What Channels to Offer for B2B Customer Support?

We hear and see a lot about social media in both marketing and customer service these days. As a fellow B2B product/service provider we often wonder how much social media really plays a role in customer support for business customers, and a recent study from GetRank confirms although it is being used more commonly, among small and medium businesses (SMBs) it hasn't been widely adopted. Phone and email/web forms still top the preferred channels for business customers.

The study was really interesting because they analyzed preferred methods of communication by type of service issue. Phone is still clearly the preferred method among SMBs when contacting customer support for technical assistance. This makes sense as it's a subconscious understanding that it's easier to explain a technical issue to a live person. It was also a close second for general inquiries.

Email or web forms are the preferred channel for general support inquiries, and a close second for technical assistance, showing that business customers are becoming more and more reliant on digital media. Email and web forms are also the winning channel when it comes to making complaints - since email is a more neutral method of outreach, it gives a slight distance to the customer, who may feel slightly uncomfortable complaining directly to a human being. 

Live chat, another increasingly popular topic in business customer service applications, shows a strong 18% preference (3rd) for both technical inquiries and complaints. Since live chat is fundamentally the best of both worlds (quick and digital but still a real human being) we expect this to trend upwards significantly over the coming years as business to business customer service evolves. 

As for social customer support, in each circumstance it still lags substantially behind, at least for SMBs. Just over 7% of customers report using social media (Twitter or Facebook) to report a complaint or request technical assistance. Only slightly more (12.7%) use it for general inquiries, but still relatively low adoption among business customers.

It seems our friends in the B2B support business tend to agree - with every single respondent offering email as a customer support channel, and almost every respondent (90%) offering phone support, the other channels are still lagging seriously behind. While it seems social media is not as important to business customers just yet, with almost 1/5 of customers looking to live chat for support, we have to point out that it's time for B2B customer support organizations to start adopting that method.

As for social media, it can probably wait (while you adopt live chat), but not for long - remember we are in the age of the customer, so these results may change again in a matter of months and to be truly customer-centric, you need to make sure you are available where YOUR customers need you.


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