For B2B Businesses, Customer Service Still Counts

By Small Business BusinessNewsDaily

"The customer is always right."

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Despite this universal tenet of customer service, the truth is, making customers happy is not the result of a one-size-fits-all approach. This doesn't just mean treating each customer in a personalized, attentive way — it means that, depending on the type of business you are, you may need to rethink your entire strategy for dealing with customers.

Over the course of his career, Harry Bunn, president and CEO of marketing, consulting and research firm Ronin Corp. and author of "Customer Experience: It's Not That Easy" (Ronin Corp., 2014), has learned that business-to-business (B2B) companies serve a customer base with a unique set of needs, and therefore can't look at that customer base the same way a business-to-consumer (B2C) company might. [How to Provide Better Customer Service]

"In a B2C environment, there is typically one individual customer," Bunn said. "In B2B, there are a range of individuals who are important — the decision-maker, individuals who provide technical advice, the purchasing department, finance, legal and the end users. Customer service [representatives in B2B companies] must understand these roles and provide value to each."

In his book, Bunn says that B2B companies often think of customer satisfaction as a "measurement exercise," a simple scorecard approach that fails to take a B2B client's full experience into account. Adopting a holistic customer experience program is more complex and difficult for a B2B firm than a B2C company, but it's essential to creating sustainable competitive differentiation, Bunn said.

"A common mistake is addressing only the measurement aspect [of customer satisfaction]," he told Business News Daily. "A scorecard has value, but there are other aspects [that] provide significantly higher value."

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Bunn said that B2B companies can create a better customer experience by following these three steps:

Creating a customer-centric culture. Does your company have the right culture and top level commitment to implement and run with a customer-oriented strategy? If not, the program needs to be adjusted to match the reality.When developing strategy, Bunn advised continually asking the question, "How does this make customer service better?"

Use your metrics to take action. So, you've received feedback from your customers. What do you do with that information? Identify problem areas and figure out how to help your customers.

"Take action with individual customers, particularly the most important ones, for problems unique to them, e.g., 'I do not like my sales rep,'" Bunn said. "[You should] also address systemic issues, such as, 'delivery is twice as long as for competitors.'"

Provide feedback following the action. A truly customer-centric approach to service is one where you can demonstrate that you've listened and acted or plan to act on the issues customers have brought to you. This is especially important in B2B, where you need to keep multiple point-people happy for each individual account. Once you've figured out what to do with your customers' feedback, Bunn recommended continuing the feedback loop by informing customers of what you did or will do about it.

Before you overhaul your approach to customer service, don't forget to map it out to make sure you can execute your plans efficiently and well.

"Follow a roadmap focusing on a pilot program," Bunn said. "[This] can show the benefits before you roll out a full program which might be suboptimal or even fail."

Originally published on Business News Daily.