Whatever a B2B company does for its customers, there comes a time when it also must provide support for them. It’s just a feature of doing business in the 21st Century.
Say a domain specialist has grown to the extent that using a help center-style support team to field client calls is no longer feasible. It needs the customers themselves to be able to search and find the answers to their queries. For instance, can the domain company provide Australian-centric “.au” domains?
The solution for that company—or any company—so it can provide a full-rounded service is to set up a B2B self-service portal. A customer support service that’s digital and quick rather than labor-intensive, time-consuming, and costly.
What are the features of self-service B2B portals?
Largely speaking, the features of a self-service portal for B2B don’t differ greatly from one for B2C.
Just like someone looking to buy their weekly groceries from a supermarket website, a business owner who’s just launched their enterprise will want to access a whole list of things or find just one single solution on a B2B self-service portal. They may be looking to buy a custom domain name or invest in a marketing consultancy service. Either way, an online help center will be an invaluable resource for them and a crucial sales channel for you.
So, usually, a self-service portal for B2B has a combination of the following:
- A “getting started” guide.
- A frequently asked questions (FAQs) section.
- A search function.
- How-to videos.
- An online community (operates as an information resource, enabling customers to share experiences, advice, and details on products and services).
The first thing that may strike someone new to that list is just how comprehensive it is. Companies don’t invest in help centers just so a customer can find out when a support agent’s next available to deal with their query.
A support portal allows their customers to, if they wish, bypass the support team and solve all their issues themselves.
Consequently, self-service portals have become a very big deal in B2B. Indeed, in analyzing the results of a recent Forrester Research and Oracle study, SuperOffice concluded a business could save $11 for every query solved by self-service in place of a customer calling a support team (see chart below).
That’s the sort of cost saving that starts to multiply, significantly benefitting the bottom line—a major benefit of B2B self-service that’s simply impossible to ignore.
Image sourced from superoffice.com
The benefits of a self-service B2B customer portal
So, in more detail then, what are the benefits of implementing and maintaining a B2B help center?
1. Delivers cost reductions
As noted, one of the primary benefits is reduced support expenses. While there may be an initial cost of hiring a B2B website developer or a monthly cost of using a SaaS solution, the long-term costs will be greatly reduced.
Once they’ve implemented self-service, company owners discover that people actually do like to find answers on their own, as opposed to always speaking to a company employee and asking them to solve the issue.
Moreover, interactions between team members and customers can be reduced further thanks to the setting up of peer-to-peer support groups via an online community.
Easily accessed on a company’s website, such a group is designed to thrive on communal-style collaboration. This frees team members from responding to customer inquiries and results in further cost savings.
Time may be the most valuable commodity of all in business. Indeed, because they’re enterprises themselves, B2B customers value time and how they use it just as much as the companies selling them products or providing them with a service.
So, tying into the previous point, customers like to control their interactions as much as possible, not just because they want a satisfying outcome but also because they need that outcome when they need it, not when it best suits the company providing it.
A self-service platform can be a boon here, ensuring a customer’s needs are met outside of any client care team’s office hours. Such a platform, then, provides them with round-the-clock, easy-to-find, and easy-to-use solutions.
So, for ‘time-poor’ customers, self-service can reduce administrative strain and pressure, lessen disruption to internal procedures, and save them valuable time and money.
For a newly-launched enterprise that, having just recently taken its first step to buy domain names and set up its website, has now hit the ground running, self-service could hugely lighten the workload. It could make—rather than break—them as a business.
3. Encourages customer loyalty
One of the banes of pretty much any company is customer churn.
Retaining customers delivers regular income and underlines a hard-earned, good reputation. Losing customers means having to spend time, energy, and money to replace them.
So, empowering B2B customers with the sort of self-service they require for smooth, orderly internal processes shortens the odds of them becoming a source of highly-prized repeat business. Just make sure you have high-quality cloud communication solutions in place if they can’t solve their problems by themselves.
Furthermore, a help center can also contribute to lead generation by capturing valuable customer information and providing opportunities for customer engagement.
