Customer Experience News & Trends

B2B relationships lack trust, loyalty: 3 ways to rebuild now

Many B2B customer relationships are at risk. Trust is low. Loyalty is waning. Fortunately, you can still win it.

Almost 70% of B2B customers don’t trust that the companies they do business with understand their needs, a recent Gallup Poll found. That has customers second-guessing the relationships.

B2B v. B2C

B2B relationships are usually more personal and unique than more transactional B2C relationships. More happens behind the scenes. People connect. Relationships are created. Loyalty holds on.

Yet most B2B customers don’t feel their suppliers “get them” lately. But there’s time to rebuild.

Gallup researchers found these three trends from top-tier companies work to build and maintain B2B customer loyalty.

1. Tailor the experience

B2B customers need tailored knowledge, insights and perspectives — more so than tailored products. They often thrive off the expert knowledge they can get from their B2B suppliers. It’s more of a partnership than relationship.

As it stands, just 54% of B2B customers strongly agree that the people they deal with are trusted advisers.

“This means that B2B companies need to expand knowledge of their customers and marketplaces to enhance differentiation and value,” say Jeff Durr and Davide Leonard in their Gallup research.

That pays off: When customers strongly agree that the B2B companies they deal with are trusted advisers they’re 2.5 times more likely to buy again and almost four times as likely to recommend the products and company, Gallup found.

To become a trusted adviser that provides a tailored experience:

  • Give them insight. Rather than just respond to customers’ questions and needs, help them identify and forecast for their businesses. For instance, a global packaging company uses big data and research to predict end users buying trends — and passes that along to customers who might need it.
  • Study and share. Some top-tier companies study industry and consumer trends then make those regular findings and predictions part of the service to customers. Customer experience pros can then guide B2B customers through solutions to stay on or ahead of the trends.

2. Divide and conquer

In B2B relationships, companies often service customers via geographic territories. A sales rep or small customer experience team may handle a group in one part of the region while another handles the customers in another area.

While that might make navigational and financial sense, it doesn’t always add value for customers because they might not be dealing with the people who are best equipped to help them.

The best B2B companies segment customers in ways more specific than their location — for instance, by industry, end-user types or product and service specialties. Then they assign customer experience teams that include sales reps, service and technical pros, finance experts, and executives that expertly learn or know that segment.

Researchers found that getting executives involved at the customer level has a proven impact on loyalty.

“Top-level leaders can facilitate tactical, forward-thinking conversations, garnering B2B customer loyalty and helping companies overcome pressing challenges,” Durr and Leonard said.

3. Broaden the connection

B2B customers are just as likely to embrace a variety of channels to communicate and do business as those in the B2C arena, researchers said. In fact, they’re so used to using chat, social media, apps and email in their consumer transactions, they expect it from B2B companies.

The key: Separate complex and simple customer experiences. Take the simpler transactions and queries to digital platforms such as online portals, social media and chat. Target the customers whom you find to be digital-ready and introduce them to methods that eliminate friction on the baseline issues, and they’ll remain highly satisfied.

Migrating the easiest transactions to digital and self-service frees up customer experience pros to add their expert and personal touch to more complex or complicated issues.

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