Customer support is a top priority for maintaining a client relationship and offering extended value to customers.

Regardless of the industry a business is operating in, customer support should be a top priority. However, business-to-business (B2B) customer support, while equally important, is much different compared to how companies conduct business-to-consumer (B2C) customer service. Here are five ways B2B customer support is different than B2C:

1. More complex issues
One of the key differences between B2B and B2C customer service is the complexity of the issues support teams are required to address. While businesses operating in consumer-facing industries often handle straightforward issues with quick resolutions – such as a product return or damaged merchandise – this is not the case for B2B. For the most part B2B customers, especially within the software space, are more technically savvy and often only contact their vendors with complex issues that require extensive back-and-forth research and testing to resolve. For this reason First Contact Resolution (FCR) tends to be much lower for B2B companies and is not as valuable, in terms of metrics, as it is in the B2C space.

2. Client familiarity
B2B businesses form in-depth, personal relationships with their clients, which is much different from the way B2C industries engage with their customers. While a large consumer-facing company may never develop a familiar relationship with its consumers, B2B companies spend extensive time with their clients, which gives them the opportunity to understand those customers at a deeper level. When a B2B client calls into customer support, the representative should already be equipped with a thorough understanding of that customer’s business, goals, needs and history with the company. Collaborative customer support software makes this possible, as representatives can log helpful information and background each time a service call is made and resolved.

3. Larger clients, more contacts
While B2C customer service teams often interact with just one person at a time, B2B offerings spark relationships with clients that employ a large number of personnel. Additionally, it is highly unlikely a client will have only person contacting support, so it is crucial for B2B customer service teams to have a robust customer and contact database that clearly identifies contacts in each customer organization. Companies offering B2B support should be prepared for this added complexity and avoid duplicating efforts between multiple client contacts and support personnel by utilizing a support system that provides visibility at the customer level. With the right technology, larger, more complex clients can be an opportunity for innovation and excellence, rather than a liability.

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Collaboration is key to providing excellent B2B customer support

4. Heightened focus on collaboration
Collaboration is always beneficial, however, this is especially the case for B2B companies with highly technical offerings. Since there are a number of issues that can occur when a client accesses software, including lost data, glitches and user experience problems, the demands on customer support are expansive. As mentioned, B2B issues are also typically more complex and unique meaning it is the norm to receive unique requests in B2B customer support. In order to effectively provide solutions to clients, customer support strategies must leverage everyone on the tech team as well as senior leadership and account executives.

5. Unique relationship with marketing
Finally, customer service is an integral part of a company’s marketing strategy, especially within B2B. A recent report by Forrester examined a variety of data points to derive a key implication: customer engagement in the B2B space should span the entire client relationship. This means that businesses must not discontinue nurturing their relationships once a contract is signed. Instead, customer support should be leveraged as a valuable marketing tool, and representatives should reach out to proactively offer solutions to their clients.

When it comes to B2B, customer support and client loyalty go hand in hand. In fact, the Phoenix Business Journal cited data from Harris Interactive that found 86 percent of respondents said they would pay more if a company could guarantee superior service, and 89 percent recently switched from one business to a competitor due to poor service. With customer retention as a key indicator of business success, support is at the heart of the marketing strategy.