The field of customer service is undergoing a major change, and it’s one for the better. Once perceived as an organisational cost-sink, customer service teams are now – finally – recognised as drivers of engagement and growth.  

The best customer service teams forge stronger bonds with customers every day by upholding the promises of the marketing and sales teams.

But customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company’s focus. Here are seven ideas for getting closer to your customers and building stronger B2B relationships.

1. Get all departments involved in customer service

Customer service or customer support teams are your company’s chief empathisers. They constantly come up against a range of challenges, and they witness your customers’ worst frustrations and best moments of gratitude.

The conversations they have with customers every day should guide the day-to-day decisions of product, marketing, HR and IT. All this takes is a few simple actions to break down silos within the company.

For example, consider sharing customer service duties. Take turns answering questions on live chat or get other departments involved in solving customer queries. This helps bring every staff member face to face with customer pain points.

Employees from different departments can also investigate relevant customer concerns to improve your products and services. In providing direct support, every team member can become a customer empathiser too.

2. Prioritise value above price

Look at the ways that your company adds value to your customers’ lives or businesses and solves their problems.  Focus your marketing messaging on the benefits of your product or service rather than the price.

Potential customers are looking for solutions to specific business challenges and ways to increase their own revenues. Instead of positioning your product as a bargain, emphasise the specific points of value that customers should expect to generate.

Look to current customer feedback for inspiration when developing marketing messaging. It should reflect how your customers think and feel, making it more authentic and showing your existing customers that you understand them and their needs.

3. Create a customer advisory board

Think of your customers as partners to your business and give them a seat at the table by creating a customer advisory board.

This group should be small but representative of your customer base. Balance new customers with long-termers.

You may choose to host formal meetings, create an online forum or you may find it easier to connect on an individual basis. Regardless of how you work with your board members, keep them very close to your product and marketing decisions. Ask their advice before launching anything. Position them as your most trusted confidants.

4. Grow your most successful customer segments

Aggressive growth is every B2B company’s dream, so it may be tempting to cast your net wide and acquire as many customers as possible. But with unfocused growth comes a high risk of churn if dissatisfied customers perceive your marketing messages as empty promises – sometimes it’s better to take things slowly.

Narrow your focus and specialise. Hone in on customer segments you know best, and the customers who will have the best potential for success with your product or service.

These will be customers with the highest lifetime values (LTVs) and retention rates.

5. Treat subscriptions like direct relationships

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) has overturned traditional support models. More than ever before, customer success is driven by ongoing relationships.

It costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one, so customer retention is just as important as acquisition.

In addition to getting users to sign up, you also have to give them incentives to stick around. Even if you have millions of customers, take the time to engage with each of them. Targeted, personalised messages and check-ins can help.

Use your customer data to determine whether and when you should reach out to your customers. There are signs of impending churn – including account changes, stagnant account activity, negative feedback, dropped sessions and decreased usage rates – so be sure to respond to these signs.

If you don’t have one already, implement an on-boarding process that encourages your customers to reach out for help when they need it. Make sure every single customer has the tools they need to succeed.

6. Bring humanity to your marketing presence

People like to do business with other people, so let the great personalities behind your brand shine. Encourage your customer-facing teams to take ownership of their communications, and to speak and write in a style that feels natural to them.

Upload photos of team events and casual days at the office to your social media accounts. Encourage employees to share content on social media.

This isn’t to say that your brand’s message, values and voice aren’t vital – they definitely are. You don’t want your staff to abandon these, so create a social style guide to provide direction.  

The more life your company has, the more your customers will love doing business with you. After all, it’s easier to connect with fellow humans than with landing pages.

7. Help your customers succeed on a personal level

There’s a real human being on the other end of the phone line. Like you, this person has ambitions and is looking for opportunities to grow and improve. You have a powerful opportunity to help that person look great.

The better your business relationship performs, the more empowered your customer will be in their own role. One way to distinguish your company as a vendor is to demonstrate that you’re invested in your customer’s success on a personal level. Prepare great support programs, share extra data and participate in their team meetings and company events. Do what it takes to be your client’s best vendor.

When it comes to relationship building, it’s the smallest gestures that matter most. Demonstrating you’re a group of human beings that care matters more than your big branding budget. Be who you are and your customers will take notice. The secret for stronger customer relationships is no secret at all – it’s people.

For more ways to improve your customer service, download our eBook ‘7 apps to supercharge your customer service experience’.