Put the Custom in Customer Service
In today’s competitive and noisy market, providing exceptional customer service is essential for the success and growth of your B2B business. But customer service is more than just resolving issues and answering customer inquiries.
It provides opportunities to build a strong brand image and create loyal customers who will be your brand ambassadors. Your brand is your greatest asset, and B2B companies should take advantage of every opportunity to build it.
Here are five proven ways to build your brand through customer service.
1. Train your customer service team to be brand ambassadors
Your customer service team is often the face and voice of your brand. Therefore, it is crucial to train them to embody your brand values and be brand ambassadors. Make sure they understand your brand story, mission, and core values so that they can effectively communicate your brand personality to the customers. Encourage them to go above and beyond in providing personalized and memorable experiences to customers. When customers feel a connection with your brand through your customer service team, they are more likely to become loyal patrons.
We guided one of our clients through a rebranding process. They were a successful company that was experiencing growing pains and knew they needed to shift focus on their business model, messaging, and marketing. Part of the rebranding process involves speaking with as many employees as possible—at all levels in the organization—to distill down what their core vision, competencies, and aspirations as a company are. Resoundingly, when all the discussions, brainstorming sessions, and discovery came together, they agreed that their new tagline represented them best: Finding a better way.
Their collective experience with customers was to always help them find a better way with any initiative they were collaborating on. This “new goal” inspires them to find different or multiple solutions for customers; explore new ideas; network with new suppliers if necessary, and shift mindsets when seeking the best answers for customers. This aspirational vision and their brand promise motivate and align them individually and collectively—it also provides a subtle nudge to employees to continue looking for a better way when faced with obstacles. It keeps them looking forward and upward…and has brought them unprecedented growth.
2. Prioritize quick and efficient responses
Customers expect quick and efficient responses to their queries and concerns. When they experience a delayed response, it creates a negative customer experience that can damage your brand image. Invest in systems and processes that enable your customer service team to respond promptly across various channels, including phone, email, and social media. Speed matters. By prioritizing fast responses, you show your customers you value their time and are committed to providing excellent service.
As much as we prefer personal engagement, the world is evolving, and so are people’s expectations, as we are increasingly reliant on digital prompts and assistance. If you can employ the help of technology to be truly helpful (and much of it is), you can remain ahead of the game. There are many tools you can use to assist with this. HubSpot has chat functions that help answer website visitor queries for those times you are unavailable. And with the advances in AI, the customer management tools for customer outreach, prospecting, and sales are astoundingly helpful. Find out what your software allows (or what you can onboard) or what plug-ins your website will allow/integrate that can help you streamline functions and create quick and helpful responses to customers and prospects.
Enhancing response times to customers in a B2B environment is crucial for maintaining strong customer relationships and ensuring customer satisfaction. There are many technology tools and solutions that can help improve response times in a B2B business. Here are some of them:
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software: CRM systems such as, HubSpot CRM and Salesforce help organize customer information, interactions, and communication history. They provide valuable insights into customer needs and enable faster, more personalized responses.
Email Automation and Templates: There are many platforms available—we prefer HubSpot—that offer automation features and customizable email templates. Automated email sequences can quickly acknowledge inquiries or provide follow-ups, saving time while maintaining a personal touch.
Chatbots and AI-Powered Chat: As mentioned above, implement chatbots, such as the one in HubSpot (there is also Intercom, Drift, or Zendesk Chat), to handle routine customer inquiries and provide instant responses. AI-powered chatbots can engage with customers 24/7, improving response times outside regular business hours.
Help Desk and Ticketing Systems: Many platforms streamline customer support operations by organizing inquiries into tickets. They enable efficient assignment of tasks and tracking of response times to ensure timely resolutions.
Knowledge Base and Self-Service Portals: Create a comprehensive knowledge base or self-service portal using tools (HubSpot has one, as well as Zendesk Guide and Helpjuice). This allows customers to find answers to common questions on their own, reducing the need for direct support.
Email Tracking and Analytics: HubSpot Sales Hub (and Tools like Yesware and Mailtrack) provide email tracking and analytics features. They notify you when a recipient opens an email, helping you time follow-ups effectively.
Collaboration and Communication Tools: Platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Workspace facilitate internal communication among team members. Efficient internal communication can lead to faster response times when addressing customer inquiries. You can also use collaboration platforms such as Teamwork to help organize vendor/customer projects and project-specific communication.
Social Media Management Tools: Tools such as HubSpot, Hootsuite, Buffer, or Sprout Social allow you to monitor and manage social media channels efficiently. Responding to customer inquiries or feedback on social media promptly is essential.
Customer Support Portals: Use customer support platforms to centralize customer inquiries from multiple channels (email, chat, social media) and streamline response processes.
CRM Mobile Apps: Mobile CRM apps enable your sales and support teams to access customer information and respond to inquiries on the go, ensuring rapid responses even when away from their desks.
Video Conferencing and Webinars: Platforms like Zoom, Webex, or GoToMeeting facilitate real-time video communication, which can be useful for providing immediate assistance and conducting virtual meetings with clients.
