Excellent customer support is critical for retaining loyal customers. This is especially the case in the B2B environment where customer relationships are built over time based on trust, personal connection, and credibility.
A high level of service is paramount to B2B customers — 85% of business buyers consider the customer experience to be just as important as the product or service.
Amid the complexities of B2B, how do you provide consistently great support? In this guide, we’ll go over the best practices and the ideal tech stack to help your support team meet the challenges of B2B customer support. But first — what exactly is B2B customer support?
What is B2B customer support?
A B2B (business-to-business) company is a business that sells products or services to another business. B2B customer support is the way a B2B company serves and assists the businesses that buy its products or services. Fantastic customer support is essential in B2B, as it helps companies nurture strong relationships with clients, reduce churn, and increase their reputation.
Supporting B2B customers involves providing individualized service for each customer account. This can include one-on-one consultations as you quickly respond to their questions and help them resolve any challenges they may be facing. Customer support is typically handled by a team of dedicated customer support reps with help from self-service tools like knowledge bases and chatbots.
What is the difference between B2B and B2C customer support?
There are several important distinctions between B2B and B2C customer support. For the most part, these differences make B2B customer support more nuanced and challenging than B2C.
Let’s compare the key characteristics of each below.
Characteristics of B2C customer support:
Products and services tend to be lower in price
Serves a high volume of individual customers
Customer issues tend to be low in complexity
Interactions are usually transactional and less personal
Customer relationships are usually short-term
Customers expect great service but are influenced by pricing and discounts
Characteristics of B2B customer support:
Products and services tend to involve expensive contracts
Serves a smaller number of larger customers (businesses), each one involving multiple stakeholders
Customer issues tend to be challenging and unique
Interactions are personal and often involve a dedicated support team or account manager
Customer relationships are long-lasting
Customers have higher expectations and excellent customer support is a major factor behind their purchase decisions
Challenges in B2B customer support
Due to these distinctions, B2B customer support comes with certain challenges. Here are a few key considerations:
Customer relationships are multifaceted
Supporting B2B customers involves juggling many relationships for each customer. This is because the customers using your product aren’t individuals but entire accounts. For each account, multiple people are using your product, which sometimes includes cross-functional teams.
Resolving customer issues involves navigating through many points of contact. For example, imagine you’re a SaaS business selling accounting software. Mary, an accountant at your client’s company, runs into trouble with your software and brings up the issue to her manager Mark. Mark then sends the issue to their head of IT, Patricia, who then reaches out to you, the vendor.
Next, there are multiple parties involved on your end, too. A customer support representative at your company might receive the complaint from Patricia and transfer it to an account manager or send the issue to your IT team. Depending on the problem at hand, resolving it might involve collaboration from multiple other departments.
Effective relationship management is essential for keeping track of all these moving players. And because turnover is high, support teams need to be sure they’re building strong relationships with multiple people on each account.
Customer issues are complex and unique
Compared to B2C products, products made for businesses tend to be highly sophisticated. As a result, the issues customers encounter with these products tend to be complex as well. For example, a SaaS customer might deal with high-level problems related to service maintenance, network connectivity, or security.
Resolving these types of requests usually requires the collaboration of multiple teams on the vendor’s end, and a lot of back and forth with the customer. Support reps often face problems they’ve never encountered before, and there are often many steps involved before coming to a resolution — such as running tests, following protocols, and checking in with various team members.
Problems need to be resolved quickly
While customer issues tend to be extra tricky to resolve, they also tend to be more urgent. In most cases, one or more aspects of your customer’s business is relying on your product to function. Consequently, any issues with your product or service have the potential to impact your client’s own customers and, ultimately, their bottom line.
If your client’s business gets set back by an issue with your service, this could sour your relationship and cause them to lose their trust in you. Providing proficient and timely support is essential for mitigating this kind of damage.
Because issues are time-sensitive, it’s important to offer 24/7 support to customers. This is one of the reasons why many B2B businesses provide customers with self-service support options. Self-service enables customers to troubleshoot issues in between contacting your team.
The stakes are high — and so are the expectations
For B2B businesses, customer support is a high-stakes game. B2B companies tend to deal with large customer contracts, and losing a single customer account can mean losing thousands of dollars or more. It can also mean losing a valuable business referral.
At the same time, B2B customers have particularly high expectations. These clients are making a significant investment in your product and are relying on your product to serve their own customers. They also tend to be business-savvy and are used to dealing with professionals and subject matter experts.
Due to the high stakes and high expectations, it’s especially important to provide impressive customer support.
Best practices for effective B2B customer support
So how can you navigate the challenges of B2B customer support? Here’s a list of five best practices:
1. Get personal with your customers
Research suggests that 86% of B2B customers expect companies to be well-informed about their personal information while serving them. Customers are running their own businesses and they expect their providers to be partners in their success. This means getting to know their unique needs and goals and offering them custom solutions.
To meet these expectations, support teams need to get to know customers deeply. Tracking and understanding each customer’s history, context, and preferences will help your team approach every interaction with empathy and with the most relevant solutions. This can include tracking conversation history and every action that has been taken on an account. Customer relationship management (CRM) software can help you track and manage this data (but more on that later).
Make sure this customer information is available to all support reps and all other players who will be serving the customer. Offering your customers personalized service and solutions is a great way to add value and build a competitive advantage.
2. Be proactive in resolving issues
B2B customers rely on your products to effectively run their businesses, so it’s especially important to be proactive when addressing customer issues. By getting ahead of the curve, your team can prevent smaller issues from turning into larger problems that affect your customer’s day-to-day business health.
