What is B2B and B2C

The 9 biggest differences between B2B and B2C customer service

B2B & B2C customer service in comparison

I recently stumbled upon a study by Gartner ("Critical Capabilities for the CRM Customer Engagement Center") that looked at the success factors for modern customer care. Gartner also sees some essential differences between customer service in B2B and customer service in B2C. That was of course "water on my mill", because we as 100% B2B specialists never stop pointing out that there are still some significant differences between B2C and B2B, both in marketing and sales, but also in customer service. Below are the main differences.

The importance of good, even better, outstanding customer service has been known to all of us since childhood. I still remember very well that when I was a little boy I always begged my parents to go to the bakery or the butcher instead of the supermarket. Why? Quite simply - I knew that I would get a slice of sausage or a small candy in my hand at the butcher or the baker, which was unthinkable at the supermarket at the time.
Over the years and as soon as people start working life, expectations change, but the importance of customer service tends to increase rather than decrease. But memories of outstanding or extremely poor customer service also stick with us as adults, especially when they are in a business context.

Generally speaking, in B2B sales we often speak of more complex topics and contexts than in B2C. It just makes a difference whether I speak to the online retailer who supplied me with the wrong lamp for the new apartment or whether we speak to our software provider for our time recording because some reports don't work and we need these reports for billing.

It is therefore no wonder that the first call fix rate in B2B is generally lower than in B2C. That is why we are also convinced that the immediate resolution rate is important as a key figure in B2B, but does not or cannot have the same significance as in B2C. It seems more interesting to work with the Net Promoter Score or similar metrics, as they evaluate the entire process or the customer relationship and not only focus on the immediate solution, which is often simply not possible in B2B.

Reason enough for us to show you the essential differences between customer service in B2B and B2C from our point of view, let's go:

1. Higher customer value in B2B than in B2C

In the B2B environment, one can almost always assume that the customer value of a customer is significantly higher than in the B2C segment. It simply makes a difference whether I order a package of room fragrances 6 times a year for € 30 each or whether we introduce a new time recording system and pay five-digit license fees for it per year. Every interaction in B2B can have an impact on future sales, only the impact is undoubtedly higher in B2B.

2. There is also the Buying Center in B2B sales in customer service

A point that I keep wondering about. The topic of buying centers and different buyer personas is prominently present in marketing and sales. Companies are aware that there are different contact persons and roles. In Marketing and Sales, we are even developing different strategies and approaches on how I can best address these different characters and functionaries in order to get them excited about a product, a solution or a service. That is a good thing, because the average buying center in the B2B area now comprises 5.4 people.
Do you know companies that implement this approach in B2B customer service just as meticulously?
It is nothing else. Let us take ourselves again as an example in connection with the time recording software, there are at least four different people with completely different needs in terms of the software.
  • The commercial department and our project managers need the data for the monthly billing.
  • The HR department needs data for the calculation of vacation days and for the employees' working time accounts.
  • Our IT department always has questions and requirements regarding the connection to our other systems (CRM, ACD system, etc.).
  • Our controlling, on the other hand, has a different point of view and demands on the system.
From this alone it is immediately apparent that a wide variety of people approach the provider with a wide variety of perspectives and yet they all come from our organization.
The goal of professional customer service must therefore be to create a “thinking” similar to that in marketing and sales - the holistic view of a corporate customer. If this does not succeed, there can be massively higher costs in order to inspire the customer with professional service. Now at the latest we have reached the topic of correspondingly professional software solutions, because these are a prerequisite for having this view of the customer and all of his processes.
If, on the other hand, it is a question of the DSL connection at home, we have a maximum of two people who can get in touch and are very likely to have very similar issues.

3. B2B customers often seek help and support in making decisions

In B2B, upcoming investments are not only higher, they usually also have completely different effects and consequences if the decision was not the right one. It is therefore completely normal for customers to expect professional support from customer service when making decisions so that the right one is made. Empathetic, competent and quickly reacting employees in customer service are active companions in decision-making today.
In some of our customer service projects, the number of incoming inquiries that have a "sales" character exceeds the number of classic service inquiries. Decisions are made in the same way in B2C, but the consequences of these decisions are usually not as far-reaching as in B2B.

4. Self-service has not yet arrived in B2B

How were they not hyped, the self-service portals - and in the B2C area there are quite a few that have established themselves here. In principle, it is also a clever idea to shift the “work to the customer”. If the customer wants to answer, he can look for it himself. B2C companies in particular have invested massive budgets in the portals, with quite different results. The crux of many portals is certainly the aspect of usability and in B2C you can possibly cope with it when a customer changes provider because he is not happy with this type of customer service - the market is usually big enough. In B2B this looks completely different, here every customer who turns his back on a company and switches to the competition can "hurt". I firmly believe that the topic will also play a bigger role in B2B in the future. But it will only be successful if it is consistently integrated into customer service; in my opinion, it is not sustainable as a stand-alone medium.

