Customer service usually brings to mind the interaction between companies and individual consumers. But the B2B market still works with a customer base that requires attention and issue resolution — and holds bigger accounts. Industry experts therefore suggest that improving B2B customer service could reap much bigger rewards than those companies may realise.
Following the lead of B2C, the B2B footwear industry has been shifting toward e-commerce, but not always adapting the user experience (UX) for the new channel. Companies may focus on the initial consumer experience, up to the point of purchase, but not pay as much attention to post-sales support or service. Others may assume that clients will follow them to online, regardless of the UX provided.
“Too often, B2B companies do not realize how important the user experience is and they put up ‘bolt-on’ extensions to their systems, with poor user experiences,” said Brian Wolfe, VP of commerce at consulting firm Capgemini. “They then expect high volumes of orders to come in. When they don’t see much success, they determine that their business doesn’t lend itself well to e-commerce.”
Establishing an e-commerce infrastructure can be costly, which is why some companies may be tempted to skip the elements that seem optional. In addition to an absence of customer service engagement, search functions are frequently overlooked in the B2B sector, which can cause serious inefficiencies when buyers are looking through deep catalogs of product.
As all buyers experience the B2C standard of service in their daily lives, the gap in service will be apparent.
And the consequences of shortcomings can be significant for a business: A poor experience carries much higher risk than in the B2C market because of the higher revenue associated with each individual customer.
In response, Wolfe recommends that B2B businesses set higher key performance indicators for the customer service department, particularly if the cost of switching suppliers is relatively low.
“It might be worth the investment to have a customer service function that proactively follows up with customers for all order exceptions that may create issues for the customer,” said Wolfe. “Even though orders arrived through digital channels, the customer perceives that they are receiving a higher level of service.”
Wolfe suggests that companies create a service that encompasses post-sales customer support, order support and technical support. Accommodating different channels of communication, from email to phone to web chat, will also be critical as customers embrace digital options — mobile, in particular.
The coronavirus pandemic, which has created unexpected issues with customer orders, further illustrates the importance of customer service, but implementing improvements should also be viewed as a long-term investment. As buyer behaviors shift to accommodate the new normal, B2B companies that have already put in the work to improve the customer experience will be more likely to retain those customers during a period of big change.