One size fits no one… Why personal service matters in B2B businessesby
With many business-to-business (B2B) organisations still taking stock after one of the hardest hitting recessions, establishing a strong customer base is high on the agenda.
It is becoming increasingly hard to both win new customers and retain existing ones. One reason for this is that the recession propelled customers to break the ties of old loyalties in search of lower prices and better deals.
This is not a revelation; however that said it isn’t all about price. B2B customers have been influenced by big-spending consumer brands who, despite the recession, have continued to drive loyalty programmes and invest in their ability to provide personal service based on data driven customer segmentation. Our customers have had their expectations raised.
As with everything in life, there is always good news and bad news. The good news is a competitive war of attrition on price is the only battleground that can be averted. The bad news is there is still a lot of work to be done in order to get your customer experience where it needs to be.
Our approach on how B2B companies can hold on to customers and maximise their value is simple; Get Personal, Get Smart.
There are two reasons for getting personal with customers. First, because they expect it of you and secondly, when you know who your customers are you can sell to them more effectively.
A problem the industry has is that rather than not knowing enough about customers, it knows too much. Information captured for customer interactions can be turned into valuable insights, allowing for a more tailored, personalised approach to selling.
It is vital that every piece of customer information is collated in one place allowing for dissemination of data. This process also allows us to start getting personal. We will now be able to see how much and how often the customer spends as well as pre-empting what they may purchase in the future. Being able to predict what customers might do allows us to plan strategies for the next best action to take.
These strategies are designed to address the three issues that matter to us most:
- Revenue – presenting the ideal sales offer at the perfect time.
- Retention – anticipating defection and taking action to prevent it.
- Efficiency – reducing unnecessary contacts and driving routine enquiries to lower cost channels.
Having developed the ability to predict customer behaviour, the next challenge is to act upon it. This can be done using analytic technology vendors or using basic maths to calculate the best upsell offer for that customer.
Considering which channels to use in order to service customers at the lowest rate to the business is advisable. Whilst telephone agents can serve customers more cost effectively than on the road account managers, self-service multichannels can serve them better still. Multichannel shoppers will spend, on average, 15-30% more than single channel shoppers.
However, providing service and sales over multiple channels is only the first step. The second is to link those channels together so that customers can move effortlessly from one to the other, or even use several to complete a single transaction. We call this omnichannel engagement, where multiple channels are integrated to deliver consistent and personalised customer experiences. Omnichannel shoppers outspend multichannel shoppers by a further 20%.
Although there is a choice between implementing a single, multi and omni-channel sales model, it is evident that omni-channel is the most profitable and perhaps the most fitting in this day and age.
Trevor Harvey, director of planning at Saatchi & Saatichi considers developing an omnichannel strategy a necessity. He says: “If a company doesn’t [develop an omnichannel strategy] it will die. In today’s ‘participation economy’, a brand or business that deliberately chooses not to engage with its audience by their preferred methods of interaction chooses not to interact with them at all.”
The delivery of personal service, sales and account management across integrated voice and digital channels is, without question, the direction of travel for B2C organisations. On the basis that your customers expect you to deliver a ‘consumer-like’ experience, it surely has to be so for B2B organisations, too. It is a journey that won’t be achieved in a day but, in a world where customers have choice and the disposition to exercise it, it is one you must set out upon and the sooner the better.
Andy Doig is chief operating officer at Webhelp UK.