So, one day, after you once again analyzed the work of your customer support department, you understand that in 80% of cases they just parrot the answers for repeating questions. A solution comes into your mind! Self-service. You decide to implement a customer service portal…
Ideally, a B2B customer service portal can become a workspace for your customers, ‘smart knowledge base’ that will lead to exceptional service, open new channels and opportunities, reduce the number of support requests and – (no kidding!) – increase both revenue and loyalty.
If this all works out, you’ll enjoy:
Firstly, because there is no need for a huge customer support department. Staff is expensive. Secondly, you can bring all billing/payment online and significantly reduce overhead costs.
Customer experience management has become a must in the B2B world. Today, it’s not the price that defines the success of your business. The quality of customers’ interactions with the brand comes to the forefront. Easy access to services, immediate feedback, individual approach, complete transparency in the order status – that is what makes the interactions with your company impeccable and that is exactly what the portal brings to the table.
A B2B customer service portal will let you crush the high competition:
- via better understanding of you customers. With the portal’s comprehensive customer data, analysis tools, forums, idea sections you know who your customers are, what they expect from you and what they complain about.
- via better customer convenience. A B2B customer service portal makes the interactions with your company more automated and standardized and allows managing issues with much less fuss and muss, which is sure to be noted and appreciated by your customers. The convenience will motivate the customer to buy from you and not be eager to look for an alternative.
Additional sales (consumables, parts, etc.)
With a B2B customer service portal, you become the first your customers turn to in case of need, which means you’ll always have the priority to offer your additional products and services. The customers know that through the portal they can easily reach the right parts and consumables they need. Besides, personalized content allows you to facilitate cross-selling and upselling of complementary products.
But as you might have guessed, it’s not that easy. How to make your new solution thrive and bring multiple benefits? Let’s try to figure out what’s what.
How to succeed
The portal should be planned and designed in a way that your customers get exactly what they need in the shortest period of time. If they don’t – they’ll just pick up the phone and it’s all wasted. So, make sure there is rich search functionality, the portal is clearly laid out and mutually exclusive categories allow effortless moving through your portal. When it comes to navigation, chat bots are also gaining ground today. It can be nice to use one as a keyword response (as buy, check, order, etc.) that will promptly provide the links with the answers for the specific tasks.
A B2B customer service portal should provide you with multiple personalization tools: web page visitors’ data, integration with CRM systems, social networks, search/view history, geo targeting. Do not hesitate to use them and provide personalized content to once again show your customers that you understand their business, that they are heard and cared for.
The shift to mobile devices is undeniable today. And it works for the B2B world too as most of the business today is done on the go. Thus, it’s vital to optimize your portal functionality for non-desktop devices.
Embraced after-sales period
FAQs, guidelines, manuals, instructions, discussion boards, tips, even better – step-by-step videos, how-to articles – the customers need to have quick access to all sorts of relevant information on the usage of your product as well as tips for its better performance and learn from the experience of other users. Though, remember to keep them not as a new promoting channel, but as problem-oriented content.
When you deal with the equipment that requires preventive maintenance – a maintenance calendar is a must. It will allow to plan all check-ups wisely, undertake them regularly and, which is often important, to coordinate shut down periods with the customers.
The trainings is a good way to demonstrate all multiple benefits of your product that may be unknown to your customers and show the customers how to use your product to the fullest. Keeping the trainings online you ensure increased flexibility in terms of time and effort. Besides, you make them easy to reach from any location.
Ongoing purchases (consumables, parts, etc)
The customers know where they can easily and quickly get what they need and not waste their time searching for the appropriate items.
Remote equipment monitoring
As you know your product better than anyone else, through the integration of a B2B customer service portal with remote monitoring equipment, you can diagnose the problems and perform preventive maintenance earlier, which can save customers from a huge monetary loss they could suffer in case of breakage, incorrect work or improper use. The precious data you get as a result of equipment monitoring also allows you to plan more considered improvements (if any).
How to fail
The most direct path to failure is not to ask your customers what they need and whether they need it all. If your customers are not eager to work with new systems (in our case, a B2B portal) and are fully, completely accustomed to the way the things are, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to enjoy the multiple benefits that the customer portal can bring. Whenever possible, involve your customers in portal development to get a working solution.
Other potential risks include:
Lack of personal touch
The fact that you introduce self-service in no way means that from now on your customers are left completely on their own. You still have to speak to them.
Aiming too high
Don’t try to stuff the portal with everything at once. Useless functionality only overburdens the portal and makes it big, slow and infuriating. This is exactly where less is more. You can experiment with different content formats, try different channels, but in the end keep only those things that you customers need and use. Simplicity, convenience and ease-of-use are holy words for the success of your portal.
Stale, outdated pages are definitely not the best impression you can make. They will well undermine your credibility or even make your customer doubt if you’re still in the game.
On a final note
A well-designed B2B self-service portal makes the interaction with customers smoother, more effective and convenient, which saves the company’s time and money and creates a better CX. But this becomes possible only in case the interests and needs of both parties (the seller’s and the customers’) are thoroughly considered and coordinated. Otherwise, the effect can turn out to be quite the opposite.
Darya Yermashkevich is a CRM Technology Observer at ScienceSoft, an IT consulting company headquartered in McKinney, Texas. Darya started off as a business blogger researching into web portal solutions, HRM, ITSM, and CRM technologies. Now she shares her hands-on experience based on real-life CRM analysis, as well as insights into the CRM industry in her business writing with a particular focus on customer experience and advanced use of the CRM software.