For the past several years, business leaders have stressed the importance of creating and maintaining strong relationships with existing consumers. Studies have shown that it’s more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one.
However, numerous businesses are still under-emphasizing the importance of customer retention in their marketing efforts. For instance, in a survey by Forbes Insights, only 38 percent of respondents said their organizations were focused primarily on current customers for revenue growth. However, 49 percent of participants said their companies focused primarily on acquiring new consumers.
According to another report, only 14 percent of large B2B (business-to-business) organizations are truly focused on customers, where an exceptional customer experience is deeply ingrained in the fabric of the companies. This implies that B2B firms have a lot of work to do in order to become more customer-focused, while also highlighting an opportunity for these companies to transform their brands and improve profitability by delivering a better customer experience.
Why Building Strong Relationships with B2B Customers is Important
B2B businesses typically have a longer decision-making process when it comes to investing in new products, mostly because there is no room for error. This is especially true for larger B2B companies, as there are multiple stakeholders involved. For instance, a wrong business decision can cause a delay in operations, forcing them to spend additional time and money looking for a better solution.
On the bright side, this lengthy process also leads to longer and stronger relationships with potential customers during the marketing and sales processes.
That said, even existing customers expect the same level of service and attention they received during the sale, and the job of maintaining this relationship falls on customer support teams.
B2B consumers drive retention: According to research by B2B International, most companies lose 45 to 50 percent of their customers every five years, and winning new customers can be up to 20 times more expensive than retaining existing customers. Moreover, just a five percent reduction in the customer defection rate can increase profits by 25 to 85 percent, depending on the industry.
These figures can be disastrous for B2B companies, because they handle licenses, contracts and subscriptions worth thousands of dollars, as opposed to the small subscription fees or one-time payments business-to-consumer (B2C) organizations deal with. If a customer leaves, a significant chunk of the business' revenue disappears.
Therefore, it’s crucial for B2B organizations to make customer service their number one priority in order to increase retention and reduce churn. This ensures a stable source of income for the companies and increases their market share.
B2B clients believe in word of mouth: Customers, whether B2B or B2C, will talk about a product or service that is above and beyond their expectations. At the same time, they won’t hesitate to give a negative review if they’re dissatisfied. In a way, this can be a good thing, because it tells businesses how they are performing and shows them what they need to do to increase customer satisfaction and retention.
Therefore, companies should always try to interact with customers who never make contact, because even though they aren't speaking up, they might have something to say or are dissatisfied. They might also be engaging in conversations with other dissatisfied customers or even looking into the competition.
How B2B Companies Can Improve Customer Experiences
Check out these tips on how B2B brands can better focus on their customers:
Make customers feel valued: The most important step in achieving customer experience excellence is to be committed to satisfying — and when possible, exciting — clients. All employees across the board must share a common goal of customer centricity for a total commitment to the customer experience.
Organizations that are committed to customer experience excellence must be passionate about their consumers to the point that the latter recognize the former’s efforts in going the extra mile. These efforts usually have a low cost to implement, and yet drive differentiation.
Also, in a way, satisfied customers also lead to employee satisfaction. Companies that are successful at delivering excellent customer experiences also understand what motivates and satisfies their staff members. And these organizations are typically the ones that reward their team members for their extraordinary contributions to customer care.
Understand and deliver on customer needs: This is extremely vital to customer satisfaction, because customer demands are often diverse. Despite that, many B2B firms believe that price and quality are all that matter. This oversimplification is usually the result of short-term sales targets and sales teams that are focused on price-based selling (as opposed to value-based).
Successful fulfilment of customer needs also requires an understanding of what the customers truly need (and not just what they want). This helps companies innovate and differentiate their product and/or service — and hopefully, exceed customer expectations.
Provide expedited response, delivery and resolution: In today’s digital age, consumers are used to receiving answers within seconds. Therefore, prompt response, fast delivery and speedy problem resolution have become the need of the hour. Businesses that can provide responsiveness faster than their competitors — and even before the customer expects them to — are likely to deliver a superior and unforgettable customer experience.
Resolve issues before consumers complain: Proactive customer care teams can anticipate customer needs and wants, and strive to resolve issues before the customers even have the chance to notice — or complain.
Being proactive doesn’t require new product or service offerings. It could be something as simple as offering a quick step-by-step tutorial for, say, the installation of an existing product over email, instead of having customers call for lengthy instructions via telephone. This proactive approach could mean less effort for the customers, and ultimately, a better, seamless and hassle-free experience for them.
Continually seek improvements to the B2B customer experience: Customer needs, behaviors and attitudes are forever changing, just like competitive threats and outside factors including legislation and technology. Therefore, under no circumstances can businesses that wish to deliver an excellent customer experience become complacent. Customer-centric organizations are aware of the fact that improvements need to be made on a regular basis. They are more receptive to evolution and are willing to reinvent how their clients interact with them in order to transform the customer journey.