A recent study of 1450 B2B companies by Accenture showed that the nearly 76% of the customer service investments made by businesses
were on wasteful initiatives that did not provide returns
. No wonder then that most of these B2B companies noticed flat-line or even negative growth rates in some cases. The survey however underlines the importance that businesses provide to improving the service for customers. Nearly 43% of the surveyed businesses expressed keenness on increasing their expenditure on customer service initiatives for the next fiscal.
The study reiterates what many in the industry already know – customer service, the traditional kind that we are aware of, does not work in B2B. To give you an example, a typical customer service initiative at a B2C business might involve the setting up of robust customer call centers, discounts for repeat purchases and personalization of offers and services.
B2B on the other hand, is not a price sensitive industry. Discounts and personalization are not the primary drivers for satisfaction and repeat usage. Instead, this industry responds to customization, reliability and added value from the service. Consider a
business internet service provider like AllStream
. Unlike a retail customer, business customers will need guarantees on not just the reliability of the network and the quality of service, but also security features like protection against DDoS attacks. Similarly, an ERP system not only needs to provide greater business efficiency, but should also offer greater scalability, agility and features that are customized to a customers’ business needs.
Besides all this, one point that a lot of B2B marketers often overlook is the fact that behind the veil of every business are real human beings. The product is not sold to a business but a person. Similarly businesses do not buy from other businesses from real people. Ultimately, a personal rapport with the people behind the business is extremely vital. By building a personal equation with the decision makers, and by making them like you, selling your product is only a mere formality.
However, customer service is
much more than offering customers what they were promised
. It’s also much beyond sending seasonal greetings and messages. It is about consistent follow up to get feedback on how you are serving them as a business. A major reason for customers to switch loyalties is when they are not made to feel important. By constantly following up with customers, understanding their pain points with respect to using your product for their business solutions, and by looping this feedback into the product development roadmap, B2B businesses can ensure high retention and better customer satisfaction.
The Accenture study is a great wake-up call for businesses looking at traditional customer service initiatives as the only viable form for retention. For better loyalty, it is important to expand customer service beyond one department and to the entire company – it is only when Marketing, IT, Product development and Customer Care work in tandem could the ultimate objective of enhancing customer satisfaction become a reality.