Avoid B2B Buyer Frustration When Purchasing Customer Support Software

A CEB survey highlighted in Harvard Business Review suggests that decision makers who make business-to-business (B2B) purchases aren't always happy with the results. About 40 percent second-guessed their big B2B purchasing decisions, describing the process as ";painful" and "frustrating." Better clarity on their needs and options before making a purchase could help. This is especially true when purchasing customer support software for B2B support.

One mistake buyers make is to assume that support software designed for the business-to-customer (B2C) world works just as well in B2B settings. But there are significant differences. In B2C, there is typically a higher volume of customers, who deal with an agent in a one-off encounter, whereas B2B support operations have fewer customers who interact with multiple agents in an ongoing relationship.

B2C support questions tend to be relatively uncomplicated, and customers generally don't contact the support desk multiple times. In the B2B world, support issues are usually more complex and take more time to resolve. Finding an answer to a B2B support question is often a team effort, whereas B2C support issues typically don't require collaboration to solve.

The nature of the relationship between B2B and B2C companies and their customers is distinct too; a B2B customer's problem with a product can hamper business operations and interrupt revenue streams, so customers expect accountability from B2B support. On the B2C side, the stakes aren't usually as high, and one customer's problem with a product is unlikely to significantly disrupt his life.

If you're choosing software for a B2B support organization, it's important to understand how the customer relationship differs to select the right support software. A B2C software salesperson might have a dazzling presentation, but it doesn't make sense to evaluate software designed for B2C that will be ill-equipped to manage complex business relationships. It's a better idea to look at support systems designed for B2B from the ground up instead.

Customer communication preferences are another factor to consider. Keep in mind that B2B customers are also consumers when they're not at work, and their experience as consumers likely informs their expectations as B2B customers. For that reason, communication options like live chat are becoming more common in the B2B customer support world because business customers are demanding it.

Rich media is an innovative tool that is critical in a B2B setting. Visual support tools like screen sharing and the ability to record screens that walk through functions via narration can be extremely useful to resolve complex business issues. This approach shows customers rather than telling them, and it eliminates the need to laboriously transcribe steps in an email or a chat window.

To address the fact that B2B support issues are typically more complex, evaluate solutions according to how well they facilitate collaboration. A support system that allows employees to create private actions within a ticket so they can work together to resolve issues without leaving the platform is ideal. This type of capability allows agents to use their collective knowledge to resolve issues.

While many of the software differences are focused around features, one key factor isn't. A cloud-based system that stores all product, customer, and company details can save everyone time and brings agents up to speed instantly. With this approach, a B2B customer who calls to check the status of an issue and reaches a second support agent can get efficient, effective help from anyone on the team without having to restate the original problem and review the steps taken to date.

Scalability is another important factor. Your growing B2B company needs a support solution that can grow with your business needs and handle greater complexity as new products are released. One mistake companies make is to select a support system on price alone at the outset, which can lead to deploying a whole new platform later as the company grows and the system's limitations become clear. Selecting a support software solution with native B2B functionality, including inventory management and service-level agreements (SLAs), can be ideal for seamlessly taking that next step when your support team is ready.

Selecting a system that allows users to find answers on their own is also important. A strong knowledge base that can be easily expanded using ticket resolutions and that contains answers that can be easily transferred to tickets to resolve customer issues enables customers to find answers themselves and allows agents to resolve tickets more quickly.

When evaluating available B2B customer support platforms, it's a good idea to look at integration features to make sure the system is compatible with the CRM system or development tools your company uses. It's also advisable to talk to support agents, product managers, and other colleagues who use the support system to find out which features and reports are important to them.

Selecting a customer support system is a big decision. Look for a platform designed for B2B companies and one that has the features you need now, plus one that is flexible enough to expand as you grow. The right support platform—one that enables collaboration and consistently delivers a positive experience for customers—can provide your company with a unique competitive advantage by saving time and reducing customer churn.

Robert Johnson is co-founder and CEO of TeamSupport.com.

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Posted June 26, 2018