By leveraging these technology tools, B2B businesses can significantly improve their response times, reinforce a stronger brand presence, increase positive customer engagement, and enhance customer satisfaction.
3. Personalize the customer experience
In a world where B2B customers are bombarded with generic marketing messages, personalization has become essential. Tailor your customer service interactions to each individual customer by using their name, referencing previous interactions, and understanding their preferences. Implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) system can help your team keep track of customer information and personalize their experiences. By providing personalized service, you not only build a strong brand image but also create long-lasting relationships with your B2B customers.
But how do you achieve this via digital marketing? We all feel one step away from the in-person experience as we rely so heavily on technology these days. It is very doable! Personalizing the customer experience in digital marketing involves tailoring your marketing efforts to individual customers or specific segments based on their preferences, behavior, and demographics. This approach helps you engage customers on a deeper level, increasing the likelihood of conversions and building brand loyalty.
Here are several ways to personalize the customer experience in digital marketing.
Segmentation: Divide your audience into segments based on factors such as demographics, location, purchase history, and behavior. This allows you to create targeted campaigns that resonate with each group’s unique characteristics and needs.
Personalized Content: Create content that speaks directly to the interests and pain points of specific segments or individual customers. This can include personalized product recommendations, blog content, emails, and social media posts.
Dynamic Website Content: Implement dynamic content on your website that changes based on user behavior and preferences. For example, show personalized product recommendations, content recommendations, or location-specific information.
Email Marketing: Use email marketing automation to send personalized emails triggered by user actions, such as abandoned cart reminders, product recommendations, and personalized subject lines and content based on user behavior.
Social Media Personalization: Leverage social media platforms to engage with customers on a personal level. Respond to comments and messages promptly and create tailored content for different audience segments.
Geo-Targeting: Use geolocation data to customize content and offers based on a customer’s location. This can be particularly effective for businesses with physical locations.
Personalized Landing Pages: Create landing pages tailored to specific ad campaigns or customer segments. Match the messaging and design to the user’s context for a more seamless experience.
Chatbots and AI: As mentioned above, implement chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) systems that can provide personalized responses and assistance based on user inquiries and preferences.
Behavioral Triggers: Set up behavioral triggers on your website to prompt actions based on user behavior. For example, offer a download or suggest an engineering consultation when a user spends a certain amount of time on a product page.
Personalized User Journeys: Map out personalized customer journeys that guide users through the sales funnel based on their interests and behavior. Ensure the content and touchpoints align with their preferences.
Feedback and Surveys: Collect customer feedback and use it to refine your personalization strategies. Ask for preferences and opinions to enhance the customer experience.
A/B Testing: Continuously test different personalization approaches to determine what resonates best with your audience and refine your strategies accordingly.
Remember that personalization should always respect user privacy and data protection regulations. Be transparent about data usage and obtain consent when necessary. Effective personalization enhances the customer experience and reinforces your brand and its commitment to customer satisfaction, which increases engagement and loyalty, ultimately leading to improved conversion rates and long-term customer relationships.
4. Encourage and respond to customer feedback
Customer feedback is a valuable resource for improving your brand and customer service. Encourage your customers to provide feedback through surveys, reviews, and direct communication channels. Make sure you respond promptly to all feedback, whether positive or negative. Show gratitude for positive feedback and take steps to address and resolve any negative feedback. By actively engaging with customer feedback, you demonstrate that you care about your B2B customers’ opinions and are committed to continuously improving your brand and customer service.
But what if you get an unsolicited bad review on social media? We see it all the time in B2C ecosystems … it happens to B2B companies, too. Hopefully, you have a robust customer service team that ensures customer satisfaction consistently. Addressing negative reviews on social media is a critical aspect of managing your company’s online reputation. But, if it happens to you, there is a step-by-step approach to effectively counter a negative review of your B2B manufacturing company:
Stay Calm and Professional: Maintain a calm and professional tone when responding to negative reviews. Avoid reacting emotionally or defensively, as this can escalate the situation.
Acknowledge the Review: Begin by acknowledging the review and thanking the customer for their feedback. This shows that you take customer concerns seriously.
Take the Conversation Offline: Encourage the reviewer to continue the conversation offline to resolve the issue privately. Provide a direct contact method, such as an email address or phone number, where they can reach your customer service team.
Offer a Sincere Apology: Apologize for any inconvenience or dissatisfaction the customer experienced. Even if you believe the negative review is unwarranted, a sincere apology can go a long way in diffusing tension.
Seek Details and Clarification: Ask the customer to provide more details about their experience. This demonstrates your commitment to understanding the issue and finding a solution.
Address the Issue: Once you have more information, address the specific concerns raised in the review. Be transparent about how you plan to resolve the problem or prevent it from happening in the future.
Highlight Your Company’s Values: Share information about your company’s commitment to quality, customer satisfaction, and continuous improvement. Highlight any relevant certifications, industry standards, or processes that demonstrate your dedication to excellence.
Provide Evidence and Facts: If appropriate, offer facts, data, or evidence to support your response. This can help to counter any inaccurate or misleading information in the negative review.
