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Customers First: The Best B2B Customer Service Blog

How is B2B Customer Support Different from B2C?

[fa icon="calendar"] Jan 8, 2015 3:05:59 AM / by Laura Ballam

What Does B2B Mean?

Here at TeamSupport we use the term “B2B” a lot, but I’ve realized that not everyone knows what it means or why it’s important.

B2B is simply shorthand for “Business to Business”, and it generally refers to who you sell your product to. If your company sells a product or service to other businesses, you’re a B2B company.

The inverse of B2B is “B2C” – This means Business to Consumer. Your company is a B2C company if you sell to individual people (consumers) as opposed to businesses.

Most of the team here at TeamSupport comes from a B2B background, and our software was written for the B2B marketplace. While we do have a number of customers who are in the B2C space, and we have some great features for this group, our features tend to be more focused on the needs of the B2B space.

 

How is B2B Customer Support Different from B2C?

b2b-support.jpgThe basic tenet of customer support is the same for B2B and B2C – Answer the customer’s issues and resolve their problems as quickly and completely as possible. However, there are several major differences between supporting a business customer and a consumer customer.

More Complex Issues

As a general rule of thumb, issues in the B2B space tend to be more complex and have more back and forth communication than issues in the B2C space. Our research shows that the first contact resolution (FCR) rate for B2B customers tends to be lower than for B2C which is due to the more complex issues generated in a B2B environment. As a result of this, the FCR metric is not as critical in the B2B space since customers are often quite technically savvy and know they are contacting their vendor about complex issues that may not be easy to solve.

Fewer, but Larger, Customers

In many B2B scenarios, the dollar value of the sale is much higher than a corresponding B2C case. Many B2B companies are selling large and complex products to their customers, so each interaction with a customer has more revenue implications.

In a B2C scenario if one customer gets upset and returns your product, the company may be out a few hundred dollars. In a B2B environment, the deal sizes are often in the 10s of thousands of dollars and even into the multi millions. Clearly, if a customer support incident goes wrong in a B2B environment, it could have a very serious impact on revenue.

Know your Customers

In a B2C environment, it is very rare to know your customers – Generally, each interaction is with a new customer and while you may have some data about them, it’s rare that there is a personal relationship with them. Often, in a B2C case, products are sold through retail channels so the very first contact the company ever has with the customer may be through a call center.

b2b-relationships.jpgThe B2B environment is commonly the other way around – There has been a sales process that the company was involved in and there is already a great deal known about the customer. When that customer calls about a support issue, as much information as possible should be available to the support agent so they don’t have to ask the customer for basic information that the company already has.

Often in B2B environments companies will end up with good relationships, and sometimes even personal friendships, with their customers. This doesn’t happen often in the B2C space and is one of the great things about selling to businesses.

Multiple Potential Contact Points

A B2C contact is, almost by definition, with a single person. One person purchased your product, and they are calling about an issue with it.

While this can also happen in a B2B sale, more often in a B2B environment there are multiple people are using the product within the customer company. This means that many different people could all be calling about different issues, yet still be part of the same customer. In fact, with a B2B customer many different people could be calling about the same issue.

The implication to B2B support is that this can lead to duplicate efforts by support agents as well as a lack of understanding of the customer as a whole. Support agents should have access to all the tickets created by anyone at a customer company so they can both be informed and understand recurring and/or concurrent issues.

Technology Choices

The B2B world is different from the B2C world, and this should impact your technology purchase process. When looking at help desk software for your operations, make sure the tool you are looking at is well suited for the B2B space and has the right feature sets you need. A perfect example is a customer database – most support software built for B2C does not offer this feature, because there is no need for it. So it is literally impossible to see all of the data, issues, and interactions associated with a customer company. You can only see issues one ticket and one individual at a time. This greatly reduces visibility of the customer at the company level and means missing important trends and indicators about your customers.

Why does TeamSupport Excel at B2B Customer Support?

TeamSupport was originally written based on the background of several of the founders. We had all come from a company that created and sold software to television stations, and this was about as B2B as it could get. All of our customers were other businesses, and our software was truly mission critical to them. When they called for customer support, they had high expectations.

Our customers expected that when they contacted us, we knew who they were. They wanted us to know everything about the software they had purchased, the specific configuration they had, and what issues they had experienced recently.

Many of the issues our customers called us about were complex and involved a lot of back and forth. They expected that we knew what steps had been taken before, even if a conversation had occurred with a different customer support agent.

Sometimes the issue escalated to a point where the customer called our VP of Sales or even the CEO to put pressure on us to solve the problem. I can’t tell you the number of times that a customer called me (the CEO) and I was able to quickly look up their issue and talk intelligently about it – All because we tracked their problems and had a pretty well written internal system to track the issues.

Our internal team also worked very closely together to resolve problems. While the term “collaboration” wasn’t yet in vogue, it’s certainly what we did – Teamwork and collaboration were all key components of what made our company work well together and solve customer issues.

We took all of the lessons we learned – good and bad – from our various previous experiences and put them together to create TeamSupport. TeamSupport has the tools required to best serve B2B companies – From our integrated customer database so you can store and retrieve critical customer information, to our powerful internal collaboration tools which let you break down silos and better communicate internally to solve customer problems, TeamSupport is geared towards addressing the unique needs of B2B technology companies.

To read more about B2B companies using TeamSupport, visit our Resources page.

   
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