While we usually use the same word for people who buy products and services for themselves and those who buy products and services for their business – “customers” – much of the similarity between the two groups ends there. Business-to-business (B2B) customer support is a very different animal than business-to-consumer support, and it’s critical to understand the differences. Many contact center software solutions are built to support business-to-consumer (B2C) customers, and organizations that use these solutions might be inviting big gaps in support when they try to adapt them for B2B customers.
The differences are many. B2B transactions often have a higher dollar value and involve more people (stock and warehousing, commercial shipping, the sales team, legal departments for contracts and licensing, third-party integrators or servicing organizations, and more). For this reason, a B2B customer support platform should be custom-designed for b-to-b customers. (There are B2B customer support solutions available; TeamSupport is one.)
Another way customer support between the two marketplaces may differ is in the metrics that need to be measured to ensure a quality customer experience. According to Robert C. Johnson writing for Business2Community, the all-important first-call resolution (FCR), which is so popular in B2B customer support, may not be ideal for business customers.
“One of the primary reasons FCR doesn’t always make sense is the vast set of differences between business-to-consumer and business-to-business customer service,” he wrote. “Since B2B clients often bring more complex issues to their customer service representatives, it follows that the solutions are more complicated as well and therefore take longer to resolve. The result is that FCR rates are typically lower for B2B customers than for B2C. As a result, FCR is not an accurate measure of success in the B2B space because tech-savvy customers are well aware their complex issues may not be easy to solve right away.”
In other words, it may be not only be unrealistic to expect FCR for B2B customers, it may actively harm the customer relationship. Business customers expect ongoing collaboration between themselves and their vendors or suppliers, so a one-and-done attitude may leave them wondering if they have a partner.
“High levels of FCR in a B2B environment could imply that customers do not feel comfortable reaching out to their vendors in search of highly complex solutions,” wrote Johnson. “This in turn translates into clients not making the most out of their tool. Additionally, B2B companies who focus heavily on FCR over other metrics could hinder their support team’s ability to collaborate and communicate throughout the business as the agent rushes to find a quick solution rather than taking their time to find the best solution.”
So what’s a better metric to aim for when it comes to B2B customers? Johnson says the best way to measure is ask your customers if they’re happy with their level of service. Ensure that the more important markers: accessibility, responsiveness, knowledge and professionalism are being met. In addition, ensure that your organization has a strong self-service channel in which customers can touch base, seek their own assurances or answers, or simply check in with your organization to let them know all is well (in a non-intrusive way).
Edited by Maurice Nagle