12 B2B customer service best practices (in the AI era)

Natalie Smithson
AI enthusiast | Tea addict | Focused on using AI assistants to win the working week
Team meeting with AI assistant

In a business to business (B2B) marketplace, where competition is fierce, outstanding customer support helps your business stand out. While it’s crucial to have an exceptional product or service, the way you interact with and support your customers can often be the deciding factor in closing the deal.

To build trust and loyalty among clients, discover the 12 B2B customer service best practices you need to master, how they differ from B2C customer service, and, finally, why AI has changed everything.

TL;DR

  • With 86% of businesses wanting to be sold to virtually, adopting relationship-based selling as a best practice shows you’re focused on the customer and their experience, not just the sale or contract; aggressive sales tactics no longer work.
  • Communicating with B2B customers in real time, offering omnichannel support, and enhancing mobile experience are all best practices too.
  • Using AI chatbots to automate routine queries is a best practice because it gives your teams more time to focus on complicated or unusual issues that need the human touch.
  • Offering as much post-sale support as you do pre-sale, motivating and rewarding customers, and investing in training for support agents is key.
  • The World Economic Forum says AI “is continuing to shift almost every job role” and 82% of business leaders expect AI disruption in the next five years, so be sure to keep up with advancements to get ahead in B2B customer service.

Why B2B customer service is crucial

B2B products and services are usually more complex than those for general consumers. Clients need to know you understand and recognise what’s important to their business and choosing you is a good investment.

To show you’re the right choice, you’ll need to tailor your offer to their industry or niche, and offer a fast and personalised support service, often with dedicated account management. If your customer care offer doesn’t stand out from the support you’d give for a one-off, low-cost or low-risk purchase, you might lose their trust, whereas dedicated B2B customer service can be the backbone of a strong, long-lasting business relationship.

Top tip! Don’t forget your B2B customers have a life outside of work and this shows them all the time what good (and bad) customer service looks like. They’ll expect you to match up to the best experiences they have because they already know what’s possible.

B2B vs B2C customer service

When you sell to consumers (B2C), sales are often sporadic and customers buy at their own leisure. In the B2B world, clients are relying on your support to deliver a product or service their entire organisation can depend on long term; they need to see a clear return on their investment.

Sales cycles are longer for business customers

In any B2B exchange, both businesses have invoicing, accounting and customer records to consider as well as the sale itself. You’ll get entangled in price negotiations and longer sales cycles, bulk or larger orders, plus maintenance and support that goes far beyond the point of sale. It could last for years or even decades, so it’s important you show up as a business partner that sticks around, instead of a supplier who only appears at the point of sale.

B2B relationships can last a lifetime

Customer service teams working in B2C might only ever speak with a customer once. In B2B, they’ll get to know customers by name and speak frequently; they might even offer designated support. Because of this, the B2C and B2B customer service roles require different skill sets ― B2C is a high-energy sprint whereas B2B is a long-distance endurance run.

To last the distance, there are B2B customer service best practices you can follow.

12 best practices for B2B customer service

Following best practices in B2B customer service can help make your offer visibly better than competitors.

Here are 12 best practices you can easily commit to and quickly become pro at:

1. Move away from traditional sales

Did you know, 86% of businesses want to be sold to virtually?

Adopting relationship-based selling shows you’re focused on the customer and their experience, not just the sale or contract. Almost half of all buyers hate persistent calls and messages or when salespeople won’t take no for an answer, so move away from aggressive sales tactics to prioritise building strong relationships.

Focus: Give customers informative content and and ask for their feedback. Reduce the number of cold calls you make and, instead, follow up on leads with reliable recommendations and suggestions.

Goal: Increase customer satisfaction.

A man sits at a desk on his laptop wearing headphones. He's talking to a man who's outside on mobile, also with headphones. Text reads:

2. Communicate with customers in real time

Real time customer engagement with B2B customers is invaluable as it helps speed up decision-making and strengthens the feeling of collaboration. Increasing efficiency and productivity with an instant, flexible workflow, means you can match your B2B client’s sense of urgency and get them ahead faster.

Focus: Work at your customer’s pace to not only show your responsiveness, but also respect for their priorities as a reliable business partner.

Goal: Be more responsive.

3. Offer omnichannel support

It’s fair to say many brands struggle to support multiple channels of communication equally, but it’s possible to make rapid improvements in omnichannel and stand out for it. That way, B2B clients can speak to you on their preferred channel, whether it’s a social network, messaging platform, mobile app, or somewhere else, and on their own preferred terms.

