How important is good customer service?
Consumer expectations have never been higher. We all want high quality products at a competitive price and we generally want these things now. Whilst successful consumer brands understand that offering first class customer service and exceeding expectations with initiatives such as same day delivery gives them a competitive edge, is it the same story in the B2B world?
Customer Service is King
Whilst there is of course a clear distinction between the B2C and the B2B customer relationship, one can’t forget that we are still talking about consumers. One minute they may be looking to purchase a birthday present on Amazon and the next they are the purchasing manager within a large business. Although they are entering into two very different transactions, that doesn’t mean that their expectations will drop when it comes to the B2B sales process. B2B buyers are also becoming increasingly sophisticated and tech-savvy, driven in part by the fact that since 2014, there’s been a 70% increase in the number of 18-34yr olds who make the B2B purchase decisions. If anything, this is driving expectations of the B2B buying process up.
By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator for B2B relationships. No longer can brands fall back on a competitive price point and expect the orders to flood in. Now, more than ever, buyers expect a seamless customer service experience, a slick brand and a smooth purchasing process. Ultimately, future success will depend on whether a high level of service is embedded across an organisation and if a first class customer experience can be delivered on a consistent basis.
Ingredients for First Class Customer Service
Consistency is key to a long lasting and profitable customer relationship. It is far more cost effective to keep your existing customer base happy with a consistently high level of customer service which generates repeat business, than to constantly have to invest in new customers. There are a variety of elements to delivering the level of service which will ensure your customers return time and again, but most importantly, you need to understand what they are looking for so you can ensure you are meeting their expectations.
One of the most straightforward and effective ways of doing this is to have a conversation focused on tailoring your service to their needs. This could be an informal chat with a customer during regular communications or a more formal exercise, such as a survey. Customer reviews are another critical part of this jigsaw as increasingly those responsible for buying for business are looking to their peers for validation of a product. A bank of high quality customer reviews provides reassurance that you are operating a transparent, legitimate business and boast a cohort of happy customers. According to research, 70% of companies with the best customer experience use customer feedback, and more than half (59%) of software buyers say they write reviews to help others. Research also shows that star-rating in search results is the number one way to judge a business.
Of course, businesses interact with their customers across a variety of forums, from face to face meetings, to phone, email, contact forms and social media. To deliver a seamless service, all customer facing staff need to be able to access this information at the click of a button so that questions, queries and complaints can be dealt with quickly and efficiently. For example, if a customer has a problem with a particular order and they’ve followed up with an email, they’ll then expect the member of staff who picks up their phone call to be able to access these details. Therefore, a good CRM system is an essential part of delivering a good customer service experience.
Perhaps the most under-estimated asset within the world of customer service is an easily accessible set of responses to frequently asked questions. A well written FAQ can be worth its weight in gold, ensuring that most customers don’t ever need to actively contact the company. Instead, they can quickly make a decision about a potential purchase, whilst the company can reduce its customer service costs.
There are some key differences between the B2C and B2B purchasing process, but ultimately, the same principles of good customer service apply to both. The product needs to be of the right quality and at the right price but you have to remember you are dealing with individuals who want an easy and efficient purchasing experience. Get that last part right and you can expect to see first time customers become a part of a loyal customer base.
Priory Direct are a market leader in the UK and Europe’s leading e-commerce labels and packaging supplier, with only 28 members of staff but 29,000 eCommerce customers.
“Our competitors say they’re selling a product, but we say we’re selling a service,” says Marketing Manager, Josh Pitman. “We’re very much focused on keeping customers for life. And for that to be possible, you need to show you’re trusted.”
Priority Direct have seen a click through rate increase of 14% and a 2.5% conversion increase since collecting and displaying customer reviews on their site.
XL Displays are a specialist in exhibition stand decoration, providing materials from pop-up displays to pull-up banners and more. Serving primarily B2B customers, trust is key to keeping retention rates high.
“We know that customers who have a positive experience with us continue to choose XL Displays and return to us,” says Natasha Tuke, Customer Experience Manager. “We also know that rectifying any issues that a customer may have had leads to, on average, four times their average order value with us in the 18 months after we resolved the issue.”
“Honest reviews (good and bad) build trust with potential customers looking to purchase our products when they have never heard of us, and encourage past customers to keep returning.”
 Think With Google: The Changing Face of B2B Marketing
 B2B Marketing: Death of a Salesman (2016)
 This Moment: Why B2B Customer Reviews Matter as Much as Consumer Reviews
 BrightLocal: Local Consumer Survey 2015
Alan is Vice President of Consumer Marketing at Trustpilot, a leading independent review platform - free and open to all. With more than 70 million reviews of over 300,000 companies, Trustpilot gives people a place to share and discover reviews of businesses, while giving every business the tools to turn consumer feedback into business results...