In B2B, customer interactions are pivotal exchanges. A serious misunderstanding can fatally undermine a business relationship and the question is simple: are you making the most of your customer interactions?
The underlying truth is simple: there’s always something to improve, no matter how good you get.
What ultimately matters is making a commitment to improvement (and following through).
In this post, we’re going to run through four key approaches that are effective for most brands. Deploy them sensibly and you’ll see a return on your investment.
1. Learn from Your Customers
You can’t improve your customer interactions if you don’t know how they’re going.
Remember that your perception isn’t important: it’s only the customer’s that matters.
Approaches such as Net Promoter Score work well; you should gather NPS data and pair it with detailed customer surveys.
Those surveys will collect extended comments about specific issues. Combining those with the aggregate NPS ratings will show you consensus views and standout problems. You can make adjustments accordingly:
- Are your initial responses too slow? Invest in improving the turnaround time.
- Are you too quick to close query discussions? Let conversations linger.
- Are your services inadequate in some area? Action the most popular requests.
2. Learn from Your Competitors
Customer interactions aren’t rated in a vacuum; your brand will compared to others in your own industry, and other industries.
This means that you can’t fixate on what you’re doing.
Put time into researching rival support systems to see what they’re doing well (and poorly). Order from your biggest competitors, judge for yourself how supportive they are, then focus on making your support systems better.
Here are some key questions you need to ask during your research:
How do they make customers feel?
Subtle tonal elements can heavily impact how support systems are viewed. Being too formal (or too informal), for instance, can cause problems. When a brand makes you feel supported and valued, consider how it’s done.
How quickly do they resolve issues?
If your chief competitors are lightning-fast with support resolutions, you might not want to compete on speed. If they take their time, though, you could make turnaround time your main selling point.
How do they handle public criticism?
No brand is safe from social-media backlash. What’s telling is how that backlash is addressed. Given that your responses are public, how you handle one issue can be held up as an indication that you’re better or worse than other companies. Ensure that you look better.
3. Continuously Improve Your Support Systems
In customer communications people want to feel heard, understood, and valued — regardless of whether they’re requesting pre-sale product advice or post-sale support with a problem.
Here are some suggestions:
Track and act on social media brand mentions
The earlier you can identify an issue, the earlier you can address it. A customer could mention a problem with your service on Twitter long before they contact you. If you pick up on this through a mention-monitoring tool (Truested has a solid list), you can be proactive and deal with problems.
Centralize your data
When you’re dealing with a long-serving high-value customer, unifying channels of your customer relationship so you can quickly spot every message logged concerning an issue (regardless of its origin) will save time and effort.
Implement live chat
Using a live chat system allows support agents to field issues more efficiently, and can lead to better customer experiences.
Deploy a chatbot.
Built on predefined pathways, a chatbot can enhance a live chat system by screening basic issues. Things like order updates can be provided automatically, leaving your agents to focus on more demanding support tasks.
This is part of the popular hybrid approach to service.
4. Treat Different Customers Differently
Using a chatbot, as noted, lets you resolve basic issues so your support group can focus on more complex issues — but you can divide things further.
The support team should take customer profiles into account when addressing their issues. It isn’t about giving one customer group less support – instead it’s about ensuring that customers receive support in line with their contribution to your business.
Here are some thoughts:
Offer additional support channels
If you provide a phone line and a live chat system for every customer to use, you could set up a second phone line for high-priority customers and have agents give those customers more time.
Authorize more extensive compensation
Having strict limits on what support teams can do to rectify issues is good policy, but there is a balance between saving money and losing customers. Ensure compensation is appropriate to customer value.
Deal with big customers personally
Sometimes the best way to show respect for a big customer is to take ownership of their issue instead of leaving it to one of your employees. This will also give you an opportunity to solidify your relationship.
About the Author: Elliot Mark
Elliot Mark is an ecommerce writer with several years’ experience working with the biggest online store builders around. Skilled in content and marketing, he loves to share his knowledge with like-minded ecommerce entrepreneurs. Check out his insights on Ecommerce Platforms to learn how to take your online store to the next level: @EcomPlatformsio