Focus: Look at the channels you use at the moment to check they’re both suitable and working well as one consistent whole. Give customers reliable options to engage with you.

Goal: Grow trust and loyalty.

4. Enhance your mobile experience

Mobile has traditionally been focused on B2C, since it’s how we organise so much of our everyday lives, but “80% of B2B buyers now use mobile at work” too. If you don’t want to miss out on the B2B market, improve your mobile offering with both consumers and businesses in mind. Good mobile functionality means B2B customers can chat with you from wherever they are at any moment and enjoy the prompt and convenient service people now expect from all providers in every capacity.

A woman leans against a large size smartphone, messaging. Text reads:

Focus: Make sure your mobile app or mobile version of your website is easy to navigate, has real-time chat features for instant communication, loads quickly, and is easy to use.

Goal: Provide more flexibility.

5. Use AI chatbots

Every kind of business these days has easy, affordable access to the most advanced AI assistants. Start using one and you’ll increase your responsiveness overnight, instantly elevating your customer support service to a higher level. Using an AI-powered assistant means you’re available 24/7, even for complex queries which can easily be answered when you integrate your AI assistant with your business systems.

Focus: Give your teams more time to focus on complicated or unusual issues, so every type of enquiry gets the right kind of attention. Be it a fast, accurate response from your AI assistant, or more personal, emphatic support from your team for a sensitive enquiry over live chat.

Goal: Automate routine tasks.

“Because the AI assistant takes on more routine tasks like maintenance requests and contract information, it frees up our property managers to concentrate on the overall service and maintenance of the building, providing a better experience for tenants.”
~ Sam Winnard, Director of Build to Rent Management at JLL property developers

6. Personalise experiences

Personalisation shows you have a deep understanding of your clients and their unique requirements. By tracking their behaviour and preferences, you can tailor products and services to what they want, not just what you think they want. Using personalisation helps to build strong connections, making your B2B customers feel valued, which in turn keeps them loyal.

Focus: Send personalised email campaigns using segmentation and invest in CRM systems for more detailed customer profiles, so you can keep giving customers what they want.

Goal: Increase customer loyalty.

7. Offer as much post-purchase support as you do pre-sale

Offering post-purchase support is important because it shows a genuine commitment to your B2B clients’ long-term success, encouraging strong business relationships to flourish.

Hot tip! A particularly good way to offer post-sale support is through screenshare and video support. Being able to share your screen to show a B2B customer how to do something for themselves can save everyone time, and using screenshare software avoids the frustration of your team trying to describe (and your customer trying to understand) the actions they need to take to complete a task. If you can share a video of the conversation afterwards, this also prevents them from having to get back in touch if they forget something you told them.

Focus: Reassure customers they haven’t just completed a transaction, they’ve gained a reliable partner who truly cares about their objectives.

Goal: Build long-lasting relationships.

8. Motivate and reward customers

Using gamification techniques to celebrate milestones for your B2B customers is one of the hottest opportunities for customer service innovation. It acknowledges their achievements through entertaining, goal-oriented activities to keep them coming back to your site, encouraging collaboration and enhancing your brand’s appeal. In the right circumstances, thoughtful gifts or gestures can also reinforce the value you place on the relationship you have with your B2B clients.

Hot tip! It’s important to remember different B2B clients will have different values. Some customers might like to give the money you’d spend on a gift to a charity of their choice instead, so it helps to offer a choice.

Focus: Think about what’s most appealing for your customers. Coop Sweden, for example, sell groceries, so they created games and interactive character hunts inside their stores to make shopping more fun.

Goal: Increase brand appeal.

9. Invest in training for customer service agents

When reaching out for customer support, B2B clients want to deal with subject matter experts, so they can get their problem or query resolved quickly and efficiently. No B2B customer wants to be passed from one department to another, especially if they pay generous rates for your services or have high ticket items or equipment.

Focus: Train your B2B customer service teams (and your next-gen AI assistant if you have one) to know exactly what business customers need from you, so they can be genuinely helpful and solve an issue on first contact.

Goal: Improve first contact resolution rate.

10. Educate and advise your customers

Commit your customer service teams to educating your B2B customers, so they can make best use of your products or services. Do this often and you’re not only supporting your customers well, you’re demonstrate your expertise at the same time. Education should be ongoing, and a well-informed client is more likely to find greater success with your products and services, plus trust you more, nurturing a mutually beneficial partnership.

