As the trend in business-to-business (B2B) customer service continues to track toward a traditionally business-to-consumer (B2C) model, forward-thinking providers are finding that there are more ways than ever to keep customers happy, build long-term relationships and retain a portfolio of delighted customers. Of course, every coin has two sides, and if you flip this one, you'll quickly see that there are just as many ways to leave your B2B customers feeling frustrated, deprioritized and ignored. And often, you may be doing it without even realizing it.
Some B2B vendors have relied for far too long on a model that locks unhappy customers into contracts that promise one thing and deliver another, knowing that there's not much they can do in the interim except fume. And when the time comes to renew, in instances where vendor offerings are niche or heavily entwined, even providers who know they have to step up their game may place auditing and overhauling poor customer experience (CX) operations on the backburner, hoping to "get to it someday."
Globalization and cloud operations are giving customers more options than ever, however, and it’s becoming evident that providers have to make "someday"- today, especially when CX is increasingly a table-stakes game.
There are a few ways B2B vendors are losing their customers to "someday". If you’re seeing angry customers, canceled contracts and clients leaving without a trace, you may be falling into a few of these all-too-easy traps noted below. Do any look familiar? If so, and you're the provider in your B2B relationship, it's time to turn over a leaf. The good news is, fixing things may be easier than you think. Read on to find out how.
Losing a Client Early on is Simple: Exaggerate What You Can Deliver
One of the easiest ways to make sure your B2B clients can't wait to get as far away from you as possible is to simply overpromise and underdeliver. By paying zero to no attention to what your client actually needs from a provider relationship in favor of closing a sale no matter what will always result in each of you gaining a brand-new adversary and wasting time neither of you will recoup.
"Under promise, overdeliver" is such an old piece of advice that it can seem inconceivable that there are still sales pipelines in place that prioritize moving a prospect down the funnel over reducing churn and negative outcomes.
Never say you can do something under the guise of optimism – refer that prospect to a reputable partner or simply tell them it’s not a fit. Even if you can’t deliver what the customer needs, they will remember integrity, especially if their needs change or they have a referral of their own.
Making it Hard for Your Clients to Communicate is a Surefire Way to Get Dumped
If you want to lose a B2B client fast, make it as difficult as possible for them to get in touch with you. Sending customers into a labyrinth of channels with no clear path to the person or department they want to reach usually does the trick, but you can make your B2B customers really angry by making sure that they never speak to the same person twice.
When clients call, email or fill out a contact form, they expect a response now not later and a delay will guarantee an adversarial conversation, even if the issue they needed to bring to your attention wasn't a deal-breaker in the first place.
Customer relationship management models that are confusing, over-automated or unresponsive deliver the exact opposite of the speedy, accessible and personalized experience B2B customers want. A single point person and a direct phone number is really all it takes to solve B2B customer frustration around communication. Even better? Have a single point of contact that your client can always rely on no matter the issue.
Making Your Clients Feel Unimportant: The Easiest Path to Frustrated B2B Clients
There are a lot of ways to make sure that you broadcast the message that your customers don't really matter, but none is quite as irritating as simply not knowing anything about them. Even though you may have conducted a lengthy information-gathering process outlining what their organization offers and how your products will fit into that picture, that's ancient history to them now.
If you're asking your client to re-educate you on their product, pain points and past conversations with you, you're well on your way to losing them.
Keep detailed notes that you revisit before every single phone call. Remind them of what you discussed previously and be 100% accurate on the way you describe their business. The time it takes to refresh your memory will be well worth it when they renew with you.
Forgetting to Check in With Clients Ensures They'll 'Forget' to Renew Their Contract
There are a lot of great reasons to elicit feedback from your B2B clients. Unfortunately, some providers skip this all-too-important step and fail to inform clients of how you conduct feedback in the first place. If you aren't checking in regularly with your B2B clients, you have no idea what their changing needs are, which means you can't smooth out any rough patches or suggest new products or services that add value to their evolving needs.
Frequent communication and direct questions related to performance are vital to a healthy B2B provider-client relationship. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. When you receive negative responses this is the most valuable thing you could get – since most of your customers will just walk away. Also gather responses through various channels - reviews, surveys, verbal communication to ensure that you are getting the real story.
