I had an inquiry call yesterday with a TSIA member, and we were talking about how some of the emerging best practices in the B2B tech support world were already established practices in the B2C contact center world. They suggested I compile a list of the most significant learnings from B2C companies that B2B companies could benefit from, and I thought that was a great idea. With their huge volumes and high churn rates, B2C companies are forced to come to terms with people/process/technololgy challenges with a major sense of urgency, and these best practices can greatly benefit enterprise support. I’ve given this a bit of thought between conference calls and webcasts, and here’s what I came up with:
- Upsell/cross-sell. No one should be surprised this is at the top of my list. Consumer telco and financial services came to terms with selling as part of servicing a decade ago, when Do Not Call made it harder to market to customers, and it only makes sense to leverage every inbound interaction as an opportunity to increase wallet share. Campaign management and offer management software automated the process so agents were prompted to extend offers in context of the interaction, and specific to the customer, so the customer doesn’t even perceive the offer as selling. B2B companies know that upsell/cross-sell is coming, and forward looking companies are already embracing it. TSIA members wanting more information should check out this recent piece of research, “Best Practices to Increase Offer Accept Rates,” which includes lots of lessons learned from consumer firms.
- Customer experience. B2B companies seem to focus a lot on customer satisfaction, while consumer firms focus more on customer experience. Interaction satisfaction is only one part of the customer experience, and I think B2B companies need to get savvier about understanding the total ownership experience, from dealing with sales reps, through the PS and education process, how billing is handled, how releases are delivered, PLUS the entire post-sales support lifecycle. Customers often complain how difficult a certain vendor is to do business with, but the vendors seem blind to the process problems, as they don’t look beyond after-phone satisfaction scores.
- Many paths to the truth for self-service. I’ve talked about this one again and again, but the best way to boost self-service success is to offer multiple paths to content that meets needs of different users, and B2C companies understand this. While tech savvy users may use the search box, less technical users want an index tree or ‘guided search’ to step through, while novice users prefer FAQ lists. And for simple questions, offering a virtual assistant can have a huge impact. Though we’ve given STAR Awards to companies like Cisco and Avaya who embrace this approach, most enterprise firms still rely on the search box alone. Especially as we move toward more cloud solutions, with less IT involvement and more interaction with end users of the products, embracing the consumer approach to self-service, with more focus on simple questions and procedural “how do I” questions, and providing tools for less technical customers, should be a requirement for every B2B support team.
- Channel agnosticism. Over the last 2 years we’ve seen B2B companies finally recognize Chat is a valid channel for technical support, with low costs and high satisfaction compared to phone and email. What I’m not seeing, however, is a cross-channel strategy. B2B companies continue to add new customer channels, like chat, as standalone “channel islands” not connected to the CRM system or incident tracking system used for phone. B2C companies know that an order may come in via phone, with a follow up by email, and a shipping question on the order via chat. Having a cross-channel view of the customer, and offering an identical experience regardless of the channel, must be a priority as we expand B2B channel coverage.
- Adoption speed of new technology/leveraging trends. Let’s face it, consumer firms have to respond faster to consumer trends than enterprise firms. I understand that. But I question the lag time between B2C adoption and B2B adoption on many areas, including mobility and video. While most consumer device firms now offer video libraries of trouble shooting and procedural guides, B2B companies usually have nothing but an aging knowledgebase of text articles. While B2B companies have been fairly aggressive with online communities, other social media channels are ignored…despite success stories showing their potential. Keep in mind that every consumer trend ultimately impacts the enterprise world (how many of you are reading this blog post on a mobile device?), so we should stop waiting for big consumer trends to be “proven” for the enterprise world. They are inevitable.
What is missing? Please add comments if other things occur to you. And next up, I’m going to do a list of B2B practices that B2C companies should learn! I’m open to suggestions! And as always, thanks for reading.