July 20, 2017

3 Keys to Improving B2B Customer Relationships

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Tags: CRM

Customer relationships are at the core of every industry. While we may have platform and service-oriented image of B2B commerce, even B2B companies wouldn’t survive without relationships with individual customers.

To help you gain and keep your customers, you’ll need to work on your relationships. Personalizing and humanizing your brand goes a long way toward building customer contacts that can mature into advocacy.

ALSO READ: How Marketing Can (and Should) Improve the Customer Experience 

How do you do that? Here are three suggestions:

1. Make Yourself Available When the Customer Needs You

This seems like a no-brainer, but many customers leave a company due to lack of contact or support. Rack up critical loyalty points by making yourself available when the customer has a question. There are several ways your company can do this:

  • Self-Service Options: these are the easiest and require the least amount of manpower. Build help desks, FAQ pages, and online reference materials so your customers can search for their answer before coming to your sales or support teams with questions. The more readily available your support and education documents are, the less time you’ll spend answering calls and emails.
  • Direct options: make your support staff available in several ways to help customers feel connected. Use phone, email, online chat, SMS, and social media as communication channels that give your customers direct access to a real person at your company. That personalization will pay off through better relationships and easier communication in the long run.
  • Native mobile apps: so much of today’s business happens on the run, which means your company needs to meet clients where they are. This means giving customers access to their accounts from smartphones or tablets. It can be done through a responsive web interface or even a dedicated mobile app, if you have the resources to build one.

2. Follow Up with Customers

Thank you notes aren’t dead; they just changed form. Open the lines of communication with your customers by following up after a deal is completed. Solicit customer feedback within a reasonable amount of time, and take action on that feedback. At the same time, don’t over-communicate to the point of annoyance. The best times to follow up with your customers are:

  • After the initial contact: Building a B2B client relationship is a lot like interviewing for a new position, so treat your conversations as you might an interview. Send a polite and brief email that summarizes the main points you talked about, and try to include a reference to something you discussed.  
  • After the deal is complete: You’re in this to build continual business, so don’t make it feel like a one-time transaction. A few days or a week after the deal is completed, send an email thanking the customer for working with you, and outline some ways you can work together in the future. You may want to offer some educational resources at this point as well.
  • Holidays and anniversaries: Major holidays are a great time to build relationships, whether you send a handwritten note, card, or gift basket, communicating at holidays and major client anniversaries (like the yearly anniversary of your first deal) reminds customers that you want to build a relationship, not just make a deal. This tactic can be difficult to scale as your operations grow, but with the right CRM in place, you can keep track of these dates and automate messages, as necessary. When you compare CRM software vendors, look for options that include email integration and some kind of automated follow-up workflow.

3. Be Honest and Upfront

Every relationship has rough patches. The true test is in how you handle those problems. Whether it’s an incorrect insertion order or something completely out of your control, it’s best to communicate about the problem and what you’re doing to fix it.

  • If you know you’ve made a mistake during the closing process, don’t wait to reach out until the last minute. Instead, contact the customer to show that you care about their deadlines as well as your own. This makes the customer feel like you’re trying to work with them, rather than pushing the burden of a delay onto their plate.
  • Only promise the customer what you can plausibly deliver. Everyone understands occasional system outages or user errors, but if you over-promise ROI or exaggerate your product’s capabilities and fail to deliver, you’ll look dishonest. And customers will choose another vendor.
  • Finally, educate your customers to help them set realistic expectations. This will ensure that you and the customer anticipate the same outcome from the deal. When both parties leave the bargaining table with realistic expectations, your support team will have a much easier job.

B2B customer relationships are difficult. They require constant communication and mutual trust. If you can be proactive in opening conversations and building personal connections with your customers, you put yourself at an advantage over competitors.

Start researching the best CMRs to help you build strong relationships in our product selection tool. You can also call an unbiased Technology Advisor today for a free consultation.