The business-to-business buyer’s journey is often difficult and long. The typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to 10 decision makers, according to Gartner, each of them bringing information they independently gathered to share with the group before making a decision.
This information often opens the door for new suggestions, creating an even longer buying process. With sales teams putting in significant effort and work into securing each customer, companies should find ways to ensure they’re able to retain those customers after they sign.
One path is through a company’s customer support team. While improving your B2B customer support team can seem like a long-term process, it doesn’t need to be. No matter what stage your company is in, there are steps, both big and small, you can take that will have a measurable impact on the business.
Following are six changes companies can make to improve B2B customer support and help increase retention in a matter of weeks.
1. Schedule Recurring Follow-Ups With Your Customers
Not all of your customer interactions should revolve around solving a problem. Many businesses don’t think to check in with their customers on a regular basis, especially when things are going well.
Customers likely won’t have a positive impression of your company or product if they talk with you only when something is broken. To become a trusted partner, regular conversations are a must. Talk to customers about your business relationship, as well as your own goals and plans as a company, and how you can be a good partner to them as they try to navigate and grow within their own industry.
Regular checks-in with customers can be a good opportunity for customer support and customer success to work together. Because both teams are responsible for managing the customer relationship post-sale, they often need much of the same information about a customer to maintain the relationship.
For example, a regular call creates a natural opportunity to bring up and discuss potential problems before they cause major issues, both on your end and for the customer. Both customer support and success teams benefit from these conversations, because it gives both the opportunity to proactively adjust their approaches to the customer.
They can make adjustments based on regular feedback rather than relying on developing a relationship based on navigating specific, potentially urgent problems. By caring for the customer beyond reacting to their issues, you can strengthen the relationship, turning your customer into a partner willing to stand by and advocate for your product and your team.
2. Add ‘Contact Us’ to Every Site Page and Outbound Email
Your support team needs to be accessible in as many places as possible. Many companies include a “contact us” link on their main homepage and a few other major pages, but they don’t include information on landing pages or other content, meaning a user who may be on deeper pages has to navigate around the site just to find contact information.
Now imagine this user is one of your customers. A person who can’t find out quickly and easily how to contact your team will be less likely to reach out, and your support team will be left completely unaware that your customer may have a problem.
You don’t want a customer thinking you can’t or won’t solve their issues, so your contact information must be accessible in as many places as possible. Every page must have a “contact us” link, and every email should have a signature with the same option.
Even non-support professionals should have this information, allowing your customers (and maybe even a few future customers) easy access to your support team. With just a few clicks, your team will be available to customers needing answers, giving them the opportunity to demonstrate their expertise and capability to solve their problems.
3. Customize Responses to Ticket Submissions
It may seem hard to believe, but some businesses still don’t send confirmation emails when they receive a ticket from a customer. Ticket confirmation should include information that lets your customer know what to expect from your customer support team.
These automated responses can be built to include a wide variety of custom information, allowing you to include your company’s logo and even details about your agent. By sharing the name of your agent and a brief message, the response will have a noticeable impact on your customer, who then will know an agent has been assigned to take ownership of their problem.
The message can be as simple as, “Hi John, my name is Jane and I’ve seen your ticket. I’m reviewing it and will follow up with you soon.”
A ticket confirmation message is a must-have for any customer support team, as it lets your customer know at the very least that you’ve received their message. Even if you don’t have the time or expertise to set up a detailed and customized automated response, a simple response acknowledging that your team has received a request will ensure your customer doesn’t feel ignored.
4. Examine Customer Indicators to Better Address Inquiries
Support interactions with a customer who is satisfied with your product and customer support overall should be managed differently than for a customer who may be frustrated with the overall experience.
To ensure that it does what it can to retain existing customers, your customer support team needs software that can help identify which customers are happy and which may be in danger of switching to a competitor.
The right software should be able to analyze the sentiment of your customers’ messages, measuring overall customer distress and aiding your support team in crafting personalized communication with customers tailored to improve the customer relationship.
By understanding your customers’ level of happiness, you can leave them feeling better about each interaction with customer support and confident you care about issues they may have.
Beyond sentiment, your support team should monitor how often your customers use your product. A customer who isn’t using your product as often as other customers could be about to move on to another solution.
This can be a good indicator. You can alert your success team of low product usage, informing them they need to reach out and ask if there’s anything the customer expects from the product or team but isn’t getting. Equipped with this information, you can reduce customer churn and improve your customer’s overall happiness with your product.
5. Provide Customers With Immediate, Self-Service Content
More than ever, customers will try to solve an issue themselves before reaching out to the customer support team. You should offer self-service resources to your customers, giving them access to common fixes and tutorials so they can save their own time and your team’s time by quickly troubleshooting on their own.
This content needs to be updated regularly so customers trust it and it provides them with updates on new solutions and fixes. If the information is stagnant, it will reflect poorly on your support team.
A simple tactic is to develop self-service updates alongside regular product updates, and allow customers to sign up for alerts when the self-service portal is updated. There are resources that can assist in notifying customers when new content goes live.
Your portal should include contact information on every page. A customer who can’t find information should always be one click away from contacting your support team. If a customer reaches out from the portal trying to address a problem for which there’s already an answer, it could be a sign the solution either no longer works or isn’t easy to find, and your team might need to update the process for locating or utilizing the information.
6. Include a Personal Touch
Not all interactions with customers should be via email or over the phone. A thank you note or small gift such as a swag bag with branded items can indicate to your customer you value their business and care about maintaining a positive relationship.
It may not seem like much, but to your customer it can serve as a memorable moment in the long run when assessing whether to continue a relationship with your company. However, it’s important to know what’s appropriate for your customer’s industry. Some industries and companies aren’t able to accept gifts, so doing a little bit of research before sending anything can help you decide between writing a note or sending a gift.
Your customers will be happier when you take small steps to check in with them and make your customer support department more accessible. When you prove to them the value of your solution and service together, they will be more likely to renew their contracts because they see you as an indispensable partner rather than a plug-and-play vendor.
While the above tips can’t replace the need for properly equipping your support team with the right B2B support solution, they can help your team take the next step with customers.