4. Delivers FAQs—the “first line of defense”
One of the most prominent features of practically any B2B self-service solution is a frequently asked questions (FAQs) section. In fact, it’s so fundamental that it’s referred to as the ‘first line of defense’ of customer service.
FAQs address common issues customers encounter about specific products, services, and procedures. This is particularly beneficial if your company offers a technical solution or service where the benefits may not be immediately obvious. For example, on the help center of an open-source search tool provider, a typical FAQ may be ‘What is elastic search?’.
By addressing technical questions like this, you provide self-service customers with an immediate answer to their queries and showcase the relevancy of your product or service to encourage them to continue through the sales funnel.
FAQs are also a useful way for a business to showcase its policies and ethics—to be transparent about how it functions and delivers for its customers.
5. Giving customers what they expect
Finally, maybe the biggest reason for a company to invest in a self-service solution is simply because its customers expect one to exist.
According to a recent Higher Logic study, 79% of customers surveyed expected an organization to provide them with self-service support tools so that they could find answers themselves.
Remarkably, given that statistic, some companies still resist the urge—you may even say the need—to implement a self-service portal. It’s hard to conclude they’re doing nothing but shooting themselves in the foot. Self-service in B2B isn’t the future; it’s the present.
How to implement a self-service B2B portal?
A search function. A ‘getting started’ guide. FAQs. Establishing an online community. What’s needed to set up a self-service portal is straightforward, right?
Maybe so. Yet, implementing and maintaining those features so the help center runs effectively and is all-around fit-for-purpose takes a little more consideration and work. Each self-service feature has its requirements—just like customers do.
So, here’s what to consider before implementing self-service on a B2B website:
Get the information right
No self-service portal can do its job right if the information and data it contains are out of date or hard to understand.
Its functionality may be state-of-the-art and gracefully hum along like a sports car. Yet, if the answers in its FAQs haven’t been updated or the product catalogs, manuals, and other articles in its knowledge base are difficult to digest, customers are going to be short-changed.
The worlds of business and industry move quickly. It’s not only crucial for a company to keep up; it’s also crucial it keeps its support portal updated and removes all irrelevant information and material.
To enhance the branding experience, ensure that the help center reflects the company's visual identity, aligns with its brand guidelines, and provides a cohesive and consistent customer experience across all touchpoints.
The need for speed
Just like someone looking for a website on Google and asking themselves, “What is the domain name?”, wants to get to that site as soon as possible, a customer wants their questions answered in double-quick time in an FAQs section.
By integrating social media platforms like LinkedIn into your self-service portal, you can enhance the customer experience and connect with industry-specific groups and forums. These can offer opportunities for customers to engage with peers, share insights, and actively generate leads on LinkedIn or other sites for their business, making it a valuable addition to your self-service strategy.
Successful self-service is about efficiency and transparency, of course—but just as important is speed.
If B2B customers were content with hanging around, they wouldn’t be so keen to make use of self-service capability instead of contacting support staff.
Answers and solutions must be only two or three clicks away, which necessitates a customer-facing help center that’s both streamlined and optimized for fast, effective use. So, that must be the absolute focus when setting up self-service on a website.
Self-Service: A Modern Solution for a Modern World
Is there a marketplace in today’s B2B world that’s getting less competitive?
No, far from it. Today’s business environment is as demanding as it’s ever been, which means the need to give customers what they want when they want it, is as urgent as it’s ever been. If not more so, in fact, in a digital age with ever-evolving tech that’s raising expectations for ever-improving, 24-hour service.
Against this backdrop, therefore, it’s hard to see how B2B companies can logically choose to be without a self-service portal. The benefits of self-service are simply too fundamental—significant labor and cost savings, delivering on customer expectations, and improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Indeed, a Zendesk help center is the ideal self-service solution for both up-and-coming and established companies. So, turning to a knowledge-driven self-service specialists like Lotus Themes is the way to get—and stay—ahead in today’s B2B arena.
Today’s customer support must be tailor-made for the needs of today’s customers—allowing them to serve themselves with self-service provides myriad benefits for them and B2B companies.