Focus: Put together comprehensive customer education programmes that explain the best way to use your products or services.

Goal: Increase customer trust.

11. Show your dependability

Downtime of equipment or services is a nightmare for any business. Without fast intervention, it can lead to loss of profits or loss of customers, which means how you respond to unexpected emergencies is vital to securing any B2B customer long term. You’ll need to prove from day one they can depend on you if the worst thing happens, and every part of their customer experience will influence their decision to trust you (or not). With strong customer support, you can quickly become the go-to provider that helps maintain their business with minimal disruption, so they can continue to satisfy their own customer needs too.

Focus: Establish a dedicated support team trained to handle emergencies, and develop contingency plans everyone in your teams knows about and understands.

Goal: Boost your customer retention rate.

12. Encourage word of mouth referrals

In the B2B world, reputation is everything. Userpilot found “92% of B2B buyers are more likely to make a purchase based on a trusted review and 78% of customers rave about their favorite brands to others every week.” If one of your customers has an exceptional experience, they’re far more likely to recommend you to other business owners and colleagues they know. This could be through word of mouth or a more official referral. Either way, it can lead to more business opportunities for you and organic growth without having to sell your services directly, so reward B2B customers for any referrals they pass your way.

“Here’s the hard part about this: if you’re very good at what you do, you won’t grow. Because lots of people are good at what you do. No one is going to be busy referring you and sending you business just because you’re very good. Sorry. The only way to consistently grow in B2B is to be better than very good.”
~ Seth Godin on Seth’s Blog

Focus: Consider putting in place an official B2B referral scheme to decide on what incentives and rewards you’ll give, and how to market it, so B2B clients can easily recommend you to others.

Goal: Increase your referral rate.

How AI has changed B2B best practice

If our list of B2B best practices helps you identify the ones you most urgently need to work on, but it feels like a lot, adding a next-gen AI assistant to your customer support team can help. Customer service leaders everywhere are now following advancements in AI to benefit from rapid business growth, improved processes and efficiency, along with happier teams and customers.

How best practice is shifting with the use of AI

Businesses have been making good use of artificial intelligence for many years, but with the sudden arrival of ChatGPT at the tail end of 2022, the business world is going through a period of genuine upheaval, and AI is having a profound effect on B2B.

Where basic chatbots were already being rapidly displaced by advanced next-gen AI assistants, large language models (LLMs) are now transforming customer service too. AI-driven interactions are now so inconspicuous and spontaneous, they revolutionise the way you deliver B2B customer service and make it easier to seamlessly link best practices into your workflow.

Handle more B2B customer queries with less effort

The World Economic Forum says tech “is continuing to shift almost every job role, whether it’s in a factory or behind a desk,” and business leaders recognise this.

Clutch reports 82% of them expect AI disruption in the next five years and they’re “excited, optimistic, and motivated”.

A person with a trophy and a laptop bag stands next to an AI assistant with the words

Follow B2B best practice easily with the help of AI

The quickest way to join in and start learning how an AI assistant can improve your B2B operations is to give it a try and, thankfully, it takes just 10 minutes to launch an AI assistant on our platform. You don’t need any technical skill to use it and only ever pay for what you use.

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With the help of AI, it’s easier to follow B2B best practices and reach your goals faster to consistently deliver excellent B2B customer service.

FAQs

What is B2B customer service?
B2B customer service is the support and assistance provided by a business to its business customers. It involves resolving queries, addressing concerns, and making sure the customer is satisfied with the products or services on offer. B2B customer service usually focuses on building long-term relationships and meeting the specific needs of business clients.
What does B2B best practice mean?
B2B best practices refer to recommended methods, strategies, and approaches that are widely recognised as effective in business to business (B2B) activities. These practices are based on successful experiences, industry standards, and proven techniques that help businesses optimise operations, improve outcomes, and achieve higher levels of efficiency and success in the B2B space.
What are some examples of B2B customer service best practices?
Some examples of B2B customer service best practices include prompt and proactive communication, personalisation of interactions, demonstrating expertise, building strong relationships, making sure issues are resolved quickly, providing self-service options, and continuously gathering feedback to improve the customer experience.
How do B2B customer service best practices differ from B2C?
B2B customer service best practices differ from B2C in a number of ways. B2B focuses on building long-term partnerships, providing specialised services, and catering to complex business needs. B2C, on the other hand, emphasises personalised experiences and appealing to individual consumers' preferences and emotions.