Customer service is a concept that can mean many things to different businesses. At the heart of it all however, serving the customer is what keeps a business running. It’s crucial for the longevity of any company.
Gartner’s 2018 Customer Experience Survey found that two-thirds of a company’s competitive edge was predicated on the experience they delivered to their customers. However, a study by Forrester concluded that only nine percent of companies felt they had implemented a transformation to the degree that they held an edge over their competitors. The constantly evolving landscape means that business-to-business (B2B) customers have all the power. Sustaining meaningful relationships has never been more of a priority for businesses. Many are turning to emerging technologies and processes, like the ones below, to develop customer-centric strategies.
How to optimize the B2B customer experience for a competitive advantage
Don’t wait to automate
Automation is a popular topic in the B2B industry, namely for its potential to add layers of efficiency and convenience. Technologies, like customer service software, help automate tickets and makes reporting on customer service metrics more accessible and efficient. Another valuable capability of systems like these is that they leverage AI to determine customer sentiment embedded in large blocks of text within a ticket. This enables service teams to prioritize the most distressed customers and results in a streamlined and effective resolution of customer issues. Both are an invaluable component of the customer experience.
Offer personalized services
Personalization is transforming the way that customer service professionals create their strategies. As the customer experience has shifted, so have customer service best practices. Generalized or blanketed approaches have given way to more targeted, personalized interactions.
Tying personalization into the previous point, automating certain aspects of the customer experience won’t remove the human touch from customer service. Rather, it will provide service teams with an opportunity to foster more one-to-one connections with their customer base. Creating these connections will provide a competitive advantage because they can be leveraged to increase your success rate with renewal and upselling opportunities.
Understand the customer
B2B buyers are a different type of customers. Responsible for allocating a company’s budget, they are under considerably more pressure to make the “right” decision than the average business-to-consumer (B2C) shopper. They’re also experiencing a demographic shift as well, with approximately 73 percent of 20 to 35-year-old employees being responsible for product or service decisions at their companies. Simply put, millennial buyers are helping to transform the business-customer relationship. Many employees in this age range are digital natives and are driving change in how businesses interact and purchase. This means, for businesses to have the upper hand over their competition, they need to meet customers where they want to talk. Phone customer service alone isn’t good enough, with more businesses adopting self-service, live chat, and other digital communication tactics to bring the conversation to where prospects want to be.
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Keep the conversation going
The customer experience shouldn’t cease to exist after the sale has closed. Consistent customer service also helps to increase a company’s reputation and resonance. Top companies have entire departments dedicated to “customer success” that work closely with customer service to ensure your current customers remain happy. This team also holds responsibility for gathering customer insights and information. Data from customer service software coupled with the wider market, including from competitors, can be used to optimize customer service processes.
Companies can have a great product, but no one may want to buy it because of a poor customer service reputation. Proven customer retention strategies offer a great competitive advantage, especially to companies selling within the competitive B2B space. Companies that leverage new technologies and place their focus into understanding the customer and addressing their needs will profit greatly over those that fail to do so.
This post is a guest contribution by Marie Johnson of Enlightened-Digital