For years, the B2B business model has focused on efficiency, reliability, and sales. This is a powerful focus, but recently customers have been wanting more. The most successful B2B companies are willing to give it to them.
Manufacturers across the spectrum, from small local operations to global enterprises, have started the journey towards centralizing service. With uncertainty around supply chains, economic concerns, and an increasingly digitized marketplace, it’s becoming more and more vital for companies to build lasting relationships with their customers.
If you are simply an interchangeable storefront that people come to when they need a problem solved fast, then there’s nothing stopping them from getting that problem solved by someone else. As soon as your team takes the time to invest in the customer experience and connection, you’ll become a trusted partner and provider for your clients.
What is Service First?
The idea behind putting service first is simple: shifting away from offering only products to providing service as a core component of the business model. This can take many forms, from providing product information and self-service portals for customers on the go to investing in customer service that’s available throughout the whole customer life-cycle.
Service should be geared to meet a customer’s specific needs. It should be tailored to their usage of your product, as well as their relationship with your brand. The goal is to create a trust that lasts beyond the initial sale.
B2B vs B2C Service
While the goals of B2B and B2C companies are similar, the stakes and expectations make a huge difference. With higher value sales, complicated structures, and the high cost of mistakes, B2B companies deal with significantly smaller margins for error.
When looking at the service structure for your business, remember that you’re likely interacting with a network of representatives from each client, as opposed to a single point of contact. This makes consistency, transparency, and accurate data tracking all the more essential.
Benefits of Making Service A Vital Part of Your Business
It takes a lot of effort, time, and money to make this kind of shift within your business, but the benefits far outweigh the cost, especially in times of potential turmoil.
Increased Sales and Profits
Although companies need to invest more in service activities, such as personnel, training, and technology, they will reap the rewards in increased sales and higher profits in the long term.
Improved services can attract new customers and solidify relationships with existing customers, thus increasing revenue for the company. You’ll also increase customer loyalty. When people feel valued, they’re far more likely to stick with a company.
Higher Competitive Edge
Competition is a reality of doing business, and a company that provides outstanding service can’t be copied or competed with. When customers feel valued and appreciated, they are likely to spread the good word about your business to their networks, giving the company a competitive advantage.
Creating better customer service is a powerful way to engage customers longer and establish loyal customers for sustainable growth. As more and more companies start to take this approach, if you aren’t providing solid customer service, you’re going to be left behind.
If you implement tools like a CRM to keep track of customer interactions, you’re naturally going to free up time for your internal employees. With automation and support tackling repetitive tasks like re-entering paper or phone orders, your team will be able to focus on higher-value activities.
With sales and customer service teams honing relationship building, product launches, and sell-through, your team will be full up with fresh, innovative ideas.
How To Bring Service to the Forefront
Centering service in your B2B company will be a process. It needs to shift the way you handle every aspect of your business and permeate every customer interaction. Here are a few tips to get you started on your journey.
Accuracy is Key
When dealing with an issue, it may be tempting to answer customer questions with the quickest solution you can find, but in the long run, this will cause more harm than good.
Focus instead on getting the right answer the first time, even if that takes a little longer. Your customers will learn to trust you deeply and appreciate the effort you put in to solve their problems.
Research shows that getting a matter resolved in a single interaction, even if it takes a long time, is considered the most important aspect of customer service by the majority of consumers. This is especially true in B2B sales, as every extra bit of correspondence is extra time and effort required to get your customers’ business back on track.
Train your Team to Put Service First
While it may seem like service is an issue that only your customer-facing employees need to be worried about, if you want the changes to last, you need to ensure your entire company knows the value of the shift. This acknowledgment helps to engage every employee and show a unified front.
It’s important to make sure every member of your team knows that service is an important priority. Set an example for them and be sure to recognize them whenever they put customer service as their top focus.
Foster an Open Relationship with Your Customers
Putting customers first should include ensuring their opinion is taken into account and that you are always open to their feedback. This will provide valuable insight into what your customers need and ensure you remain in regular communication with them.
It’s been shown that 77% of consumers get excited when a company takes their feedback seriously. Taking the time to listen will help your users feel understood and valued, as well as help you keep your product R&D on the right track.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Technology such as customer relationship management (CRM) software can help manage customer data, streamline customer interactions, route tickets effectively, and provide better access for service agents to help customers and validate customer identity. When you’re interacting with multiple points of contact over an extended period of time, this kind of organization is invaluable.
Having the mundane tasks of data entry and order tracking handled for them allows your sales and marketing teams to stay focused on building relationships.
Center Human Connection
Speaking of relationships, with AI becoming more and more common, it is easy to forget that an old-fashioned human touch can make service much more powerful. Customers respond better, sometimes miraculously, when a real person shows empathy and listens to their needs.
While having a real person to interact with isn’t always feasible, you can bake this understanding into even your automated responses. Keeping the phrasing natural, and focusing automation on making it easier for customers to connect with an actual sales or customer service representative, are great places to start.
The Bottom Line
If your business isn’t evolving, it’s going to be left behind. This sentiment has been the driving force behind the push for automation, digitization, and now a service-centric ideology. Your customers can tell when you care about their experience. With care and attention to detail, you and your team can foster trust, loyalty, and deep satisfaction.