How to Beat the Competition with Legendary Customer Support
And it’s not just something for consumer products. When you’re offering a product or service to another business, they are relying on you to complete their mission. Service downtime or project delays aren’t just annoyances; they cost your customers money. And in some situations, that can snowball and cause an untold number of problems.
Just like you, they have deadlines and customer expectations.
Zendesk and Dimensional Research found that 66% of B2B customers stopped buying after a bad customer service experience – and 36% recommended that others not buy from this company.
On the other hand, 62% of people purchased again after a positive experience. And the power of great customer service goes beyond that – it can salvage a poor product experience. In fact, if you resolve a customer’s complaint and make them happy, 70% of them will do business with you again.
Let that sink in. The customer had a bad experience and then spent more money on you. Just because the company handled the problem effectively.
That’s how crucial good customer service is.
At my digital marketing agency, customers rely on us to deliver results on schedule and on budget. And while we’re very good at our jobs, sometimes problems arise. Campaigns don’t always hit our ambitious goals. Vendors don’t always deliver on time.
Though we’ve built systems to help ensure fast and effective execution, our real secret has been in how we manage our clients and resolve problems when they do occur. Having this level of personalized service means more loyal, returning customers and way better referrals.
Think of Customer Success, Not Just Service
The B2B world is all about results. That’s why so many companies have rebranded their service departments as “customer success.”
Service is responsive: waiting for problems to arise and then scrambling to solve them.
Success is proactive: looking for ways to get better results for clients and monitoring metrics to discover problems before they happen.
In most industries, there are always other options. There are other marketing agencies, other suppliers, other software vendors. And there will always be someone selling to your customers or clients. As business consultant Kate Zabriskie says:
“Although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.”
So don’t give your clients any reason to think about leaving.
One great way to do this is to employ account managers who are responsible for periodically checking in on the account and keeping detailed notes on their business. At least once a quarter they should speak with the primary stakeholders and note the following:
- How has the business changed or grown?
- What are the biggest challenges they face?
- What have been their biggest wins?
- How can your company better help them be successful?
You may want to collect more or less information depending on your relationship, but those four questions are non-negotiable.
This information needs to be stored in a central database that is accessible at all levels of the organization, especially the customer service representatives who will be your first line of defense against any issues the company has.
Beyond these regular check-ins, the account managers should be monitoring key metrics for signals that a call is needed. These metrics could include:
- Time spent in-app – For software, how much time are they spending on your product every day, week or month?
- Total order volume – How much business are they giving you?
- Support tickets opened – How many questions or problems are they facing?
- Product adoption – What features are they using? Are they getting the most out of your offer?
- Outcomes achieved – How often does your product give them a win?
The last one can be a bit tricky to measure, but it’s also the most important. Make sure that you’re helping them achieve success (product sold, problems resolved, time saved).
With the other metrics, it’s important to notice any change from their norm. A lot of companies see that their clients are increasing time spent in-app and think that can only be a good thing. But you should always consider all the possibilities…
Maybe they’re having trouble using one of the features and banging their head against the wall trying to figure it out. After all, many customers won’t complain for various reasons. They just struggle, get angry, and then go to your competition to find another solution.
Remember, for every one complaint received, it’s possible there as many as 26 unhappy customers who are staying silent:
Today’s business world is very interconnected. That means when problems arise, they can be very complex.
Traditional customer service models are based on issues and tiered support to manage costs. If a customer has a problem or question, they submit a ticket and it’s assigned to a front-line customer service agent. If they can’t resolve the issue, it escalates up to more qualified individuals.
This doesn’t work in many B2B situations where the problems are technical. Since each client’s needs are uniquely formed around their business, it helps dramatically to have someone familiar with them overseeing things the whole way.
For some, this will mean bringing in the account manager or even dedicated support for big customers. At the smaller scale, it means your tier one support representatives need to be prepared to work the issue all the way through. Even if they call in for backup, you want to avoid an “escalate and forget it” mentality.
This complexity is only exaggerated by multiple points of contact from your customer. While you may have a primary contact for your client, there might be many people working with your team or product spread across different departments and locations.
To prepare for this, your support team should have a customer database that organizes the main points of contact and individual notes about them, in addition to the more general information you have about their business. All communications should be stored here so that different employees can access it and quickly get up to speed on your relationship.
But it isn’t just the number of people you’ll be working with that creates complexity. Even if you work with relatively few people, you need to be consistent across different points of contact within your business.
Multi-channel communication is becoming increasingly important for customer service, with options of contacting a company for help including text messages, social media platforms, email, online chats and mobile apps. Studies show that churn can increase by as much as 15% when businesses fail to respond over social media.
Your customer database needs to be updated by the team at all levels so that when customers switch from one channel to another they don’t feel like they’re repeating themselves to each person they work with on your team.
Say “No” More Often
While being sympathetic to your customer’s needs is important, B2B service is all about results. If you let the customer tell you how to do your job or make demands you can’t deliver, you will only be setting yourself up for failure.
As the saying goes, under-promise and over-deliver.
You need to set boundaries about what your relationship will be and what they can expect from you. That’s why Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are so important.
Remember that you are the expert. They are coming to you to solve a problem that they think you can handle better than they can on their own. So don’t be afraid to say no to an unreasonable customer by politely telling them that your business can’t meet their needs and referring them somewhere else.
I know that amounts to lost revenue, but it’s simply not worth it. An unreasonable customer will cost you a lot more in time and support when they don’t get every little thing they want. And it’s not just about taking up valuable phone time – they will emotionally tax your service team and that can bleed over and affect your relationship with other clients.
Competing on customer success will help you stand out from all the rest. If you do it well, you’ll be able to command a higher price, enjoy increase retention, and experience smoother operation.
Just remember to focus on customer success and appreciate the complexity of your relationship and any issues that arise. If you do that and set the right expectation accordingly, you’ll make a great impression that leads to happy customers, a better reputation, and a thriving business.
What are you doing to make sure that your clients see more success and stand out from the competition?
The customer service agents on your team—whether you’ve got one or 1,000—are the frontline of your business. They impact your bottom line, attrition, NPS and more, and it’s time we enabled them to be exceptional in their customer interactions and careers.
Making customers succeed is a business-wide responsibility that requires contributions from each function.