In the digital world, we have evolved. No longer do we undertake the tedious processes of developing, maintaining and nurturing relationships manually. We have become focused on the automating and simplifying of these user experience to the satisfaction of our customers. This article will touch on the need for increased automation and flexibility for B2B customer portals, based on transactions and interaction that can be made lean. The use of technology to create flexible, rich and simple marketplaces for organisations to conduct repeat business is at the forefront of creating seamless CX for the complex B2B transactions of today.
According to a recent survey conducted of 1000 B2B decision makers by McKinsey
“lack of speed in interactions with their suppliers emerged as the number-one pain point: 86% of respondents said they prefer using self-service tools for reordering, rather than talking to a sales representative”
This clearly indicates that enterprises have identified the need for a more prompt and seamless B2B transaction process. Increasingly businesses are investing in providing a superior Customer Experience (CX) on their B2B customer portals.
However, there are a few key considerations one must take into account in order to facilitate B2B transactions through customer portals.
The customer portal login page is the foremost touch point in the digital customer journey. Personalization should start right from here so that the customer feels ‘important’ for your business. The landing page of the customer portal should be highly customized according to your customer’s preference where he can easily find what he is looking for at first glance.
In an era of hyper-relevance, the customer should be given tailor-made promotions, news feed, recurring bulk ordering options and customer assistance. These customised dashboards will allow users to quickly identify products that interest them or find relevant information speeding up the decision-making process. If repeated bulk ordering and related product suggestions appear on the landing page it will expedite the entire ordering process.
As the business will directly be dealing with the customers through the portal there will be an elimination of certain middlemen previously involved in the transaction cycle. This would make the business process leaner eliminating unnecessary delays due to the involvement of possible third-party vendors. Also as fewer people will be involved in the entire transaction the approval cycle will be shortened and direct, more efficient transactions can be carried out.
Most people don’t want to interact with sales personnel for a repeat order and would prefer self-service tools. This elimination of the salesperson on reordering, saves time for both the salesman and customer as time consumed on the unnecessary cross and upselling sales pitches become negligible.
Due to the complex nature of B2B interactions in regards to the transactional value and heavy quantity being traded, some might argue that having a lean digital interaction might make transactions riskier. However, it is now relatively easy to set up User Access Restrictions (UAR) where you give certain rights to specific user groups and keep important transactional requirements or approvals restricted to key administrators.
Another key argument is the nature of B2B transactions requires flexibility for specialty bespoke services or custom arrangments, such as setting up flexible payment options or having a line of credit which once was only available through face to face or direct interactions. However, with advancements in UAR and the level of personalisation you can set up it is easy to provide different users with varied payment options according to the prior understanding or agreement that was made previously. Keeping an automated record of digital transactions or extending a credit line has become relatively easy to set up and maintain.
Although some functionality, for example, those provided by the Order Management System (OMS), can be very effectively fully automated. The specific case of queries or troubleshooting a multi-channel approach allowing human interaction is necessary. Frequently asked questions (FAQs) can be handled directly by the portal with strong search functionality and chatbots specifically configured to address issues. However sometimes for quick problem solving or answering an unusual query, human intervention is necessary. This means your portal should allow for multi-channel communication.
After 2-3 transactions, businesses often understand the inventory customers require and can create a re-ordering schedule according to their business needs. A manual check on stock, done repeatedly throughout the day or week before placing a regular re-order is a tedious waste of time and resources. These manual actions can also cause inefficiency leading to unforeseen shortages or excesses. Therefore it is important that a business can pre-plan, preempt and schedule re-orders anticipating their business needs in advance.
After sales services such as regular maintenance, refunds or replacements should be highly automated in order to minimise customer effort. Not only would it lead to greater customer satisfaction and retention but it would reduce the efforts made by in-house maintenance and customer services teams to proactively facilitate clients.
In short automation in these domains would reduce time, cost and the effort required in these important stages of the customer journey.
In order for everything to run smoothly and reduce transaction time involved businesses need to have a strong integration between internal systems (ERP & CRM) and analytics tools deployed on their B2B portal. Without a proper integration system in place, real-time inventory management and efficiently gauging consumer behaviour throughout their journey is difficult. Furthermore, without getting customer insights using analytics tools and combining it with data through our internal systems, we will not be able to have a holistic customer view or provide them with seamless hyper-personalised customer experience.
Business to Business commerce is incredibly complex by nature. Knowing your customers and providing a timely service is only a quarter of the battle. The real challenge lies in setting up systems that automate and deliver a highly personalized, user-friendly CX, helping your customers navigate complex business processes. A great customer portal focused on simplifying the transactions and interactions between you and your customer helps immensely in navigating the murky waters of B2B transactions. If your interested in learning how you can optimise your B2B commerce experience please get in touch with FAIR Consulting Group today – Experts in delivering quality CX solutions.