The people who handle customer service for B2B companies quickly become the voice of the company when it comes to managing customer relationships. It’s an important role, because those team members are the customers’ first point of contact when they need help, need updates, and when they run into problems. That’s why it’s so important to create a system where customer service representatives can build strong connections with the customers. I sat down with Kathy Vogel, HUI’s Customer Service Coordinator, to see what advice she could provide about how to build these strong relationships.
How to Build Strong Customer Service for B2B Relationships
Create Lean Communication
Kathy explained that our Lean strategy is the reason why we no longer have a separate customer service department. Instead, our customer service teammates are thrown right into the mix with our engineers, sales, and project managers. With everyone in the same room, all customer communication can go through the whole team within seconds. Issues are brought up and dealt with right after teammates hang up the phone, and sometimes even while they are still on the call. Customer emails also go out to the whole team as well, so everyone knows what’s going on, no matter if they have to get involved or not.
In a way, this open office environment holds everyone accountable. It also gives Kathy the opportunity to introduce customers to her other team members, if she believes they’ll be a better contact in the future. For example, she might introduce their engineer to one of our engineers so they have better discussions and don’t have to go through a middleman. Kathy can take care of a lot on her own, but this structure prevents wasted time from everyone involved.
Communicate Changes Right Away
It can be hard to go to customers with bad news, but Kathy explains that it’s important to reach out right away and let them know so they can make new plans. Communication like telling a customer when an order will ship out can prevent a lot of anger, because you’re being upfront with them before it could become a more serious issue on their end. They’ll have more time to plan for changes, so customers really appreciate when they know what’s going on.
Be Positive and Trustworthy
Two important qualities customer service teammates must convey to the customer is positivity and trustworthiness. Whether that is how you write an email, or talk on the phone, you have to be upbeat with customers no matter what kind of day you are having. It comes down to you get what you give. Your attitude will affect your customer’s attitude, so make sure you’re giving off the right mood.
It’s also important to make sure your word means something. If you make a promise, make sure that you can give them what you say you will. At the same time, if someone wants a product faster, you have to be honest with lead times. Make sure your team is also on board with your answers. If customers can go to someone else and get a better lead time, they will no longer believe you will give them the best date. They’ll stop contacting you for those questions, so it’s important to communicate that to your team.
Personalize Each Relationship
Finally, it’s helpful to learn more about your customers’ preferences. You should learn how they like to communicate: email, phone, Skype, etc. It is also important to find out what each customer is willing to accept and what would really upset that person. It helps you push your team to avoid hot-button issues if possible, and if they do come up, it helps you appropriately approach the conversation.
One other way to help you create a personalized relationship is by meeting customers in person. Seeing each other face to face can make a big difference. Even when the team is busy, they still get out to see customers to create that strong bond.
After 39 years of working in customer service for B2B clients Kathy still loves her job, and she’s seen how the suggestions listed here have improved her role over the years. She explains, “The communication within our teams here has helped so much because you hear everything. Everyone knows exactly what’s going on, and you no longer have to run down to the other end of the building to ask.” Optimizing your customer service optimizes your customer’s experience. Keep this advice in mind next time you’re working to improve customer service for B2B customers.
If you have more questions or tips about customer service for B2B, we'd love to see your comments below. Also, if you need help with an industrial project, and want to see our customer service in action, please contact us today!