You'll see the term “B2B” used a lot in articles, on blogs and in marketing campaigns, but not everyone knows what it means or why it’s important. We're taking this opportunity to explain the difference, and what it means for customer support.
B2B is short for “Business to Business”, and it refers to companies who sell a product or service to other businesses.
The alternate of B2B is “B2C” – short for Business to Consumer. If your end customers are individual consumers, you are in B2C.
Why Does This Matter in Customer Support?
The basic concept of customer support is the same for all companies: Answer the customer’s issues and resolve their problems as quickly and completely as possible. But despite the commonalities, there are several subtle but significant differences between supporting a customer who is a business and supporting a consumer.
B2B Support Issues are More Complex
B2B customer support issues tend to be more complex and take longer to resolve than their B2C counterparts. It's often required to consult among various people and departments in order to provide the best solution to a B2B customer. As a result, metrics like First Contact Resolution, which are relied upon heavily in B2C, are not necessarily an accurate measurement of B2B customer satisfaction.
B2B Organizations have Fewer, and more significant, Customers
In B2B it's quite common to have high value customers, much more so than in B2C. This is because B2B products and services are often large and complex, so each interaction has a higher impact on revenue. Consider software - if you sell your software to one B2C consumer you have sold one seat or license. In B2B a customer may purchase hundreds or even thousands of licenses, with the potential to sell even more as they expand and grow. This is especially true when you consider lifetime value of a customer. So if something goes wrong in a B2B support scenario, it can have critical revenue implications.
Multiple Potential Contact Points
In B2C when a customer contacts support about an issue, it is a single individual - one person who purchased your product.
In a B2B environment many individuals are using the product within each customer company. So if there is an issue with the product, you could have multiple people calling about the same issue within that one customer. Likewise, you may have multiple people from one customer contacting you about different issues..
In either case the support rep should have access to any other tickets created by the company so they can see the full picture and potentially spot underlying issues.
Understanding Customers at a Company Level
B2B providers need to have a deeper understanding of their customers at a company level. In B2C it's pretty unusual to have the same type of relationship with your customers because support teams are interacting with many unrelated individuals who typically have lower repeat rates. In B2B however, you are interacting with many individuals at each customer, giving you a better understanding of the customer as a whole. It is also often the case that in B2C products are sold through a 3rd party, such as retail, where in B2B the most common transaction is directly between the supplier and the purchaser. B2B also has longer sales cycles and longer term relationships overall, giving you more opportunities to build customer knowledge. Providing exceptional support in B2B, therefore, means retaining valued customers longer.
In summary, B2B customer support is different than B2C, and when choosing a customer support software for your business, it's important to understand these differences so you can choose the solution that will best meet your needs.