Here are five ways that every electrical distributor can start making their customers’ lives easier right now.
If there’s one thing Amazon knows how to do well, it’s make consumers’ lives easier. Using a mobile app, the web, or a dash button—and provided they know what they’re looking for—customers can place an order with just one or two screen taps, pull up their shopping carts, place the order, and then have it delivered within a day or two (in most cases). The e-tailer applies the same level of simplicity with returns and exchanges, which means no running back to the store for a different size and no talking to customer service on the phone for an hour.
Amazon Business uses the same approach on the business-to-business (B2B) front, where it’s making a name for itself in many different industries—electrical equipment and supplies included. But here’s the twist: Even Amazon itself is not creating Amazon-like experiences with its B2B customers.
“Just like everything else Amazon does,” Justin King, co-founder of the DigitalBranch, and senior partner at B2X Partners points out in Do B2B Buyers really need an Amazon-like experience?, “it’s focused on removing friction that exists between the customer and ownership of its product.”
Your Customers Want More
The fact that Amazon has based its business model on making its customers’ lives easier should make electrical distributors start sharpening their customer service pencils right now. “Attend a B2B conference or pull up any B2B e-commerce blog these days and you will hear everyone talking about how B2B Buyers expect an Amazon-like experience on your B2B site,” King points out.
“The basic tenet is that buyers have expectations from at-home experiences that they bring to a B2B site,” he continues. “The main point is that B2B organizations should work to meet those basic expectations.” And while some may call this trend the “consumerization of B2B,” King says business customers really just care about two things: Doing their job in the easiest way possible and getting credit for getting their job done in the best way possible.
“Buyers come with expectations that the experience is going to be easy and intuitive, so make it easy and intuitive,” King says. “Then, figure out how to make the B2B buyers job as easy as possible.”
5 Ways to Make Their Lives Easier
One of the best ways to get inside your customers’ heads and figure out how to make their jobs easier is by simply putting them first. In other words, whether you’re selling over the counter, via the web, or through a mobile app, put the customer at the center of the conversation throughout the entire process. “Understand who your customer is,” says King, who tells electrical distributors to use these five strategies to get inside buyers’ heads and figure out how to make life easier for them:
- Use customer journey mapping. “Don’t just buy into this ‘Consumerization of B2B’ thing by making a consumer site that has a few B2B features,” says King. “Take a really hard look at your customers and how they do their jobs.” Customer journey mapping—a visual representation of every experience your customers have with you—will quickly reveal any “pain points” in your customers’ interactions and help you improve the experience both online and offline.
- Recognize that a sale can’t happen without a customer. And, nothing can be sold unless you have a customer to sell to. “Without customers, there is no business,” says King, who tells electrical distributors to ask themselves this question: “Why is this customer spending his or her money with us instead of with our competitors?” Use the answer(s) to get to a deeper level with your buyers, and to figure out what more you can be doing to make their jobs easier. This may be a novel approach for distributors that are accustomed to putting their products, services, line cards, and websites out there for customers to respond to, but the effort will pay off. “Distributors are always talking about the processes that they’ve built,” says King, “without really considering what their customers think about those processes.”
- Factor in Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIRO). A theory of interpersonal relations introduced by William Schutz in 1958, FIRO explains the interpersonal interactions of a local group of people. The theory is based on the belief that when people get together in a group, there are three main interpersonal needs they are looking to obtain – affection/openness, control, and inclusion. The central theory to modern-day customer experience studies, FIRO can be applied in the B2B setting, where customers primarily want attention and competency (versus to be cared for, which is more of a B2C need, says King). “Make your customers feel important,” says King, “and also make them feel important in their own jobs.”
- Get intensely curious about your customers’ jobs. In the digital age, we’re all spending less and less time with our customers. Electronic communications and online chats may save time, but they don’t allow you to get down-and-dirty with your buyers and really get to know what they do, what their pain points are, and where they need help. “so often we don’t even know our customers or what they’re trying to accomplish on a daily basis,” says King, who encourages distributors to spend more time with buyers, watching them do their jobs. You’ll be surprised at how much you learn. “Get intensely curious about your customers’ jobs,” says King, “and then find out what you can do to help them get the jobs done better, faster, and smarter.”
- Ask them a thousand questions. If you don’t know what your customers are trying to do—or why they’re attempting to do something in a certain way—it’s your own fault for not asking a thousand questions upfront. “What do you need this product for?” “What job are you using it on?” and “Who is your customer on this job?” are just a few of the prying questions you should ask every time you interact with a buyer. “If you want someone to come back to you every single time,” says King, “you have to make them feel really important, pay a lot of attention to them, and/or help them be competent in their own jobs.”
In Part II of this article series we’ll look at what electrical contractors can do to help their customers get credit for doing their jobs in the best way possible.Tagged with Amazon, B2B, best practices, customer service