Email is by far the best channel for strengthening B2B relationships. But brands must first heed the client’s psychological needs, judging by The Science Behind Strong Relationships, a study
by Front in collaboration with ignite80.
Psychological needs? Put another way, B2B customers have special requirements. For example, 69% prefer excellent customer service over the lowest price.
“Market pressure and labor costs have forced customer relationships to become more and more digital,” the study explains. “Vendors believe they can compensate for any drop-off in service quality caused by that digital shift by lowering prices.” But this is a mistake.
The respondents list these channels as the most frequently used by brands in a good customer relationship:
But there are issues that must be taken into account when using email.
For one: “Most email software doesn’t have built-in analytics for tracking the most important metrics to evaluate customer service,” the study states.
For another, “customers think less of vendors who embed GIFs in emails or send them a friend request on Facebook,” writes Ron Friedman, founder of ignite80, in the Harvard Business Review.
Customers themselves do not use these channels in the above order: Their top three means of addressing issues are face-to-face meetings, voice calls and email. They dislike chatbots.
Then there are the broader considerations. For starters, the study warns brands not to lay on the empathy too thickly.
“Expressing empathy, a common way of increasing connection with our friends and family, can backfire if customers perceive it to be disingenuous,” Friedman warns.
He adds: “Our research indicates that customers far prefer a service provider who responds knowledgeably over one who ‘feels their pain.’”
Also, 61% of B2B customers prefer a service provider who teaches them how to independently solve a problem as opposed to doing it for them. And 58% would rather have choices than a dictated solution.
Here are a few other customer service tips:
- Send a summary email after your interaction.
- Send a monthly email newsletter with useful information.
- Reach out to see if the client needs help with anything.
- Check in to see how the client is doing. (How often? 69% prefer frequent updates, while 31% “prefer keeping back and forth to a minimum”).
Finally, the study advises B2B providers: “Be proactive, respond quickly, be helpful, share what’s going on in your life, don’t be phony, be thoughtful, ask how you can help.”
The final takeaway? “It’s kind of beautiful, actually. But not so easy to scale.”
Front and Friedman’s team at ignite80 surveyed 2,128 office workers across the U.S., the UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy whose jobs entail working with B2B companies. These included 1,096 based in the U.S., 1,096 in EMEA, 214 in the UK, 223 in Spain, 212 in Germany and 220 in France.