(This is part two of a series of blog posts on Relationship Marketing)
In reality, there are more similarities than differences between B2B and B2C segments and what drives customer loyalty behavior in each of them. However, B2B companies that want to excel in customer loyalty must focus on value proposition and relationship-building efforts, more so than their B2C counterparts. These efforts include the consideration that most B2B deals require a long and somewhat complex sales cycle, with multiple influencers and very high stakes. The decision of whether retaining or dropping a vendor may fall in the hands of more than one individual in an organization, which adds to the challenge of achieving B2B customer loyalty.
When a group of Guerilla Consulting clients was asked to rate loyalty to their professional service providers, 50% said they were indifferent and would switch without hesitation. Loyalty and acceptance are closely tied to a client’s perception of good service, according to research by Griffin Group. Companies must strive to meet and exceed customer expectations, utilizing every opportunity to keep clients satisfied, build stronger relationships, and provide stellar service. If you are a service company – like Guidance – the following techniques may help you achieve that:
- Assign a dedicated team to each client. Designate a project manager and a client management team to work with each of your clients. Train your employees on how to cultivate relationships, handle claims, and keep clients satisfied. Little things like misspelling their name or failing to follow up on a request within 24 hours may not mean a lot to you, but it sure does to your clients.
- Be consistent. If your clients need to work with multiple departments and employees within your company, make sure everyone in your organization provides them with outstanding service. One employee may excel while another one may put the relationship at risk, and when that happens, the company as a whole suffers the consequences.
- Educate your clients. An educated client is a satisfied client. Provide them with valuable information that’ll help them with their business, such as newsletters, presentations, videos of seminars, reports, tools, etc. Help them impress their bosses with the knowledge they’ve acquired from you.
- Think and act as the client. Get to know your customers businesses inside and out. Train your team to serve as an extension of your clients’ teams and invest in the success of their businesses as if they were your own. Keep in mind that the more you do to make your clients successful, the more successful they’ll make you.
- Ensure quality and accuracy in every deliverable. Apply proven methodologies to your service processes and build robust operational procedures for your employees to follow. Create checkpoints at key stages of the service process to ensure quality and accuracy before the project moves to the next phase. At Guidance, our Oversight Committee – composed of key members from each of our company’s departments – is responsible for running Quality Assurance (QA) checks at every stage of our clients’ projects.
- Be proactive. Contact your clients before they contact you. Aim for the best in quality, but when things go wrong, admit mistakes, take responsibility, and fix problems as quickly as possible – every time. Your clients will appreciate the honesty and promptness of your actions.
- Provide ‘round-the-clock support. Customers value companies that understand the importance and criticality of their businesses. Nothing communicates a bigger commitment to customer satisfaction than providing your clients with 24/7/365 live support. However, clients will rarely contact you after hours to discuss non-critical issues, so make sure your on-call team is as knowledgeable as your daytime team, and furnish them with the equipment and tools they need to solve client issues wherever they are.
- Monitor client satisfaction. Find out what your industry’s delivery standards are and benchmark against them. Interview your clients or ask them to fill out a survey to measure client satisfaction and other key performance outcomes. The survey results will help you identify areas of improvement that your company should work on to ensure continuous client satisfaction.
- Be your core values. At Guidance, we demonstrate, talk about, share, and hold to our core values in everything we do. And for the last 15 years, our core values have distinguished us from our competition and led to amazing relationships with clients, employees and business partners. These core values are:
- Honesty, integrity and fairness
- Respect for individual ability
- Creativity and diversity
- Teamwork and open communication
- Passion and commitment
- Enjoyment of work and life
According to a research by Harvard Business Review in collaboration with Bain & Company, US companies lose nearly 50% of their customers every five years. Just a 5% increase in customer retention can increase profits by nearly 100%. Cultivate loyal customers by building stronger client relationships. Go the extra mile and produce top-of-mind presence with your customers by providing the best service you can offer.
On my next blog post, I’ll be talking about B2C loyalty for Internet Retailers, so stay tuned for more on Relationship Marketing, Customer Satisfaction, Retention and Loyalty.