Managing B2B Relationships with Expert Customer Support
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Know and Serve Your Customers Better with Intelligent Search

Technology is reshaping the customer experience. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) make it possible to experience products in context, whether from work-from-home offices or customer experience centers. Intuitive interfaces, knowledge bases, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI)-guided processes makes it easier for customers to find information, install solutions, and troubleshoot problems. And customers are using a wide array of digital channels, including voice search and chatbots, to engage with companies.

Despite all of these trends, human-to-human customer service and support is not going away. In fact, it is arguably more important than ever as B2B customers navigate a complex business, technology, and economic climate that is changing every day. However, current strategies and tools for empowering these teams fall short, increasing their challenges. Fortunately, there is help at hand: Enterprise search platforms can provide B2B companies with the 360-degree customer view and relevant content that these teams need to deliver better service and support, helping you deliver on the promise of an exceptional customer experience (CX).

Defining Customer Support for the Digital Age

Before we begin exploring the potential of AI-powered search to empower service and support, let’s take a moment to level-set on key definitions. While the terms customer service and support are interchangeably used, they are not synonymous.

  • Customer service teams provide a service that’s often transactional in nature. For example, if you engage with a CSR while you research a B2B product, purchase, or return it, that’s customer service.
  • Customer support teams support a product, to help you maximize its value. So, if you engage with a team to install a product; train your staff on it; or receive ongoing monitoring, maintenance, or upgrades, that’s support.

B2C products that we purchase every day are typically simple to navigate. B2B products are sophisticated, interdependent, and increasingly data-driven. For example, the teams supporting such products as aerospace electronics, containerized data centers, sensor-connected manufacturing equipment, and digital corporate lending service must possess deep subject matter expertise as well as practical insights on how these products operate in their intended context.

Finally, B2B buyers may still be price-driven, but they are looking for that magic elixir of value, capabilities, and ongoing support. Consequently, they often choose partners who have a demonstrated commitment to innovation and service over those that are just cost leaders.

68% of B2B CX professionals expected to increase CX investments in 2020.

Why know-your-customer and support challenges are growing

So, why is customer service and support so challenging? Enterprises face many issues, due both to the pandemic and industry trends.

Challenge #1: Working from home: Many companies are running remote customer service and support operations due to the pandemic, accelerating an industry work-from-home trend. Workers now must navigate a clunky combination of home Wi-Fi networks, video conferencing, VPN connections, and myriad online support databases and tools to provide effective onboarding, product support, and issue resolution. Latency, in an industry that demands instant results, is a bigger problem than when employees could rely on corporate networks.

Challenge #2: No holistic customer view: While a single customer relationship management (CRM) platform is the ideal, it is typically not the reality for customer service and support teams. Customer content is often spaghetti-strapped across legacy and newer systems. Recent information, such as online or voice search history, full product and service purchases, and previous CSR interactions may not be known or fully integrated. And conversational commerce, which occurs across multipole channels such as text, online chat, and social media, may be lost in the ether.

B2B leaders cited customer service (73%) as their #1 CX priority, followed by solution support (69%) and buying support (49%).

Challenge #3: Growing data volumes: In addition to business and online data, B2B customers increasingly use Internet of Things (IoT) applications that provide a continuous stream of data on product and machinery performance. This data is typically produced, stored, and processed at the edge. Support teams may need to interpret results in real-time or use analytics to predict support needs, such as when machinery should be serviced or parts should be replaced.

Challenge #4: Product knowledge and training issues: Customer service and support roles are typically held by a combination of employees, gig workers, and independent contractors. Seasoned workers may have knowledge and work-arounds that help streamline day-to-day operations, while new hires may feel at sea in a world of content but few answers. That’s especially true in B2B industries, where multi-day or multi-week onboarding and training on complex products and services is the norm. Skills and training issues were the #3 issue B2B companies cited as an obstacle to achieving a better CX, a recent survey found.

So, is there a path through this maze? Can service and support teams navigate technology and information complexity to deliver input when needed? And can they move beyond being viewed as a cost center to a driver of customer value and business growth?

The answer of course is yes to all of these questions, and the solution is simpler than you might expect.

Deploy enterprise search to drive CX improvements

Since customer service is B2B leaders’ #1 CX imperative, it makes sense to streamline access to the databases and content teams use to provide support via enterprise search.

When you deploy an advanced search engine, such as the Sinequa Insight Engine, you gain a powerful platform that integrates content in diverse formats, surfaces it in an intuitive interface, and ranks results by relevance. Instead of logging into multiple applications to answer questions, support teams can use just one. That means faster, more accurate answers to customer queries; easier training and day-to-day performance; and higher CSR job satisfaction. Over time, results get even better, as the data is enriched using natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML).

The Sinequa platform provides 200 ready-to-go connectors and converters that capture content from more than 350 document formats. If you can create it, Sinequa can interpret it.

Cross-sell and upsell with the right information

So far, so good. But skilled service and support teams can do more than just answer questions and solve problems, they can also sell. When a customer contacts a CSR or support professional, and the interaction goes flawlessly, it is an ideal time to offer new products and services. A support professional can use insights from customers’ current usage to cross-sell or upsell new solutions. Since B2B customers are experienced buyers, the emphasis should be on increasing value, not just driving wallet share. With less time spent on gathering data, these teams can provide consultative selling, learning about customer needs and sharing how new solutions will increase business agility, improve operations, and reduce costs, among other goals.

Provide valuable customer information to influence product innovation

Service interactions also provide gold that often isn’t mined well. When a customer contacts you, they often provide recommendations for improving products, services, and pricing. Imagine if you had easy access to that data and could use advanced technology to analyze support interactions for keywords, market trends, unmet requests, product performance issues, root cause failures, and new product feature or service requests. All of this insight could help drive product innovation, ensuring that investments are aligned with real customer needs. It can also help you drive faster to root-cause analysis and issue resolution to avoid issues that cascade across customers, causing significant harm.

Find and link experts for R&D and cross-functional team work

Service and support teams can also bring specialized expertise to bear. For example, they can use the Sinequa Insight Engine to locate experts, who provide specialized expertise to support the customer lifecycle. These experts can provide guidance on finding B2B buyers, navigating complex sales, increasing customer adoption of B2B products and services, and expanding relationships. In the IoT arena, B2B vendors tap marketing and sales, industry, and IT experts, as well as operational technologists to guide customers from initial deployments to expanded applications. The Sinequa platform would make it easy to connect these experts, empower them with the most relevant data, and serve these demanding customers.

Conclusion

It’s time to change the industry’s perception of customer service as a cost center into a value driver. Across B2B industries, leaders (75%) outpace laggards (56%) in prioritizing service improvements to improve the CX. They know that service and support can help maintain or even transform a B2B customer’s perception of their vendor and its offerings.

Sinequa stands ready to help you capture greater value from customer service with our Insight Engine. In our white paper, Leveraging Cognitive Search & Analytics to Optimize Customer Service, we highlight different ways enterprises can drive greater value from customer service and support. This paper could provide valuable insight to you as you seek to equip teams and optimize processes.

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