Keynote speakers (including, I admit, myself), authors, pundits around the water cooler: All tend to use consumer (B2C) examples to illustrate what they’re trying to say about customer service and the customer experience.
For vivid anecdotes that everyone can relate to, the default is to stick to household, consumer brands: Apple–Lexus–Starbucks-JetBlue and the like. As a keynote speaker and author on customer service, I understand the impetus for this very well.
B2C is good, vivid stuff.
Which is why much of what you read and hear about customer service and the customer experience comes from retail, the hospitality industry, restaurant and other foodservice industry scenarios, airlines, automotive industry showrooms, and so forth.
But customer service is of utmost importance in business to business (B2B) as well. Even though it rarely makes headlines.
The impact of customer service is in fact magnified in B2B:
• In B2B, the individual sale is often bigger
• In B2B, the per-relationship value is almost always large
• Most of all, in B2B, customer service invokes a multiplier effect, for better or for worse:
Consider a supplier, a manufacturer, a vendor, operating at the wholesale level. The damage caused by poor service — failure to understand, support, and go the extra mile, wherever and whenever needed — can be devastating, due to this cascading effect.
If a subcontractor fails to support its customer, catastrophe can result for the end user, who is purchasing something far more expensive and publicly visible than what the subcontractor at the beginning of the process provided, or failed to provide.
In the B2B environment, we are each a part of the puzzle, a single puzzle piece. But a puzzle that is missing a single piece is an unsightly, unsalable puzzle. And all those other puzzle pieces, and the end buyer of the puzzle, are counting on us.
So, even though B2B customer service may not be as sexy or invoke household names as often as B2C, I have at least as much respect for companies that do yeoman work in customer service in manufacturing. In the construction industry and the building trades. Fabrication. Plumbing supply. Automotive supply. Information Services and tech support.
A great B2B customer experience here isn’t just a preference. It’s mission critical.
Micah Solomon is is a customer service consultant and a customer experience speaker, trainer, and bestselling author. [ link last word to my amazon books list]