Industrial B2B Customer Service the right way

Business to business customer service has lagged behind B2C. Resolving client issues should be a top priority for any business; in the B2B space it should be THE top priority.  The costs of acquiring a new client or losing an existing one or too high to take lightly and how a business performs when something goes awry can make or break a customer relationship.

A recent Gallup Study found that B2B companies have more incidents of problems than B2C and are less efficient at resolving those problems. Businesses have an opportunity to gain an enormous competitive advantage if they can improve upon the 50% average problem resolution rate that Gallup discovered.  

How to go about this can be incredibly difficult; B2B problems are often more than simple shipping errors and it's hard to know what to do when the ship carrying a 36 week lead time motor sinks. What is important is to acknowledge the problem, take concrete measures to try and fix it, to engage the client in open communication about what went wrong and what is being done to rectify it. In the industrial world our clients are our partners. It is crucial to keep clients informed as to the status of their project and keep the process transparent. 

Steps to effective B2B customer problem resolution

  1. Understand. The number one thing when resolving a client's concern: clearly understand what the problem is. Ensure the problem is clearly defined and treat it like a goal with deliverables.  The crisis isn't that the e-house is late, the problem is that the sawmill can't energize it's new log sorter without it. With the problem clearly defined, possible solutions can be evaluated accurately.
  2. Own the problem. It is critical to acknowledge the problem and accept responsibility for it. The Mill Super that can't start a crusher because the VFD is late doesn't care if the factory was flooded and shipments are delayed. All the Mill Superintendent wants is his crusher line up and running. 
  3. Own the solution. The solution will need to be walked to the finish line. It's rarely easy and in industrial B2B it is never going to be. Turn the problem into a positive. Demonstrate how your company can handle a crisis, prove to your customer that you sincerely care about the problem and are willing to do whatever it takes to resolve the issue.
  4. Be Creative. Offer alternatives. If the MCC's are going to be late, can temporary starters be used to energize critical systems for commissioning? Look for salvage and refurbished units, Beg, borrow, steal, from other customers (with their approval of course!). Its a small world out there and everyone is willing to help. 
  5. Be Realistic. Under promise and over deliver. The awful truth is that some problems can't be fixed. Its critical to be honest and transparent with your client to manage expectations. 

In B2B our problems can seem insurmountable, the true test is in how we deal with them. Temporary solutions, work arounds, and quick fixes won't resolve everything but by demonstrating a genuine desire to own the problem to and to work with the client, we can show our commitment to customer service. 

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