Most of us when we think of Customer Loyalty, we ‘identify’ it with the Loyalty of a Customer to a Business / Organization, but rarely think of it in terms of Loyalty in the B2B (=Business to Business) arena.
But of course, the notion of Customer Loyalty applies to any product or service offered by any business to ‘anyone’ – whether that ‘anyone’ is an individual or a business or any other form of an organization (Governmental organizations and NGO do frequently have lists of approved and/or preferred Suppliers).
We would like to address here why some businesses tend to be loyal to specific suppliers or service providers and how digital procurement influences B2B Customer Loyalty.
Think of B2B Customer Loyalty as when companies buy from a few particular suppliers repeatedly – over a long period of time. Customer Loyalty was first thought of as a concept applicable only to B2C (=Business to Consumer) situations, but it has nowadays come to the realization of B2B companies that, they need to spend more time building Loyalty with their clients.
There are a number of challenges with business to business companies such as pricing, employee turnover and poor marketing strategies but it’s the responsibility of the B2B manager to espouse loyalty- driven tactics to win customers.
The 7 things that make B2B Buyers Loyal to Specific Suppliers
- Suppliers must make it a point not to let their B2B Customers (their Buyers) fade away
Have a simple relational database of your customers and if someone has not purchased in a while, engage them and immediately get them back on board. Do this while their consumption is slowing down, not when they eventually stopped buying and they are no longer a customer.
That might sound so simple and elementary (and yes, it is) but very few people/ organizations do it.
- Turn your Byers into ‘a Followers- Community’
Also, suppliers must have an email database of all clients and engage them in email marketing to constantly remind your customers on the features and qualities of your products or services; ideally enrich all that with some relevant story-telling – something that provokes the recipient to go on reading instead of deleting your communication.
This keeps businesses to be loyal to specific suppliers. You are basically turning them into a ‘community of followers’ looking forward to and sharing your next update.
- Know how to conquer objections as a B2B BusDev. Manager / Executive
As a B2B BusDev (Business Development) Manager, you often visit companies and their Procurement Managers face you with objections such as “I’m happy with my current suppliers” , “You are too expensive” , “I don’t know your company” , “I don’t have time”, “All of that is controlled by head office in US”, “It’s the end of the financial year at the moment”, etc.
But, you been the B2B BusDev Manager, you must be able to break the ice, conquer these objections and not just walk away without a sale- order in your hand! What is behind all these objections might be fear of the unknown, fear of the quality of your product and services, or even fear of / lack of trust. If you can face and ‘resolve’ all objections, the Business will see you as someone who is an expert and knows your job. Sharing a rapport with these managers and building your customer intimacy & trust with them, can keep them Loyal to you. Sometimes, it can take just a day to steal your competitor’s customers.
- Be responsive and reliable
Every business wants to work with a responsive and reliable supplier. Being responsive means delivering your services on time or giving prompt service. Being reliable means doing exactly what you say, is exactly what you are going to do.
Suppliers should also not over promise and under deliver. For instance, suppose that a Company calls you to order a substantial quantity of your products to be delivered by the end of the following day. And suppose that the order is rather delivered in a week time without giving them any reason. Sure, they might accept the late delivery, but most likely they will order from a different supplier the next time. This presupposes that, being responsive and reliable as a Supplier, it helps you to keep loyal customers.
- Surprise your Customers with nice things or gifts
More often than not, surprising your Customer even with a simple gift, it means more to them than what they have earned themselves because they were not expecting it.
Relationship Managers and their Customer Service colleagues, must sit down and plan nice things they can do to ‘wow’ their customers.
When customers are given freebies, they tend to stay with that particular |Supplier without switching due to the benefits they get from such Suppliers and the emotional bond for someone who cares.
- Do not play with pricing
Some suppliers portray the attitude increasing prices, when they see their customers are very interested in their goods and purchase repeatedly, they tend to increase price. That is a genuine relationship- killer!
Customer service skills towards your employees must also be stupendous to help keep your clients.
- Pay attention to customer complaints & resolve them instantly
Statistics shows that, some customers do not complain but just discontinue the use of service. Thus, when you have customers who complain to you, work on their complaints and turn those angry customers into advocates.
- Welcome feedback
It is very necessary as a Supplier to have an appropriate feedback channel, welcoming both positive and negative comments. Negative feedback should be accepted and must be worked on, in order to satisfy the customers by next delivery.
Having an appropriate feedback system gives you an upper hand among your competitors because you give your customers satisfaction and your customers tend to be loyal to you.
Actually, we would like to suggest that you go the Extra Mile: Follow up on all your customers to check whether and why they are satisfied with your products or services. This would ensure repeat purchases/ Loyalty.
Other Factors influencing Supplier Loyalty
- Economic factor – sometimes, in B2B situations, when companies switch to different customers, it results in economic challenges. In this case, Customer Loyalty is based on economic grounds.
- Technical factors – B2B Customer Loyalty might rarely occur or prolonged if an organization has already adapted technical factors to a particular Supplier and changing that Supplier would result in technical problems. E.g. having integrated a courier’s SCM software solution to that of your organization.
- Contractual factors – This occurs when a customer is bound to a company for a certain period of time due to timed legal agreements. This is not really Supplier Loyalty but a temporarily ‘legally forced’ Reality.
In Conclusion: A Simple B2B Example
A friend -let’s call her Ama, who is the Head of Procurement at a Mining company closed a deal and ordered 150 Safety Helmets for her field- staff. For budgetary constraints, Ama had to reduce her order to 60 pieces a few days later; her current Helmets- Supplier responded that, 60 pieces is not a substantial quantity for free delivery, so the Mining company should send a driver to pick them up; and so, they did.
A month later, Ama needed 80 new helmets but she decided to order from a new Supplier. The new Supplier delivered the 80 helmets to her office at the agreed date, gave her a few T-shirts and other gifts to start their new relationship, exhibited stupendous customer service skills, and finally he also provided them with an email which they can send their feedback of the products through or even their experiences/ complaints with the new Supplier.
Ama a few weeks later, she has been ordering helmets from no other company but the new Supplier, who got several word-of- mouth referrals from Ama to her other friends and colleagues in the Mining Industry.
Basically, the new Supplier, did follow almost all items mentioned above and did turn Ama into a Loyal Customer.
Thank you and Good Luck,
Rosemond and Spiros
About the authors: Rosemond Addae and Spiros Tsaltas are associated with a unique Customer Loyalty organization: HireLoyalty ( www.HireLoyalty.com ) – based in Accra, offering both Consulting and Training in anything relating to Customer Loyalty.
They welcome all your comments/ remarks/ feedback /suggestions at Press [at] HireLoyalty.com. HireLoyalty can be reached at +233 20 741 3060 or +233 26 835 2026
© 2018 Rosemond Addae & Spiros Tsaltas and © 2018 HireLoyalty