While many businesses serve consumers through the sale of goods and services, other companies focus on selling products to other businesses. These interactions create a need for business-to-business customer service. Companies that sell intermediate goods, which are items used by other companies to produce goods, must provide excellent customer service ensure all interactions go smoothly. While business-to-business customer service may include a customer service department to handle issues or problems, individual employees may act as agents who handle their clients’ needs in terms of purchasing goods and receiving them in a timely manner.
Companies often spend copious amounts of time to handle customer service tasks and activities. In business-to-business customer service, allowing issues to become major problems can ruin a company’s reputation. For example, a manufacturer may design and produce a special type of widget that other businesses desire to use in their finished goods production. Unfortunately, the manufacturer has poor customer service; agents either do not respond to phone calls or are rude, the company constantly fills orders incorrectly, and the company’s management team has no desire to correct these problems. Although the special widget is highly desirable, companies may forgo ordering from this manufacturer due to the poor business-to-business customer service.
Customer service is also a way companies can network and increase sales. As employees and customer service agents work in the field to work with business clients or correct problems, they can look for additional businesses that need specific products and services. When new potential leads are found, the company's customer service agents will call on the potential client and determine if new business is possible. This type of business-to-business customer service is more of a lead generator than just a business unit that handles problems. When used as a business generator, customer service departments may offer incentives to a potential client that will result in a new business relationship that continues in perpetuity.
Good business-to-business customer service is not something that is easy to obtain. Companies should designate several employees to train and develop the skills necessary to handle customer service issues and problems. Many companies create internal training procedures to train employees on how to handle problems quickly and professionally. Other companies contract with an external training company instead, which can ensure the company stays up to date with current customer service issues, and can reach multiple geographic locations with the same training methods.