Being proactive can be trickier for B2B than B2C since customer issues are a lot more intricate and every account comes with unique context. Customer support teams can use their experiences with customers to identify trending customer issues and help uncover specific pain points. For example, they can report bugs to the product team or suggest a UX improvement to a feature that’s repeatedly causing difficulty for customers.
3. Nail your team collaboration
Effective collaboration is essential for navigating the intricacies of the B2B customer-support relationship. Multiple members of your team will be involved with each customer account, and to provide a coordinated response, you’ll need to be sure you’re all communicating with each other.
This means making customer data accessible to every support rep and team member who needs it. Shared access to data will ensure everyone is up to speed on any issues the customer is experiencing and any steps that have been taken to resolve them.
Effective teamwork not only helps your team offer personalized and unified service, but it will help them resolve issues faster since they’re not slowed down by excessive internal back and forth.
4. Take customer feedback to heart
Part of getting to know your B2B customers is regularly seeking out their feedback. This can help you gain a deeper understanding of your customers’ needs and goals, as well as their concerns.
You can use surveys to ask customers if they’re satisfied with your services, what challenges they may be facing, what additional features they might need, and what their future goals are with your product. The answers to these questions can help you identify risk factors for churn, such as areas where your service may be lacking or where your product may be missing the mark. You can then use these insights to improve your support and to create a better product that’s truly built for the customer.
Taking feedback seriously also helps you foster a stronger relationship with your customers. B2B clients want to feel heard, and asking for their input shows them that you’re ready to make improvements to your product and that you trust and value their opinion.
5. Provide self-service resources
While B2B customers expect personalized, one-on-one service, they also expect self-service options. As with B2C customers, self-service options can improve their experience with your product and help them save time with access to quick solutions at their convenience.
B2B customers tend to be tech-savvy and often have their own technical teams ready to handle many tasks. They want the freedom to dig into your product on their own and take steps to resolve challenges before contacting your team. Self-service enables them to take on simple tasks like changing their settings or adding users. It also empowers them to resolve simple problems like log-in issues or billing issues.
Self-service tools can include knowledge bases, FAQs, community forums, and chatbots. These resources can include tons of in-depth information about your product — through videos, text, and, tutorials — which customers can access 24/7.
Your B2B customer support tech stack
Supporting B2B customers is no easy task, which is why support teams take advantage of various tech tools to help them. Here are our top picks for tools to back your customer support program:
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software
One of the top tools to have in your customer support tech stack is CRM software. CRM software is designed to help you manage your customer relationships by tracking all your customer data and interactions — from leads to current customers. You can integrate data from all sorts of external sources, providing you with vital context about each customer’s history and previous interactions with your company.
CRMs help you funnel customer queries coming in from multiple channels, so you can view one customer’s touchpoints all in one place. Support agents can easily access this centralized database to quickly get up to speed on a customer account and to track support issues.
CRM software also includes tools to study your customer data and provides you with rich analytics to help you better understand your customers. Some examples of popular CRMs are HubSpot and Salesforce.
Help desk software
Help desk software enables you to keep track of and respond to all your customer support requests. Like a CRM, all your customer interactions are stored in one place, so you can easily monitor customer support requests.
Help desk software usually includes a ticketing system to organize your customer queries and complaints. Here you can consolidate tickets coming in from different channels and combine multiple requests concerning the same issue into a single request ID. Being able to merge similar requests is particularly useful when dealing with businesses that may have multiple team members sending in the same request.
Some ticketing systems even include automation that lets you route certain customer issues to specific agents. Common choices for help desk software are Zendesk, Zoho Desk and Freshdesk.
Communication is crucial for all aspects of business, and the same goes for customer support. Customers need to have easy access to your support and expertise when they’re experiencing issues or looking for guidance.
Communication tools let you offer multiple ways for customers to get in touch with you in real-time depending on their preferences and needs. For example, messaging and live chat are great tools for customers who want quick answers to simple issues and who would rather avoid jumping on a phone call. Video chat tools, on the other hand, can be useful tools for screen sharing while navigating technical issues.
Some popular communication tools for B2B are Intercom (business messaging), and RingCentral (video, phone, and messaging).
A help center is a hub of rich educational content for your customers, like a knowledge base, community forum, and Q&As. Customers can access this information at any time, allowing them to troubleshoot simple issues on their own instead of waiting on a rep from your team.
B2B products tend to be complex, and customers enjoy having the agency to educate themselves about your product. Resources like informational videos and blog posts can also up your trust and credibility with current customers and with potential new customers.
Self-service resources also help your support team better assist customers. For example, support reps can share knowledge base articles with customers. They’ll also have more time to spend on more high-level issues since most of the simple queries are offloaded to the help center.
Great choices of tools for creating resource centers are Bettermode and Document360.
Customer feedback tools
Knowing your customers inside and out is vital to B2B support. Customer feedback tools can help you collect valuable info concerning your customers’ experience with your support team and your products.
You can run customer feedback surveys to collect metrics like customer satisfaction score, customer effort score, and net promoter score (NPS). Great survey tools can be integrated seamlessly into the flow so they cause the least resistance to customers.
Examples of feedback tools are Qualtrics and SurveyMonkey.
Step up your B2B customer support with Bettermode
With a community built on Bettermode, you can offer customers 24/7 support with a self-service resource center where they can find quick resolutions and troubleshoot simple issues. You can also cultivate deeper relationships with customers and drive advocacy with exclusive private spaces. Find out how Bettermode can helps customer support teams build trust and retain more customers.
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