Customer loyalty is perhaps the most critical element of business success. We all know the value of loyal customers and have read the statistics about how much more time and expense it takes to recruit new customers than it does to retain current ones. That’s why creating a loyal customer base must be a focus of not only B2C (business to customer) companies, but B2B (business to business) companies as well.

Typically, B2C companies concentrate on establishing connections with customers and delivering quality products they desire. Successful B2B companies, however, take it a step further by becoming trusted advisors and partners.

B2B companies form partnerships by working to understand their customers’ businesses and providing insights and strategies that help them meet challenges. Analytics and competitive research can reveal key information, but having real conversations with customers is invaluable for learning their business situations and offering relevant solutions and advice. This kind of consultative approach requires listening and gaining a big-picture perspective that transcends selling a product or service. When B2Bs do this, they elevate customer engagement and achieve greater loyalty.

Taking the time to listen to customers and understand their businesses is paying off for B2Bs. Gallup found that customers who strongly agree that they view a B2B company as a trusted advisor are 2.5 times more likely to buy again, and are nearly four times likely to recommend their products and company. The firm also discovered B2B businesses with high customer engagement scores achieved 50 percent higher revenue/sales and 34 percent higher profitability.

Engagement is driven by the customer experience. Both B2B and B2C businesses focus on providing seamless experiences to drive loyalty. Part of that is providing convenient methods for customers to connect with their suppliers. Customers are accustomed to having a variety of ways to communicate, whether through online chatting with customer service reps, interacting with a company via its social media platforms, apps or any number of other channels. They’ll base their experience with B2B companies on having the same convenient ways to communicate and resolve issues as they do with B2C businesses.

Good customer service is also essential to a positive experience. Research conducted by Zendesk found 62 percent of B2B customers purchased more after a good customer service encounter, while 66 percent stopped buying after a bad experience. The numbers tell a similar story for B2C customers. Just one negative experience is often all it takes for customers to defect to other brands. And when that experience is shared with others, the impact exponentially grows. One blog, one social media post can create a viral storm of negativity.

Beyond providing positive customer experiences, B2B companies can use thought-leadership to grow brand confidence and in turn increase loyalty. Conducting industry studies, publishing white papers and writing blogs are all ways companies can show their customers they understand their businesses and position themselves as consultants and partners.

In the end, a customer is a customer, whether they’re buying shoes or automated manufacturing equipment. They like perks, and they appreciate when you seek out their feedback and act on it. Rewards and special promotions aren’t exclusive strategies to be used only by B2Cs. B2B companies can also succeed by offering incentives that drive loyalty.

The best quantitative data available cannot compare to engaging with customers one on one. B2B companies that are consultative rather than transactional, that listen to customers and seek to understand their businesses will cultivate a loyal customer base and ultimately greater profitability.

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