B2B Customer Support | 5 min read

Part 1: B2B Customer Support: Cost Center or Profit Center?

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What's the difference between a cost center and a profit center? And how is support impacted by these two perceptions? Find out below!

There are two types of people in the world. The first type thinks B2B customer support is a cost center, or a necessary expense for running a business. After all, having a support team is required for your product, and it’s just something you need to have.

The second type thinks B2B customer support is a profit center. Support may be part of a successful business, but that’s because they are a part of a greater revenue generating team. Their interactions with customers aren’t merely a process that needs to happen, instead they view their conversations as potential opportunities to drive revenue and strengthen customer relationships to reduce churn.

How do you know which one your business is, and whether your support team is operating like a profit center on all of its channels? Let’s rock on and take a look at each channel with examples on how a cost center and a profit center approach them.

Ticket management (email and form)

  • Cost center: A B2B support team is only doing their job well when a ticket queue is empty. When a ticket comes in, it needs a response ASAP, even if the full context or resources to answer the ticket are unavailable. After all, leadership cares mainly about how many tickets we closed today.
  • Profit center: Tickets in the B2B industry are important touchpoints in customer relationships. If a customer is submitting a ticket via email or form, there’s likely a visual component and their issue may be complex. Assign the ticket to an agent who is familiar with their account and let them suggest the right course of action. The solution could even be to upgrade their account—an upselling opportunity—but you won’t know until you actually find out what the real problem is!

Phone

  • Cost center: We need to keep wait time down, so we get customers off the phone as fast as we can. Have agents suggest a few common solutions, and if none work, tell the customer to submit a ticket and move on. After all, the lower the call time, the more calls each agent can take per hour, and we can lower our staffing cost. It’s all about saving money, right?
  • Profit center: Helping a customer over the phone has many benefits. Not only can you get to know them far better than email or chat, but you can pick up on subtle audio cues and take action. If a customer has an issue that doesn’t seem like a big deal in writing, but they have an urgent tone in their voice, solving it immediately will go a long way in ensuring they stay a customer.

Live chat

  • Cost center: We provide live chat because a lot of our customers requested it, but it’s not a channel we focus on. Most of the questions are simple, like asking for a phone number or order update, and we get to those when we can. Chat isn’t a priority because it’s not a channel for solving “real” problems like email and phone. We don’t feature it as a key part of our support solution.
  • Profit center: Live chat may not be a channel for complex issues, but it’s often the first channel a customer interacts with when they are new to your business. We have a chat button on every key support page of our site to ensure customers know how to contact us right away for answers, even if our response is only “we don’t know, but we’ll look into it and figure it out.” Having customers that aren’t afraid to contact support when something goes wrong, especially via chat, is an essential part of reducing customer churn and increasing customer satisfaction.

What about the other channels like self-service and visual support? Stay tuned for our encore in Part 2 where we look at these emerging support channels under the same lens. I’ll be here all week!

mark-roos-2

About the Author:

Mark Roos is a Product Specialist for TeamSupport. With over a decade of experience in product strategy, Mark is well-versed in successfully creating a strategy that works for companies. He's also a musician! 

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