We already know the B2B sales process is changing to mimic that of B2C. The sales experience customer’s desire from B2B companies is a frictionless one: fast, simple and with self-service touchpoints where possible.
Usually, when we think of a frictionless B2C experience, we think of self-service eCommerce companies like Amazon that make it possible for people to search for products, pick what they want and complete transactions without ever having a phone conversation or in-person meeting with a sales rep. This self-service, eCommerce model is just one example of what B2B customers are demanding in their buying experience—so where should you begin to address this demand? We’re going to explore the elements of eCommerce and self-service that B2B companies can use to modernize their customer experience.
Working eCommerce and Self-Service Elements Into Your Business
Think about all the touchpoints your customer’s have with a company from the beginning of their buyer’s journey to when they (ideally) become advocates for your services and products. Also, consider the internal processes that create bottlenecks in your business. All these processes are candidates for automation and self-servicing, even if it doesn’t seem obvious right away. Think about things like:
- Scheduling appointments with sales reps
- Making initial stand-alone orders
- Billing and invoicing for payment
- Scheduling regular service appointments
- Making changes to standing orders
- Requesting maintenance or support
- Aggregating data for business analytics
Meet with your internal teams to have a hard discussion about which processes affect the customer experience the most and start there. Once you know which processes your business can automate, it’s only a matter of finding a way to do that. For example, one way that businesses (like us) are automating marketing reporting processes for clients is by incorporating the use of software like Databox. This software auto-populates the information we track and sends the info to our customers in real-time.
This automation of internal processes benefits us and our customers—but mostly, it provides our customers with a self-service dashboard for reviewing their data and results.
Website Infrastructure for the Ideal Customer Experience
Your company needs a certain infrastructure in place to join the world of self-service eCommerce. A big part of developing this infrastructure is building a highly functional and logical website. Buyers now want to do everything at a single-source, or from as few sources as possible, so the traditional B2B website that directs visitors to call and have a complicated series of interactions with one or more departments to do anything more nuanced than browse through your products or read your content won’t do.
Self-service is customer-directed, and, in the world of eCommerce, that means everything the customer might want to find is at their fingertips. Your customers need to have full access to content, support, scheduling and purchasing on your website. One of the primary needs of the B2B customer is immediacy, and if your company fails to offer the opportunity for them to complete a transaction online immediately after making their selection, you’re not meeting that need. Setting up a way to make easy transactions online keeps your business from missing out on customers who want your product, but don’t want to wait.
Existing customers want an easy relationship with your business, too. The seamlessness they craved in the beginning is still desired throughout their service and maintenance experiences as well. An online portal where customers can pay bills, make changes to their orders, request and schedule maintenance and manage deliveries can be a great help in making the customer experience frictionless.
Considerations for B2B Companies
B2B transactions can sometimes be more nuanced or complex than B2C ones. A B2B company might:
- Provide a service that needs to be customized to its client companies’ respective needs,
- Sell a product the customer needs to try before implementing it into their business,
- Or otherwise have an un-skippable human element that means a fully self-service, fully-automated shopping experience is out of the question.
Just because your business type doesn’t allow for the idealized “buy with one click” experience that people find on Amazon, doesn’t mean there aren’t automation or self-service elements you can use.
If your business can’t provide the opportunity for customers to conduct transactions online, consider offering a way for customers to schedule phone appointments with sales reps using automatic scheduler applications or plug-ins. See how we accommodate this through HubSpot.
Additionally, if your business’s services are too nuanced to allow customers to make changes through a self-service online portal, consider an online system that allows them to put in a request for a sales rep to call them, rather than entering into a dreaded game of phone tag for a simple request.
Moving Forward with eCommerce and Self-Service
Ecommerce and self-service tools are the way to move forward in a world where customers want a frictionless buying experience. Finding the right way to use these tools as a B2B company comes down to examining all the processes both within your company and that prospects and customers go through in their buyer’s journey. Applying the right tools to streamline your business’s processes to offer an eCommerce experience that’s as efficient and customer-directed as it easy will delight customers and makes your company a pleasure to do business with. For more on readying your B2B marketing experience for the new consumer demands, download our free eBook, B2B Becoming B2C: The Changing Sales Cycle.