Show Empathy and Understanding: Express empathy for the customer’s frustration and dissatisfaction. Let them know that you understand their perspective and are committed to finding a resolution.
Follow Up: After resolving the issue, follow up with the customer to ensure they are satisfied with the resolution. This demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction and can potentially turn a negative experience into a positive one.
Encourage Positive Feedback: Encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on the same platform to help balance out the negative feedback. Happy customers can be your best advocates.
Monitor and Learn: Continuously monitor your social media channels for feedback and reviews. Use negative reviews as opportunities for improvement, making necessary changes to prevent similar issues in the future.
Remember that your responses to negative reviews are visible to the public, so it’s essential to maintain professionalism and transparency throughout the process. A well-handled negative review can actually enhance your company’s reputation by demonstrating your commitment to customer satisfaction and problem resolution.
5. Reward and recognize loyal customers
Building brand loyalty is a crucial aspect of creating a strong brand image. Show appreciation to your loyal B2B customers by offering exclusive rewards, discounts, or personalized perks. Create a customer loyalty program to incentivize repeat purchases and reward customer loyalty. By going the extra mile for your loyal customers, you strengthen your brand, which inspires them to become advocates for your brand, prompting referrals to your business.
You want to incentivize and reward loyal customers, promote repeat business, and strengthen long-term relationships. While B2B programs may differ from B2C loyalty programs, they can still be effective in fostering customer loyalty and driving sales. We’ve compiled examples of customer reward programs in B2B manufacturing. You will probably be familiar with many of these—and in fact—are likely already implementing some of them in one form or another; though they probably are not grouped together under a customer loyalty/reward program umbrella. Consider doing this—and branding it as such. This will bolster your brand promise to customers and give them a tangible, dependable sense of security regarding your commitment to them.
Volume-Based Discounts: Offer tiered discounts based on the volume of orders placed by a customer. As they increase their order quantity, they receive progressively higher discounts or reduced pricing.
Frequent Buyer Programs: Implement a program where customers earn points or credits for every purchase. Accumulated points can be redeemed for future orders, additional products, or other rewards.
Preferred Pricing Tiers: Establish different pricing tiers for customers based on their purchase history or long-term commitment to your company. Higher-tier customers enjoy more favorable pricing structures.
Exclusive Access to New Products or Features: Reward loyal customers with exclusive access to new product releases, features, or prototypes before they are available to the general market.
Dedicated Account Managers: Assign dedicated account managers to top-tier customers. These managers provide personalized support, customized solutions, and faster response times.
Early Payment Discounts: Offer discounts to customers who pay their invoices early or on time. This can encourage prompt payments and improve cash flow for both parties.
Referral Programs: Encourage existing customers to refer new clients to your business. Reward customers with discounts, credits, or other incentives for successful referrals.
Annual Rebates: Provide annual rebates to customers based on their total annual spend with your company. This encourages customers to consolidate their purchases with your business.
Customized Product Development: Collaborate with long-term customers to develop customized products or solutions tailored to their specific needs and preferences.
Training and Education Programs: Offer free or discounted training sessions, workshops, or educational resources to help customers maximize the value of your products and services.
Tiered Loyalty Levels: Create multiple loyalty levels (e.g., bronze, silver, gold) with increasing benefits and rewards as customers advance through the tiers. Achieving higher levels might require meeting specific criteria, such as reaching a certain purchase threshold.
Personalized Support: Provide priority customer support to loyal customers, ensuring they receive faster response times, dedicated support lines, or 24/7 assistance.
Supply Chain Optimization Services: Offer supply chain optimization services to help customers reduce costs, improve efficiency, and streamline their operations. This can be a valuable added benefit.
Partnership Opportunities: Explore co-marketing or co-branding opportunities with your most loyal customers, creating mutually beneficial partnerships.
Customer Appreciation Events: Host exclusive events, such as customer appreciation days or industry-specific seminars, where customers can network, learn, and engage with your company.
When designing a B2B customer reward program, it’s essential to align the rewards with the specific needs and preferences of your target audience. Regularly evaluate and adjust your program based on feedback and changing customer dynamics to ensure its continued effectiveness in building and maintaining customer loyalty.
Proven Techniques to Deliver Exceptional Customer Service
We’re stating the obvious here: customer service plays a vital role in building your brand. You know your business and your customers best, so take what serves both your needs best and customize a brand promise—and how best to deliver it—using some of the suggestions above. By training your customer service team to be brand ambassadors, prioritizing quick responses, personalizing the customer experience, encouraging and responding to customer feedback, and rewarding loyal customers, you can create a strong brand image that resonates with your target audience. Remember, exceptional customer service helps retain your existing B2B customers and attracts new ones, making it a powerful tool for brand building.
Grant Marketing offers expert insight on brand development and how it can drive growth for your B2B business. Has your brand kept up with internal changes such as new products or policies, or external changes based on customer demands? Find out with Grant Marketing’s free brand assessment! Contact us now to learn more or call (413) 259-0319 to get started.