In the business-to-consumer (B2C) world, support typically happens after a company has earned a customer and relates almost exclusively to an individual's relationship with a product.
Another characteristic of B2C customer service that differs from business-to-business (B2B) is that support is often problem-focused.
For example, if a consumer buys a malfunctioning kitchen appliance, he or she will contact customer support for help troubleshooting the issue or even to seek a replacement. In regards to reaching consumers, B2C brands face the challenge of communicating a product's value proposition to shoppers and convincing consumers to make final purchase decisions.
However, B2B customer support is much different. Support is just as much a long-term marketing strategy as it is an integral part of creating a positive client experience.
To be successful in the B2B space, organizations must understand how to bridge marketing and service to promote client retention and satisfaction.
The Three-Legged Stool of Customer Experience
The key to understanding how customer service is ultimately a marketing strategy in the B2B space is to view the customer experience as a three-legged stool: sales, marketing, and customer service.
Let's take a look at each of these components:
- Marketing: Marketing teams use a variety of channels including social media, email, direct mail, and cold calls to identify prospective clients and get them moving through the sales funnel. Throughout the marketing stage of a customer relationship, team members focus on the unique qualities of their product or service.
- Sales: Once a potential customer is captured by the marketing team, sales teams step in and convert those leads to paying customers. Part of this process requires relating a product or service's capabilities to the client's unique needs.
- Customer support: This is the final leg of the customer experience stool. During this stage, client services teams make nurturing the client relationships a top priority, going above and beyond to understand their needs and ensuring the product meets—and exceeds—expectations. The difference with this "leg" is that it is ongoing; customer support is the primary connection between a company and its customers from the point of sale throughout the balance of the relationship.