If you want to create the prefect customer service strategy that really helps the needs of your audience, you need to know your audience.
And while many of the tenets of good customer service remain constant no matter who you’re “serving” this isn’t always the case. In fact, there are some key differences between customer service that’s aimed at business clients (B2B) and those that serve traditional mainstream customers (B2C).
So if you really want to break through the noise and start providing customer support that helps your business grow while maintaining the right voice with your audience, you need to know what the main differences are between B2C and B2B customer service. And in this article, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know.
What is B2B customer service?
B2B, or business to business ventures mostly sell products or services to other businesses. In other words, they aren’t selling mass-market products via traditional retail methods. Many (but not all) B2B products are more expensive and the number of customers is normally lower.
So B2B customer service needs an array of strategies that take this type of market into account. This might not be as simple as live chat support or standard customer service offerings, and often relies on building personal relationships with clients.
What is B2C customer service?
Most of the products you see on the shelves of a supermarket are B2C products. In other words, they’re mass-market and are sold through traditional retail methods. While some B2B and B2C customer service strategies might have similar methods, they often diverge greatly on other areas. Let’s have a look at how…
What are the main differences between B2B and B2C customer service, and how do you create the right level of service for each of them?
While some businesses serve both B2B and B2C clients, most do not. And there are some key differences between providing quality customer service options depending on the characteristics of your clients. Here are some of the main differences between B2B and B2C customer service:
In B2B, long-term relationships are key. Each of your clients is often spending a lot of money on your products, and keeping them loyal is as important as ever. So you might want to have individual account managers or customer agents that build personal relationships with your clients.
In other words, if any of your business clients have an issue, they should have the direct phone number of someone in your organization who they know reasonably well. They should be able to get in touch with them as quickly and easily as possible, and that customer support agent should have the tools to help out in almost any situation.
Relationships in B2C are a lot less personal. Customer support can be short and sweet, and you might never hear from that customer again (even if they continue to do business with you).
While keeping customers happy is always important, if you have a large number of customers in a traditional business, each one of them is slightly less important when compared to B2B firms that have a small number of very important clients.
So with B2C, your interactions are often shorter and to the point. B2B interactions can be lengthy, and you should always be prepared to be in it for the long run.
Complexity of issues
B2B clients may have a range of issues that need addressing in a bespoke manner. This means your customer service agents should be able to think outside the box, and come up with intricate solutions to intricate problems. You know when some customer service agents have a strict script that they stick to? That’s not how you should be approaching B2B customer service. Your agents should have the ability to think on their feet and use their own initiative to support the needs of their clients.
For example, let’s say your B2B customer needs a slightly different delivery schedule for a large order. This might be something many B2C customer service agents wouldn’t consider, but for B2B you need to go the extra mile and adapt to the specific needs of your clients. Not just tell them the way you do things and hope they like it adapt to the way they do things and need things doing.
Conversely, with B2C, interactions and issues are normally much shorter and more simple. That doesn’t mean that you should ignore the needs of your B2C customers, and you might want to change your strategies if a lot of your customers are having similar problems, but you generally wouldn’t bend over backwards for one individual customer.
B2C customers should be given the tools to help themselves, most of the time. Often, a detailed and comprehensive FAQ or question and answer system can be enough to solve most of their issues without needing to take things to a personal level.
How many people are you communicating with?
Often, B2C issues will involve one customer. They bought a product, and they need help with it. Or they are interested in a product and need to ask a few questions about it. And your B2C support options should be built to make answering these questions quickly and easily a priority.
But with B2B, you aren’t just helping one person. You might be talking to a representative of a number of different colleagues and a large number of people who are using your product or service.
This means your customer support agent will need to be aware of the needs of a range of different people. And they’ll also need to be adaptable enough to sometimes talk to different people in that business without losing an overall view of what they all need.
How you interact with them
For B2C customer service, short, quick and easy communication is key. And these days that often means comprehensive mobile support options.
Whereas B2B customers might want to pick up a phone to talk to you (and they probably won’t want to wait in a long queue). Many B2B customers also place value on being able to email you directly. That means, a specific agent they know, who will answer their (sometimes extensive) queries quickly and professionally.
So if you’re serving both B2B and B2C clients, you should never direct both sets of customers to the same customer support options. B2B clients shouldn’t have to send an email to your general support address and get a ticket and wait for a response. They should know someone who can help them and be able to get in touch with them right away.
As you can see, building long-term relationships with B2B clients is always key. And while having individual agents who look after certain B2B customers is important, you shouldn’t be completely reliant on one specific agent for certain customers, just in case they have to take extensive time off or even leave your business. So a small team of people who have specific experience with certain sets of B2B customers is important.
How to make sure your agents can adapt quickly when moving between B2B and B2C customer service
If you’re using the same set of staff to look after both B2B and B2C clients (or switching your businesses’ focus from one to the other) you’re going to need adaptable customer support agents. That means agents who have been trained carefully in the differences between the two types of clients and also have the right experience serving them.
So you wouldn’t want a B2C agent approaching things like they’re in a B2B interaction, like by trying to build a long-term relationship. As often with B2C, you won’t hear from them again (even if they had all their issues solved and remained loyal to you). And that’s a good thing, B2C customers might only have one small issue and then continue to do business with you, silently, for years to come. So while you should be trying to build long-term relationships with all your customers so that they remain loyal, these relationships are often silent ones.
Similarly, an agent shouldn’t treat B2B customers like B2C ones. For example, it’s important to remember exactly who you’re talking to, and what the needs of their business are at all times. Don’t forget their names. And don’t make them wait too long for your help.
As you can see, the differences between B2B and B2C customer support can be quite large. And if you want to make the most of your customer support efforts, you need to come up with the perfect strategy that takes all these key differences into account.