Providing high levels of customer service should be a top priority no matter what sector you’re in. Our Customer Experience Report shows good customer service overtakes product features, availability, favourable payment terms, access to good sales people and many more factors during the business decision-making process.
41% of business professionals in a B2B environment value high customer service levels as absolutely essential to purchasing decisions. This is compared to just 27% of people working in B2C industries. Conversely, B2B business professionals value a personal relationship with their vendor and an organisation’s values much less than B2C business professionals. This could be for a number of reasons – possibly, in part, due to industry “norms” setting the standards professionals have come to expect from the industry and its vendors.
Changing B2B perceptions
The B2B sector has traditionally been perceived as being “behind” the B2C trends. The sector was slower to adopt digital marketing strategies such as social media, PPC and video and it’s still catching up with personalisation and automation.
Speculatively, this could be for a number of reasons. The number of potential purchasers for a B2B product / service is perhaps a smaller pool, therefore there is a temptation to rely on organic and return custom. B2C businesses are part of an incredibly competitive market landscape, with countless companies selling similar products.
B2C businesses are also leading the Experience Economy. Research by Barclays found that over half of consumers would rather pay for a memorable experience than a possession. Societal values now places significance on experience and “doing good”. And consumers are more likely to shop with a business that aligns with their values and beliefs. The best way for businesses to demonstrate personal, empathetic values is through strong customer service.
Creating a better customer service experience for B2B buyers
Where B2C businesses are responding quickly and efficiently across a number of different platforms, some B2B businesses are sticking with more traditional communication methods. This makes it increasingly difficult for customers to feel truly connected to B2B brands, as there is a further degree of separation between marketing and customer service techniques used by some B2C businesses. And customers are noticing – 80% of B2B buyers expect a buying experience like that of a B2C customer.
This doesn’t mean B2B businesses should think digitalisation is the complete answer. In fact, our research shows purchasers put equal weight of importance on managing purchases online as they do developing a personal relationship with a vendor. Really, the key is to strike a balance so customers are in control of how they communicate with businesses.
But, as we know, customers are now expecting more from businesses than simply products or services. Businesses shouldn’t be complacent, even if they are operating in a niche market. Purchasers expect businesses to get to know them, to personalise service around their requirements and to genuinely care about their needs.
The key here is empathy and understanding. Purchasers are generally least happy with customer insight, empathy and emotional intelligence, and access to good sales and post-sales staff. Yet, according to our research, these areas are set to grow in importance in the coming years.
Improving empathy in customer service
B2B businesses should consider improving the empathy and personalisation of their customer service offering. According to the UK Customer Satisfaction Index, customers are more likely to view a business positively if they’ve received good customer service when going through a personally difficult or challenging time. This demonstrates that customers value brands who seem to care about them and offer understanding at a time of need.
Businesses should invest in training staff members to deal with complex issues empathetically and with friendly understanding. This applies via digital communication such as live chat or over the phone too. This is very much applicable to B2B businesses, where transactions are likely to be much more complex and may require unique interaction to solve an issue, provide advice or negotiate a sale.
Engaged employees can provide great ROI for businesses, generally bringing in more revenue and experiencing much higher customer loyalty rates due to performing better at work. In some studies, the most engaged workplaces were up to 17% more productive. This has to result in great news for any business.
B2B businesses have a strong opportunity to engage their workforce and secure customer loyalty if they offer strong customer service and can prove dedication to their customer. The time’s now for B2B businesses to catch up with the B2C market and prove both sectors can offer customers the experience they expect.
Download The Customer Experience Report 2020 for exclusive industry stats and insight into how to achieve great customer service.