B2B companies generally have fewer customers than in a B2C environment, so each customer is more important to the business and has a greater impact on its bottom line. Plus, depending on the business, any issues that come up might directly affect its customers and brand reputation, in which case the business is losing from both ends. In any case, trust is paramount, and once your business has lost it, it is incredibly hard to regain. The good news is that when businesses know you are there for their needs and will efficiently address issues, they can become fiercely loyal and vocal supporters.
With that in mind, here are six keys to a successful B2B customer service strategy:
1. Offer 24x7 crisis availability
Many companies, particularly in highly regulated industries, need to comply with a variety of stringent standards and requirements. Those can include high availability (24x7), disaster planning and recovery plans, and alternate backup sites. Customers also need to know that they can reach vendor company management for any crisis situation. It is quite important for these kinds of customers to have an established crisis-handling process, including thorough recovery plans with management phone numbers and email addresses.
2. Ensure confidentiality
Though proper support and customer service often requires handling customer data and sensitive information, most customers need to know that their information—whether it's their project details, their future plans, or client data—is treated securely and destroyed as specified.
Therefore, data transmission methods must be secure, servers must be protected from both hacking and physical damage or theft, and all personnel need to be trained on handling sensitive information.
3. Provide speedy solutions
For a customer, reporting a problem is important in a crisis but getting a speedy solution is even better. Having technical people under your control rather than at a supplier can permit you to actually solve a customer problem, rather than just registering an issue, and deliver a quick solution.
4. Screen problems carefully
Resources are always limited, and you need to make sure that you can service your most important customers expeditiously. Therefore, you need to have policies in place so that the customers at the highest support levels get priority and so more severe issues are handled before minor threats.
5. Identify your customer's contact person
It is important to have a trusted contact at your customer who can clearly explain problems and is knowledgeable about all its systems. Otherwise, you could be wasting time with people who are not knowledgeable, or you could be overwhelmed by multiple unqualified people calling in with possibly incorrect information.
6. Charge appropriately for your service
Everyone wants free support, but most will pay if they need something. Good customer service is expensive, time-consuming, and a drain on personnel resources. If you create a rational service charge plan and consistently apply it, even customers who don't want to pay service fees will generally come around. Just be sure to explain the fees they pay and allow for continuously improved service and product personnel.