B2B vs B2C Customer Service Interactions

The basic goal of customer service is the same for every company, regardless of industry or business model: to provide customers and clients with the assistance and answers they need. That being said, the process of providing that assistance can look very different within different companies. This is especially true when comparing businesses operating on B2B and B2C models.

In this post, we’ll explore this distinction by going over six of biggest differences between B2B and B2C customer service interactions.

6 Ways B2B Customer Support Interactions are Different from B2C

To illustrate why not every company’s support approach should look the same, here are six ways that B2B customer service teams’ interactions with customers differ from those of their B2C counterparts.

1. B2B Support Teams don’t Always Interact with Decision-makers

When a B2C support agent speaks with a customer, they only have to worry about finding a resolution that one person is happy with. That’s not the case with B2B support. The person who reaches out to a B2B customer service team is serving as a point of contact for their company as a whole.

And in many cases, they won’t be the person who has the final say in whether their company continues working with specific vendors or partners. This means that the assigned agent has to provide a solution that not only works for that one person, but also for any other decision-makers involved in their relationship with the brand.

They have to think about the company’s larger goals and make sure that every solution or answer is in line with those goals. Then, they have to present information in a way that can easily be passed on to higher-ups in the company.

It’s also important to recognize that because these points of contact are tasked with communicating with outside partners, they’re often under pressure to find solutions that increase their company’s efficiency and revenue.

This means they may not have the same level of brand loyalty as B2C consumers. It’s up to the support agent to illustrate the value of an ongoing relationship, and in a way that enables their point of contact to convey value to larger stakeholders.

2. B2B Support Interactions Involve more People

Unlike B2C customer service conversations, which involve one customer and one support agent, there may be multiple people involved in a single B2B support interaction. After all, B2C consumers can make purchasing decisions without input from anyone else. They’re purchasing products for their own use, with their own money.

That’s not the case with B2B customers. Even if one point of contact is responsible for a purchasing decision, their decision will ultimately impact many other people at their company.

As a result, it’s not uncommon for other employees to take part in interactions with current or potential brand partners. In fact, one survey of employees found that an average of 2.5 people are involved in the decision-making process.

B2B customer service interaction
Respondents involved in a B2B interaction

This means that B2B support teams have to not only be prepared to speak with multiple points of contact but also to keep those contacts organized.

Knowing each person’s name and job title can make each interaction go more smoothly, and help agents ensure that they’re including information that’s relevant to each of their roles.

3. B2B Brands Often have Fewer Customers

In many cases, B2B companies have fewer total customers than B2C brands — but each of those customers spends more than the average B2C consumer.

In fact, while the average B2C order value stands at $147, the average B2B order value is over three times that at $491.

This indicates that B2B customers can have a much higher lifetime value or LTV. On the flip side, it also means that the impact of losing a single account can be much more significant for a B2B company.

For example, let’s say that the average customer for a B2C e-commerce store makes a purchase worth $20 every few months. The average customer for a B2B software company, on the other hand, might spend thousands of dollars every month.

While losing a customer would be bad news for either of these hypothetical companies, the B2B company would see more of an impact on their revenue — making it all the more important for them to provide excellent customer service.

4. B2B Customers tend to Expect more Personalized Service

B2B customers often spend significant amounts of money on the companies they partner with. As a result, they expect the quality of service they receive to match that investment.

This means not only fast responses and satisfactory solutions, but a personalized experience every time they reach out to customer service teams.

In order to meet this expectation, B2B support agents need to get to know individual client’s needs and develop relationships with their points of contact. Then, they can provide custom solutions and recommendations.

Considering that B2B buyers are five times more likely1 to engage with brand representatives who provide new insights about their business over those that tell them what they already know, this extra effort can go a long way.

Establishing these relationships gives agents the opportunity to keep clients engaged with their company. Beyond that, it gives them the chance to encourage those clients to try new products or upgrade to higher tiers of service.

This way, they can move past the client’s short-term focus on more immediate goals, and highlight the value of an extended, ongoing relationship with your brand.

5. B2B Relationships Require more Post-purchase Support

In many cases, happy B2C customers don’t need any additional support once they’ve completed a purchase. Unless they’re unsatisfied with a product and want to return or exchange it, it’s likely that the company’s support team will never hear from them.

That’s rarely the case with B2B, as most first-time business purchases are intended to be starting points for ongoing partnerships. But instead of viewing ongoing customer service as another necessary task, B2B support teams should see this as an opportunity.

Ideally, they should view every interaction as a chance to better understand individual clients’ needs and goals. Then, they can help those clients maximize the value they see from their investment.

With this approach, support agents can play an important role in helping customers use products more efficiently. Then, as they communicate with customers on a regular basis, they’ll learn how their company and needs evolve over time.

Using this insight, they can suggest upgrades or additions that meet those needs. This proactive approach can not only increase the LTV of each customer but can also reduce the chances that those customers feel like they’re outgrowing your product or company.

6. B2B Buyers sell Customers Support as a Selling Point

When B2C consumers make purchasing decisions, they often evaluate their options based primarily on price and quality.

And while these factors also matter for B2B buyers, customer service matters just as much — if not more than — these factors.

After all, B2B brands aren’t typically looking to make one-time purchases. They want to establish long-term partnerships, and customer service is an essential factor in accomplishing this goal.

Great customer service can increase the value they see from a company over time, while poor service can prevent them from seeing even the baseline they expect from a company.

This means that excellent customer service can be a compelling selling point for many B2B customers and that it’s in every B2B brand’s best interest to strive to provide it.

So in order to stand out from the competition, B2B companies need to prioritize top-notch service, invest in skilled support teams, and communicate the importance of the customer experience to every agent.

Then, they can highlight this as a differentiating factor in their marketing materials. And as long as they follow through with the level of support promised, they can establish a reputation for superior service — which can have a major impact on their ability to earn new customers in the future.

Conclusion

Although every customer service team shares a few common goals, the work it takes to achieve them can look very different — particularly between those with B2B and B2C business models.

B2B support agents don’t always interact with the people making decisions at a company. And in some cases, they’ll work with more than one person in a single interaction. This means that their solutions have to not only satisfy a single point of contact but a much larger group of people.

Customers at B2B companies also tend to have higher expectations. They spend more money, and they expect personalized customer support experience to match.

Plus, customer service is often a much more important component of the business model within B2B companies. Maintaining strong customer relationships requires ongoing support, and customer service can even be a selling point for some customers.

So while it’s in every brand’s best interest to offer top-notch customer service, meeting customer expectations can be more challenging for B2B brands — but the payoff that comes with satisfied customers is more than worth it.

Source:
1 – https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2018/05/22/a-cmos-guide-to-create-a-b2b-customer-experience/#79a726c27118