Transparency and Trust in B2B

Customer Strategy
Customer Experience
Social has brought transparency to consumers never before possible.

Social has brought transparency to consumers never before possible. The information that consumers share about companies and that companies reveal about themselves is presenting new opportunities for B2C companies to build and maintain, or rebuild, customer trust--or to lose it in the blink of an eye in one gigantic, public flameout.

This is not the case in B2B. Oh, certainly it is in some industries; high-tech, for example. Industry forums and company-hosted online communities encourage the type of sharing that happens in B2C-focused social settings. And sure, B2C companies can still hide plenty. But B2B business can get away with much more than their B2C counterparts. In many cases B2B customers don't have the option of taking their outrage public. They just have to suck it up and move forward.

Consider as an example the charge-back, which to me is akin to extortion. Big retailers charge their suppliers often exorbitant fees if their products don't sell through at a certain percentage; and in some cases even when they do, I'm told by a retail insider. But no customer is going to publically complain about this. They can't risk losing business to Big Retailer X. Instead, they pay the fee and hope to recoup their losses elsewhere (often by inflating prices on future orders or passing the charges onto factories that then inflate their prices--creating a vicious cycle of overcharges, deception, and mistrust).

There must be a better, fairer system; but that's a post for another day. In the meantime, consumers and some B2B customers will continue to use social to out companies' bad behavior, and many companies will respond with a public apology and then take some action that will win customers back and regain their trust. Additionally, customers may increasingly call out the positive, as well, advising others on companies that deserve their business. And those B2B companies that suffer at the hands of bully buyers...well, until one has the guts to call out the Big Boys nothing will change.