Recently, however, I've also got the impression that a certain change is taking place, I increasingly meet people who are simply fed up with the 100th IVR (speech dialogue systems) and immature bot systems, which is not to say that all of them Bots are immature. Rather, I see a trend that people increasingly want to communicate with people, although the preference of the channels can certainly be very different. And even the digital millennials at some point simply don't feel like pushing themselves through the IVR for 5 minutes so that they can then be operated automatically again. Person-to-person dialogue is not a question of age.

5. Mobile is not (yet) that important in B2B

Gartner has also found that “mobile” customer service in B2B does not yet have the same scope as it does in B2C. From my point of view, this certainly does not apply to all B2B companies; for example, we have been looking after a manufacturer of fans in buildings for many years - and when the installers have a question or a challenge on the construction site, messenger services are also very popular here because it's just faster and more convenient. Nevertheless, there are of course still some applications and segments for which “mobile” is currently not an issue, but what will undoubtedly come, more today than tomorrow.

6. Escalation management is of the utmost importance in B2B

Of course, it is annoying for each of us if the DSL line does not work at home (especially when people work from the home office), the wrong lamp is delivered after the move and it remains dark in the hallway for a few days or even the heating does not work. That is frustrating, annoying and also gets on your nerves. In B2B, however, the effects of failures and disruptions can reach a completely different dimension. If the servers are up, the organization is in place. If the internet line fails, the projects fall on our feet. Let's take a provider of legal software as an example. If these solutions fail and the lawyer may have appointments with the court, you will get an idea of ​​what this can mean for the law firm AND the client. Therefore, every investment in professional customer service with a corresponding escalation management for emergencies is of existential importance.

7. B2B needs to know its customers

In the B2C segment, it is rather unlikely that providers really know their customers. A personal relationship with the customer is seldom established; think, for example, of Vodafone with almost 4 million customers in the cable sector, of EnBW with a total of around 5.5 million or of companies that sell their products indirectly through retailers. It is almost impossible to really “know” the customers. In the B2B environment it is completely different. All information about contact persons, the information obtained as part of the sales process, service processes from the past must be known and easily accessible for customer service. What could be worse than asking again for information that is "actually available" from the provider - that just annoys each of us.

8. Technologies for customer service

As you can see, there are massive differences, and of course this also has an impact on the technologies to be used. The number of available software solutions for customer service is immense, you can find an exemplary overview at the link below https://www.capterra.com.de/directory/22/customer-service/software

Therefore, only integrated platform solutions such as salesforce, HubSpot or similar should be used in the B2B area, because only these solutions offer an integrated view of the customer, which includes all marketing, sales and service activities. An isolated help desk solution or similar is absolutely ok for B2C, but not in the B2B environment.

9. The employees in the B2B and B2C environment

All employees in customer service deserve more than respect, regardless of whether they are active in B2B or B2C. Communicating with a large number of different people on a wide variety of topics via different channels on a daily basis is really tough work. Analogous to sales, only those who understand customer service as their passion are really outstanding. The variety of competencies of an employee in modern customer service are incredibly diverse, regardless of whether B2B or B2C - each of us should take our hats off to these people every day. And yet they do exist, these subtle differences that distinguish a B2B customer service specialist from a B2C customer service employee. Basically, all of the above points play a role here:

  • Dealing with more complex technologies.
  • Holistic view of the customer.
  • Handling of the different functionaries, roles and responsible persons.
  • U.v.a.
But it is precisely the conscious handling and knowledge of “a business customer” with a corresponding customer value that is one of the greatest challenges for many employees who come from B2C customer service and switch to B2B customer service. So these are the biggest differences , but there is also one big commonality that I would like to conclude from my point of view - digitization. Well, it's no real surprise that digitization is making its way into both forms. While chatbots have certainly developed rapidly and will continue to do so, some of them are already shifting many interactions into the digital space. This includes above all the good "old" email, messenger services, live chat and video chat. The formats live and video chat in particular have caught up massively in B2B, we are recording an increase of approx. 35% p.a. in projects.

Summary of the biggest differences in B2B and B2C customer service

Without wanting to get too close to the B2C providers, the fact is that they are per se geared towards serving the “masses” on a relatively “superficial” level and that it cannot always be really personal the logical consequence. B2B customer service, on the other hand, is an essential part of sustainable, individual customer relationship management. Business customers often and rightly have higher expectations of customer service - availability, reaction speed, solution duration and competence, empathy and much more. are just a tad more important from my point of view than in the B2C area.

"Care" stands for concern, diligence, mindfulness, but also "having a desire and interest". Therefore, customer care means much more than classic customer care.

Happy service
Philipp Moder