For companies looking for guidance on offering great B2C support, there are vast resources available. For companies that perform critical B2B customer support, there is a lot less guidance. Frequently, B2B companies are expected to adapt b-to-c practices to their own business, and while some principles are the same – providing a great omnichannel experience and mapping out the customer journey – the way they should be accomplished are very different.
Some factors to consider in the way B2B support differs from B2C include:
Instead of one person per account, a B2B relationship may be a matter of one agent to many workers. Purchasing and procurement people may initiate the purchase, but IT or other departments may be supporting it. The end users (and there are likely to be many of them) will likely be the most frequent users, and they likely have the least experience, particularly with a technical product. In some cases, the buyer – and in an average transaction, there are about five of them – and the end users (of whom there may be hundreds or thousands – may not even know one another, according to a recent Business2Community article.
“The procurement officer is rarely the end user of the products and services they procure,” according to the company. “More often than not, the buyer and the user have very little personal connection, beyond organized feedback about the product and service. This is in stark contrast to most B2C transactions where most products and services are purchased by the user themselves or someone very close to them.”
Another factor that complicates B2B customer support is the various roles played by each caller who initiates contact with a help desk or B2B contact center. This means that each support call or contact is likely to be wildly different.
“Accounting may control budget, operations may control fulfilment, integration sits with IT and the final decision maker might be up in the C-suite,” wrote the Team Support (News - Alert) blogger. “The whole process can take months for a complex transaction, with each role coming into play at different times.”
For a support provider, each transaction needs to be customized for the role of the caller. Someone who offers technical support may not be well versed in offering information on the financial aspects of the purchase. For this reason, it’s critical that a B2B supplier have a collaborative approach in place: transferring customers from agent to agent and channel to channel risks damaging the relationship, as do long hold times, delays and incorrect information.
Great knowledge bases are necessary, since the customer relationship will very probably extend long past the average tenure of a help desk or contact center workers. Without shared information and collaboration, which can be enabled by a support solution designed for omnichannel customer engagement, customers may frequently need to keep inventing the relationship with new players all over again.
In addition to a great support platform, Team Support recommends techniques such as ecosystem mapping, customer-centric implementation approaches and shifting from account management to customer success management.
Edited by Maurice Nagle