Strong B2B relationships with customers and key stakeholders are critical for manufacturers and wholesalers to succeed. That is why when you make a change to your ordering processes, you need to ensure you are communicating effectively and regularly with your customers. Nothing frustrates them more than confusing processes when they are so time-poor already and ordering from your business is one task in a long list of many.
If you have taken the important step to move your manual sales order process online or are about to embark on this journey, then there are a few considerations to ensure your customers come on the journey with you. By involving them in the process and highlighting the benefits to them, you set your business and your customers up for success.
Changing customer behaviour
Change can be difficult, but when we know that a change will benefit us, we are much more open to the process and willing to focus on the positives. You would like your customers to now purchase online instead of calling or emailing in their orders, but just having a web ordering system will not encourage your customers to use it. By implementing a Drive to web strategy and effective communication, you can start to change customer ordering habits.
What is a drive to web strategy?
Drive to web includes all activity that aims to drive people to a website so that visitors can make a purchase or get some information. In a B2B setting, this means encouraging your customers to visit your website and take an action (like placing an order). Utilising this strategy, you can start moving your customers and processes online, but how do we do this?
Communication is Key
If your customers are used to a certain way of working with your company, you need to ensure you keep them informed of what exactly is changing and explain the benefits of the new process and system. Equally, your employees need to understand the new processes and technology and how to communicate with your customers confidently.
- Communicate with customers before you launch your system, so they know what is coming. Explain the reasons why you are moving online and how it will benefit them (think 24/7 ordering, faster fulfilment times, fewer errors, real-time pricing and stock levels...). You can drip-feed communications to help build excitement and so they know what date to expect the changes to occur. You can communicate via various channels such as email, a newsletter and social media.
- Ensure your customer service team has had the appropriate training and is ready to answer customer questions and step them through account set up. You can create an FAQ for both customers and staff for common queries. This should be a living document that gets updated regularly as customer questions come in.
- Ensure all sales, reception and any other customer-facing staff are trained on the new system. You could have your sales team identify some key accounts that could be personally called and introduced to the system to make it easier for them.
- Launch time:
- When you launch the system, announce it to your customers with detailed instructions about the new process. Provide some FAQs and support information so they know how to set up their new online account and place their first order. Support videos are a great way to help manage support requests. Once again, communicate via various channels such as email, a newsletter and social media.
- Ensure the Support information is easily found on your website. Create FAQs and supporting documents that will make setting up an account and ordering a simple process.
- You may consider installing Live chat or a chatbot on your site to help with support questions and product queries.
- Continue to regularly update customers on new updates or features to the system via your various communication channels. Keep your FAQs and support information updated. Remember that staff will turnover both in your customer’s businesses and your own, so ensuring that ongoing training and support documentation is available is a must.
- Send regular communications to customers about special product offers or promotions to ensure you are directing them back to your online system.
- After a grace period, you could add a service fee for any orders that are taken over the phone or email. This will then become another cost-saving and benefit for ordering online.
- Ask for regular feedback from customers and staff to improve the ordering experience. Use this feedback to continually improve your process and drive new innovation.
By following these steps, you will support your customers and staff through the change in ordering processes and ultimately ensure your new ordering platform is a success. This will lead to greater operational efficiencies in your business and happier customers.