Five steps to building a better relationship with B2B customersby
Stephanie Edwards explores the typical deficiencies of customer service encountered by B2B customers - and how to rectify these shortcomings.
- External versus internal customers;
- Intermediaries versus end-users;
- Valuable and not-so-valuable customers.
- Broken promises, such as failure to respond to telephone calls or emails;
- Delayed response times, for example more than 24 hours for emails;
- Remoteness of human contact – where organisations prefer automated systems, even though customers do not;
- A reliance on impersonal scripts and therefore a reluctance to listen to or empathise with the customer;
- A reluctance to apologise, even when it is clear that the organisation has failed;
- Processes that are not customer-focused;
- A reluctance to welcome and act on complaints.
- Most customers would be prepared to pay a higher contract price to find a partner that offers higher levels of customer service.
- B2B suppliers should have clear policies, procedures and protocols, ensuring that each customer is treated fairly and consistently.
- Avoid an intense, sales-based culture with your customers. It can be seen as aggressive and is not generally welcomed.
- Customers dislike organisations that 'talk big' but 'deliver small'; they like those that are flexible and responsive.
- Many customers are reluctant to commit to one lone supplier, preferring to spread risk. They are concerned not to put too much power in the hands of one supplier, as some perceive that this power could be abused, encouraging the supplier to become arrogant.
- Good communication is essential and key to success; it needs to be regular, at the right level, and consistent.
- Customers like to be respected and well-treated. They are not interested in their suppliers' problems or internal politics. They like to work through one trusted point of contact that can add value.
- Complacency, lack of responsiveness and failure to deliver will usually lead to customer frustration and a breakdown in the B2B relationship. Are you empowered to manage your customer relationships and make a real difference? If you can add value you will maximise your chances of really engaging customers and developing longer-term relationships.
- Customers avoid suppliers that talk 'big' but deliver 'small' in the contract negotiation process, as this indicates how they may subsequently perform. Poor contract negotiations often damage business relationships. Customers do not want to deal with weak managers who cannot deliver. The right people, in the right place exhibiting sound interpersonal skills are paramount.
- Many customers adopt a detailed supplier monitoring system to ensure maximum value and flexibility from the contract and to reduce risk. For example they often routinely collect and analyse data on delivery, performance, number of rejects and prices.
- Be a helper and advisor to your customers. If you have knowledge or expertise around a particular issue that the customer is struggling with, offer to help. This will work wonders in strengthening the relationship, and may also pay dividends when you, too need help.
Previous articles in this series:
- 12 ways to ensure that you're internal customers look after your external customers
- The pursuit of customer-centricity: What are service leaders - and where can I find them?
- The 10 strategy tenets for developing a customer-driven workforce
- Six ways to transform your customer service
After 15 years in Higher Education both in Business Development and Marketing I set up Customer 1st International in 2005. During the past 10 years I have developed content in service strategies for the Accenture Supply Chain Academy, 23 courses in all.and also created 6 e-learning programmes for Unilever.
This year I launched two self-...