they can do so on their own at any time.
This is why 86% of B2B companies maintain a blog. A blog is a great way to provide consumers with information and more in-depth answers. You can also create a library of how-to posts in response to commonly asked questions. In fact, over 3 million blog posts are published online every day.
Digital Has Changed Everything
The accessibility of technology has drastically changed our everyday lives. Also, it has played a big part in how consumer expectations have evolved. People have entirely new standards for things like:
- Ease of engagement
- Information access
- Length of response time
- Seamless experiences
- Knowledge of interaction history
Studies conducted by Salesforce and McKinsey show just how much technology has raised the bar for b2b customers when it comes to their customer service expectations.
70% of consumers say that technology has empowered them to be able to take their business elsewhere if one business fails to meet their expectations. On top of that, 75% of consumers expect a consistent experience from businesses regardless of the platform. Whether they are interacting with a business on mobile, digitally, or in-person they expect the same experience.
Sky High Expectations
Of course, some customers will always prefer a personal touch. The majority of consumers and business buyers expect companies to interact with them in real-time.
From time to time, your customers may still have problems too complex for a blog post or YouTube tutorial to solve as well. However, regardless of their issues, technology has enabled customers to set their expectations high.
In many cases, providing consumers with these simple self-service tools can empower them to solve their own problems. Many B2B customers now expect this option as well. It saves both you and them time, which is a win for everyone involved.
Make Sure B2B Customers Know That You Care
This is a big part of customer service. It is also an ethos that should extend into many areas of your business. When you work with customers, it is essential that they understand that you value their time. They should know that you want to help their business succeed. They need to know that you care about their expectations and needs. Service interactions alone will not do this for you.
You will want to employ a customer success team. They will have check-in conversations with customers when issues are not being addressed. This helps to maintain a strong relationship with customers.
Take a look at our blog post “The Art of Loving Your Customers” for more information on ways you can build this integral relationship.
Get Face To Face
In the digital world, it is easy for people around the globe to work with each other for years and never actually meet. However, in-person interaction still holds sway.
If a senior employee of yours happens to be in town, performing an office visit can be a nice touch that goes a long way. While this might not be appropriate for each and every client, it can go a long way to show appreciation and cement relationships with longstanding or particularly large clients.
Final Thoughts on the Expectations of B2B Customers
The customer service expectations of B2B consumers are intense and it is important to understand them in order to effectively serve them. Make sure your communication is effective and consistent.
Also, be sure to provide different ways that consumers can interact with your business and content to get the information they need. If you do these things, you will be able to meet their needs. You will be far more likely to keep the same loyal customers for years and years.
Juntae is a sought-after digital strategist who specializes in helping businesses build brands online. He is the Chief Strategist of Digital Delane, founder of the Digital Branding Institute, and Senior Digital Brand Manager for the University of Southern California.
Juntae has worked with many brands such as Coca-Cola, Sony, Verizon, NBC, Universal, Paramount Pictures across various industries. He is noted as a Top Social Media Influencer in several publications and has spoken around the country teaching businesses how to build powerful digital brands. If not on stage, you can catch him at the gym, flying private planes, or scuba diving off the coast.