As consumers, we can pay bills online, make immediate purchases with our credit cards and follow account transactions from our phones. The evolving consumer experience has led B2B customers to expect similar—but not identical—experiences when doing business with their suppliers.
The key is to understand where those differences lie, and treat your customers accordingly. Upgrade your customer experience by focusing on these three aspects of your business:
1. Online credit applications with instant decisioning
Customers don’t want to spend any more time getting what they need than they have to, especially when it comes to obtaining credit. (Remember, many B2B customers expect credit lines, not credit cards.) While a manual, paper-based credit application can take days to process, an automated application can generate instant decisions, forecast the likelihood of delinquency and recommend an appropriate credit line.
An automated application can benefit both your online and offline customers. Customers that prefer to purchase offline can use the automated application for the benefits of convenience and instant credit decision (or your sales manager can complete it on their behalf), and then purchase off-line if that’s their preference. Online customers can complete the credit application and if approved, can start buying in the same session.
2. Self-serve account tools
A recent McKinsey survey of 1,000 B2B decision makers showed that lack of speed in interactions with their suppliers was their number-one pain point. What’s more, 86 percent of respondents said they prefer using self-service tools, rather than talking to a sales representative, for reordering. The fact is that B2B customers want a more automated purchase-to-payment experience—similar to the one they have with their personal shopping.
If customers have 24-hour self-service access to their account information, they can easily download statements, view past purchases, request more credit or dispute a charge. It sounds simple, but these options are not widely available to B2B customers—meaning the suppliers who provide them will stand apart. And every action a customer can take to self-serve means you aren’t paying someone to answer the call, research what they need, mail a statement, etc. Finally – any question that can be answered within the customer portal means they’re not using your sales reps for help. And that’s where they often go first, isn’t it? Keep your sales reps selling, not doing customer service.
3. Customer-centric billing
Whether your customers are buying online or offline, it’s likely they are looking for a more streamlined payment process. Give them the ability to pay online, by phone and by check.
By enabling them to pay online, you make life easier for your customer’s AP department and you’ll get paid more quickly. By making all of their purchase and payment detail available 24/7, your customers will never be able to hide slow payment behind “I never got the invoice”. Also, allow customers to choose how they’d like to receive communications—via email, phone or text. If they prefer email or text for due date and past due reminders, include a link to the online account tools in those messages so they can pay right away.
Giving customers what they want
A recent Harvard Business Review article suggested that companies can create loyal customers by removing obstacles so that customers can solve their own problems quickly and without much effort. What this means for you: Give your customers a balance of automated services, around-the-clock access to their account information and the ability to have one-on-one interactions with a live representative when necessary. Strategically leveraging these technologies will strengthen your relationships and save customers their scarcest resource of all: time.
Written by Lisa Balter Saacks, VP of Business Development at BlueTarp
Interested in learning more?
Check out The Blind Side: Is Your A/R Program Saving Customers' Time and Effort?