Hate B2B Customer Retention? Don't Forget to Ignore Your Client's Feedback!
If you'd like to drastically reduce your client list, ignore B2B client feedback when you do get it. Most B2B customers really want to see the partnership they form with you thrive and yield mutual benefits, so they don't mind the occasional issue as long as they know they can get it resolved by simply communicating with you.
B2B providers who ignore feedback in favor of just letting issues ride or keeping faulty processes in place are giving very clear feedback of their own: "We don't really care."
The moment your client gives you negative feedback, you can rest assured that it’s been brewing in their minds (and among their team members) for quite a lot longer. Take it seriously, apologize and resolve the issue as soon as you are able.
Being Unresponsive and Apathetic to Serious Issues Will Keep Your B2B Partnerships Short-lived
There's one foolproof way B2B providers can lose even customers who have been loyal for years: treat major issues with the same urgency as an office-wide memo announcing that it's time to clean out the break room fridge again. There are really a number of ways to drop the ball when a client is contending with a major provider-side oversight or mistake: vague promises to "look into it soon"; helpless bewilderment that isn't accompanied by plans to fix the error or simply ignoring the alert will all fast-track losing B2B customers.
What’s even worse for clients? Saying all of the right things and even going so far as to promise a fix going forward after soliciting direct and explicit feedback – and then simply let the issue drop without ever implementing any of it.
Give concrete ways in which you will address serious concerns. Submit a full plan that includes steps, timelines, reparations – the works! Show the client that what matters to them matters to you too – but even more. You may find that a frustrated customer becomes a loyal one by the way you handle this important issue.
Once They Are Gone: 3 Ways to Respond to Unhappy B2B Clients That Will Guarantee Terrible Reviews
Once B2B customers are lost, there are a few things providers can do to make replacing them difficult. 92 percent of those potential replacement customers are looking at online review sites for information about you, and your ex-customer is three times as likely to review you online after a negative experience than they would after a positive one.
Here are three attitudes on the part of the provider that ensure a reputation management issue. Be sure not to:
it's never easy to hear that a customer won't be renewing a contract, especially when they're candid about why on the way out. Refusing to apologize – even to express regret that the relationship is ending – increases the likelihood that they'll be just as candid with industry peers as they are with their B2B provider they're firing. Foregoing accountability in favor of ego-soothing justifications will only serve to confirm their decision to part ways was the right one.
If a customer is ready to cut their losses, it's because they don't think they can do anything else to get their needs met or salvage the partnership. Between their correspondence with the provider and the issues they've documented internally, the deterioration of the relationship is all there in black and white. Acting as if the split is out of the blue, attempting to rewrite history or implementing sloppy last-minute fixes all essentially boil down to lying to your clients, which will only serve to inspire them to warn others away from you.
Blame the customer
It's true that no one is perfect. When it comes to failing to retain B2B customers, however, the blame flows in one direction. Vendors always have the option of turning down new accounts or gracefully ending existing ones if they see they can't fulfill that customer's needs. Waiting until the relationship is irreparable to say anything is unprofessional at best and blatantly dishonest at worst. Either way, news of the blame-shifting is sure to spread.
There are plenty of ways to handle losing a client, but the vendors who see opportunities gained in lost B2B clients will be able to move forward with a renewed focus on improvement. B2B customers are starting to see that they can and should demand the same attention and care as they, in turn, give their own customers.
If you have seen any of these “Do Not Dos” crop up in your B2B business, don’t despair. With a new approach, your clients will be coming back for more. To find out how to make your B2B client love you, check our simple 33 ways to show them you care.
Here at Personiv, we pride ourselves in the white glove approach to customer care within the decades-long partnerships we've formed. Our customers have allowed us to grow with them, and we always strive to show our gratitude by finding new and better ways to delight them. We know that every customer is different, which is why we work to tailor our cost-saving, efficiency-building solutions to their needs, with their input at every stage and beyond.
If you're ready to see what a B2B partnership that values empathy and prioritizes communication, get in touch today. But why take our word for it?
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