4 tips to train your B2B customer support team
Like any career, receiving the right training is directly related to success. This is especially true in the niche B2B (business-to-business) industry, where there are fewer but more valuable customers than its B2C (business-to-consumer) counterpart and the margin for error is razor thin. In addition, a support experience where a customer can contact you and expect the same level of great service regardless of the agent is fast becoming an industry requirement. This consistent level of customer support can only be obtained by training agents to be consistent in their daily work while still giving them the freedom to solve customer issues.
So how should businesses train their agents to reach this level of uniformity? Here are 4 tips to train your B2B support team so every customer interaction is meaningful and meets (or exceeds) the expectations of your customers:
1) Teach agents to utilise technology so customers need to do less – Contrary to popular belief, the customer isn’t always right. Use customer support technology to provide meaningful customer information to agents – such as what products or software version they use – so they can be efficient in assisting them. This knowledge prevents agents from troubleshooting the wrong item and minimizes the risk of customers providing erroneous information. It’s also important to use technology to review what solutions have already been attempted in the past so you’re not wasting time and money. This can be done by looking at the conversation log in customer support software as it houses both email tickets and chat conversations in one place. Simply put, the less effort a customer needs to put forward in contacting you, the more likely they are to reach out. This increased quality in communication boosts both B2B customer loyalty and satisfaction.
2) Enable collaboration so agents feel empowered working together – Even the best agents can’t answer every single customer question they receive. Support software excels at not only keeping customer information on hand but also playing a crucial role in facilitating collaboration. Agents can tag fellow employees in tickets, get them up to speed quickly on an issue, and have private conversations directly within tickets around how to resolve the issue. This breaks down B2B support silos so when a customer receives an answer it’s faster and more precise because the right employees have worked on the issue. This “behind the scenes” collaboration is excellent for B2B because it lets a single agent address complicated customer issues in one cohesive interaction. There’s no need for a customer to be bombarded with multiple replies from different agents and it greatly reduces the confusion for both parties. Simply put, it’s easier for a single agent to lead the dialogue and build customer trust through streamlined conversations than to have multiple agents all chime in at the same time.
3) Instruct agents when and how to say “no” to customers – Saying “yes” to everything if you’re an agent is easy; it leaves customers happy and if you’re talking to them on the phone it generally means the conversation is brief. However, attempting to satisfy all customer demands can be problematic because you’re setting customer expectations at an unattainable level. This leads to two shortcomings – your own internal failure which hurts team morale and a frustrated and disappointed customer. These situations can be avoided by having agents understand that if they say “no” you’ll have their back. While “no” shouldn’t be a default answer for agents, training them when and how to say it is valuable in the business world. Lastly, don’t forget to make sure agents explain to customers why they’re saying “no” as this keeps customer relationships honest and transparent for both parties.
4) Emphasise the business component of customer relationships – Actions such as saying “no” shouldn’t be a personal decision. It’s important to make sure customers know that as much as you enjoy their business that your agreement to work together is strictly professional. Obviously, you want your agents to be friendly and helpful, but they need to know where to draw the line. Customers are essential for success in the B2B industry, but at the end of the day the totality of your business is more important than a single customer. Having agents play favorites for personal reasons can lead to problems should other customers find out. Even worse, if this favoritism is happening too often it can potentially result in SLA (Service Level Agreement) violations when a certain customer is neglected for too long. Training agents that their favorite customers don’t always come first helps in the reducing the natural human bias from your support team. Similarly, a customer who may have had a rocky past with certain agents should still receive the same high quality of service when they contact your support team despite any previous friction.
Taking the time to properly train your B2B support team will result in more satisfied agents and customers. There is no “one-size-fits-all” way to train a support team, but providing them with the right software solution helps facilitate communication and the sharing of information. The interpersonal side of support shouldn’t be ignored either. Taking the time to instruct agents when to say “no” and to discourage overtly playing favorites with customers ensures business expectations are aligned. Training a support team isn’t easy, but establishing clear agent methodologies increases their confidence and lets them solve customer issues more efficiently.
Robert C. Johnson is the co-founder and CEO of TeamSupport.com, a cloud-based, B2B software application built to help customer-facing support teams serve clients better through stronger collaboration, superior teamwork, and faster issue resolution. A seasoned executive and entrepreneur who has founded and invested in numerous software and high-...