For B2B sellers, the writing is on the wall: Either start listening to your customers and offer them the personalised, digital buying experiences they want, or pack it in because you’re going to fail.
It sounds harsh, even extreme, but there’s plenty of data out there to support these claims. The Age of the Customer is upon us, customer experience is imperative in buyer-journey mapping, and sales and partners need to get wise to the changing demands of the customer to stay relevant.
It begs the question, what do these demanding, exacting and experience-saturated customers really want?
A recent report from Forrester (1) gives some helpful insight, so here goes with what I think B2B customers want from their engagements.
1. Simple, straightforward yet self-guided, personalised journeys.
Possibly a tall order, but buyers often accomplish the discovery and explore phases of the customer journey online. They find a website, research, compare one provider against another and then choose to take action.
This self-education may then lead to the buyer connecting with the organisation, talking to sales, and initiating the buying process in earnest. If a company fails to offer the customer useful online resources and plenty of opportunities to engage, whether through online forms, emails, phone, or even carrier pigeon, they will miss out!
2. Get the entire portfolio of products and services online.
Buyers don’t want to look at a few static options online and then contact the sales team to be taken through the entire process all over again. They’re used to being able to identify, configure, and self-order products in their consumer engagements and want the same during B2B experiences too.
It’s challenging for B2B organisations with millions of SKUs, complex products and services that require innumerable rules to accurately assemble, not to mention dealing in foreign currencies, fluctuating pricing, discounts, and then a network of vendors or resellers. Phew! Why would you want to take the entire enterprise online? Because that is what the customer wants. The real question is: how to take the enterprise online?
3. Immediate and transparent pricing information.
Customers want a clear idea of how much a product or service is going to cost. Previously, sellers were the gatekeepers of this information, customers simply had to submit to overpaying for products based on a lack of options. Today, buyers expect clear, accurate, and immediate access to pricing to better inform their decisions.
4. Fulfil orders quickly and accurately.
As consumers, today’s buyers are used to guaranteed next-day and two-day delivery, and this can have a more positive impact on the customer than even price. If B2B companies can better connect their organisation, from their eCommerce platform, to sales, to partners, to manufacturing, and implement automation where possible, customers and sellers alike will reap the benefits of a more seamless experience when delivering solutions.
5. Make customer service more responsive and proactive.
Customers want to be connected with buyers — with some exceptions. They want to connect when, where, and how they want. It’s no longer about in-person meetings or phone calls, it’s about social channels, text, video chats and conferencing, and going forward, augmented/virtual reality and other nascent and emerging technologies.
This can seem daunting, but B2B companies can use technology to help them. Solutions such as Configure-Price-Quote software can ease the process of moving the enterprise online, and connect data and insights not just across the online channel, but through direct and indirect channels too. Worth considering if we really want to give customers what they want.
Stephen Hardy is Managing Director for FPX Ltd and is based in London. He is responsible for sales and service operations in the UK and Western Europe.