Why B2Bs need to change their social media behaviour

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The typical B2B supplier/customer relationship tends on average to involve an ongoing interaction, whereas a great number of B2C transactions are one-offs or irregular. All the more important, then, that if you are a B2B operation, you get to know your customer as well as possible – and now, the customers increasingly want their interaction with you to be via social media.

A very revealing survey was carried out by Aberdeen Group in both 2011 and 2012. It focuses predominantly on social media in the realm of customer service, which for repeat customers is often the most important department. (And of course we know that it costs far less to keep a customer than it does to gain a new one).

For the survey respondents, 5% of service requests emanated from social media in 2011. By 2012 this had risen to 12% and the predicted figure for 2013 was 22%. The trend is very striking.

Social Media Management

Service Comes Last

The companies were using social media tools quite extensively in some fields –

  • 86% used them for marketing
  • 66% for internal communications
  • 49% for sales purposes
  • 41% for customer service

Why was service lagging behind? And especially in B2B firms, where only 35% were using social media for customer service (compared to 56% in B2Cs)?

The main reason given is the difficulty of establishing payback metrics for doing so. As we shall see, this is a short-sighted approach. The first stumbling block is the lack of knowledge about this new breed of customer. A massive 83% of firms do not know the demographics or other customer profiling data of ‘social customers’ – therefore they cannot really begin the two-way conversation and be able to structure offers and differentiated approaches to differing customer classes.

However, many companies do know what they would like to get as KPIs from social customer service: their key goals are –

  • Improving customer satisfaction 60%
  • Understanding customer sentiments 59%
  • Meeting customers in all service channels 53%
  • Expediting customer response 34%
  • Reducing support costs 30%

The last one is interesting – many firms are finding that customers ‘self serve’ when provided with comprehensive online support, and they are less likely to badger a phone operator.

Digital Transformation

What’s the Point?

For the sceptics out there, I should point out that the ‘Best in Class’ firms surveyed were three times more likely (64% versus an average of 24%) to have a social media strategy that weaves its way through all channels.

That means in practice enabling social interaction across all of the ‘touch points’ with the customer, including –

  • Marketing
  • Customer Service/Retention
  • Sales/New Business
  • Accounts/Credit Control
  • IT

To make this work properly, the CRM database must be inputted to consistently by all ‘silos’ (or ‘departments that hold data’, if you dislike that overused term). And access must be available to all who need it to ensure the best customer experience.

For those who elect to embrace it, there is potentially a rich harvest to be gathered. Despite the lack of social media impact measurement evident in many firms, where it has taken place there is an overall indication of an approximately 3% improvement in both customer satisfaction and customer retention. This would have a big impact on anyone’s bottom line.

To take just one example of how to harness the new media, traditional B2B market research on new products or concepts involves gathering focus groups of more or less random people – but if you can incentivise existing followers and fans (who are already motivated to interact with you, and who are the most likely to purchase or to have an opinion about your output) then you are likely to gain valuable feedback. The computer industry knows this very well, which is why they have for decades used customers to carry out Beta testing on new software.

So reach out to your user groups, bulletin boards, email databases and social network contacts, involve them and gather their feedback. Reward them with status updates, pre-release sales or whatever is relevant to your business.

B2B Social Media

Are You Listening?

If you are like the majority of companies in the survey, you are transmitting on social media – but are not so hot at receiving. The successful model for an integrated operation in the new world is to be a listening business.

That means, in practical terms, you need to empower the staff who engage most closely with the customer. Allow them to offer discounts, added services, be able to escalate any serious issues to a higher level without prior reference or delay internally, to be able to share feedback, and most of all to have full sight of the relevant customer history so as to be able to act proportionately.

We have been focusing on customer service: but the same basic tenets apply to account managers in Sales, or to other customer-facing personnel.

(Related Article: What is Digital Transformation)

All in all, it is clear that a behavioural change is required in any B2B business in order to deal with the new social customer dynamics. We at Hannon Digital London, social media managers, are ready to guide you through the process of building a social media strategy: and then ensuring that your digital transformation is properly and fully executed.