Are customers happy with the support your company offers? If your company serves other businesses (B2B), chances are customers don’t rate their experience with your organization as highly as their experiences with businesses that serve consumers (B2C).
Simply put, B2B and B2C companies face different customer support challenges. The customer in a B2B relationship is the person who contacts your organization with a problem, but it’s also an entire company. That’s why many effective B2B organizations now focus on “customer success” rather than “customer support” — the former phrase encompasses the entire customer organization and highlights the supporting company’s role in making sure the business customer thrives in their market.
But, because business customers are also consumers, changing expectations that drive B2C customer support trends also affect perceptions of B2B support. To build a high-performance customer support culture in the business world, you have to meet those expectations. You’ll need to know what customers want and understand the obstacles you’ll have to overcome to deliver support efficiently. Then you can put the team and tools together to facilitate customer success.
Here are three steps to take so you can create a high-performance customer support culture:
Step 1: Know What Your Customers Want
We’ve all been there as customers — we’re using a product or service and something goes wrong, so we reach out for help. When that happens, we expect personalized service, and we want a quick resolution to our problem so we can get back to what we were doing. Preferably, this speedy resolution to our issue occurs during our first contact with the company providing product or service support. First-contact resolution is the gold standard in the B2C setting.
B2B customers also expect personalized service, but they’re typically more focused on getting the right answer than a quick response. Like consumers, they expect agents to know what product or service they use, and they don’t want to have to restate their issue to multiple agents. However, to achieve excellence in customer support, personalization should go beyond that and focus on the person. For example, agents can communicate in technical terms to customers working in technology industries, but may need to use more common language with other industries. Speak the language of your customer to truly understand what they want.
In addition, customers also want choices in how they communicate with support agents. Some prefer email, while others prefer live chat. Some want to reach a support agent by phone, and others want to browse self-service options like a knowledge base or user forum. Others prefer to communicate via text or video. It’s also important to keep in mind that platform preferences evolve and that you’ll likely find customers to be open if you begin communications on the platform of their choice.
Step 2: Understand the Obstacles to Delivering Support Efficiently
Many companies have responded to customer demand for choices by rolling out multiple communication channels. That’s a positive development, but it can also introduce new problems — and increase customer frustration — if the data generated across channels isn’t integrated. To improve the support experience, companies need to make sure data is captured from interactions across systems and that data moves freely. Sales needs visibility into support interactions so they don’t attempt to upsell an unhappy customer.
These integrations also help to break down data silos. Information restrictions by role can also be an obstacle to efficient support delivery because they isolate customer data. It’s vital to safeguard customer privacy, so it makes sense to restrict access to sensitive information like payment data. But the more support agents know about the customer, the quicker they can resolve problems. B2B support agents in particular not only need access to information about the individual customer contact, they also need to understand the business customer they are serving.
To empower agents with information, all customer data should flow through their support software system. Data silos and point solutions that aren’t tied to a holistic platform give employees a limited view of the customer’s information and experience, and that makes it harder to resolve issues and manage relationships effectively.
Another major obstacle is segmented support staffing. Tiered customer support levels (tier 1, tier 2, etc.) are a commonobstacle to efficient support delivery. It’s frustrating for customers because they have to explain and re-explain their issue as their problem escalates through the support organization. Tiered support is also frustrating for agents at the lower tiers, who are only able to solve the same basic issues repeatedly rather than developing their problem-solving skills.
Step 3: Putting the Finishing Touches on a High-Performance Customer Support Culture
We’ve built the house for a high-performance support culture, now it’s time to put the paint on. To do this, it’s time to empower agents to solve problems. With a platform that facilitates collaboration across the organization in real time, agents can work together with colleagues, harnessing their collective knowledge to resolve issues. Break down those silos! With a customer support software solution that provides access to searchable, historical customer data, agents can see how similar issues with other customers were solved in the past and use that knowledge to solve new problems quickly.
Since customers demand communication choices, it’s also crucial to provide multiple paths to resolution. Solutions that include self-service options are a must, as well as phone, email, chat, text and video options. Screen sharing solutions are a great choice for helping B2B customers resolve issues without having to explain complicated processes in writing or verbally.
Lastly, it’s important your support team doesn’t just close the ticket and go away for ever. It all ties back to the customer success mentality discussed earlier and how the top priority is ensuring your customers have a positive experience with your company. Make sure measures are in place for periodic customer follow-up and product updates. Not every interaction with a customer should start and end with support.
Putting It All Together: Think Customer Success, Not Customer Support
Building a high-performance customer support culture isn’t easy. It requires a ground-level understanding of what B2B customers want and what obstacles stand in the way of efficient support delivery. It takes a total commitment to customer success throughout the entire company. But the rewards make the journey worthwhile because when you build a high-performance customer support culture, not only will your customers succeed — your company will too.
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