Customer obsession is a core value of some of the top companies in the world. Providing a positive experience to your customers with every transaction goes a long way in getting them to come back for more. However, there’s a common misconception that customer service only applies to businesses who sell their products or services directly to consumers or B2C. This mentality has placed a bottleneck for opportunities in the B2B, wholesale trade sector.
In B2B sales, landing a customer can be challenging. Compared to B2C, B2B sales takes more time and patience to earn a buyer’s trust and, often, more money and resources are required. On the upside though, B2B customer relationships tend to last longer and generate more revenue.
Needless to say, keeping your B2B customers satisfied is of utmost importance. Otherwise, the costly investment required to acquire a customer could be lost. Then, you’ll have to start over with the hope of replacing lost customers by searching for and nurturing new leads. Today’s market shows it costs 6x more to attract new customers to your business than it is to keep existing ones. The key to success then, is excellent customer service.
What does this mean for you? It means you need to establish a customer-centric mindset where customer satisfaction comes in first. It doesn’t stop at receiving complaints or addressing issues. It’s about improving your customer’s overall experience with you. And since not everyone in the B2B industry is fully aware of the potential of customer service, this gives you the chance to get ahead of your competitors.
In order to maximize this opportunity, identify the key touchpoints where your customers engage with you. From there, provide a great experience in each of these touchpoints. Let's run through the most common touchpoints in wholesale sales:
1. Inquiry/sales outreach
This is the first encounter you and your customer will have—it’s crucial to make a great impression. When potential customers come to you asking for information about your products or services, be prepared to provide the details they need in a manner they can easily understand and relate to.
Consider which channels to use: be it online, a trade show, or another medium. Give your customers the information they need when they need it. It shows that you care about them enough to spend time answering their questions.
Pricing and discounting is another a way to create a great customer experience and make potential customers feel special. Retailers will always prefer getting supplies from a wholesaler that offers the most favorable prices while fetching them the most amount of profit when reselling.
Another value-adding option to consider is a wholesale catalog that makes it easier for your B2B customers to see your products. This can help interactions, especially for online efforts. A catalog keeps them engaged and coming back for new or upcoming offers.
Buying in bulk can be overwhelming, especially if it’s a customers’ first time considering your products. Offering them a chance to sample goods for free allows them to get a better feel of your products, and also shows how invested you are in giving them the best experience.
You need to be generous while also practical when giving out samples. Ensure that the items you send out are of quality and that they provide value to retailers even in small amounts. Apply the “4 out of 20” rule. For every 20 customers, send out 4 products for them to sample.
This strategy will put you in a better position to acquire new sales leads, strengthen brand awareness, and receive positive feedback—which can help you land even more customers. Remember that you want to build and develop lasting partnerships. For some of your buyers, their experience when receiving samples can be a deciding factor on whether they stick with you or opt for a different supplier.
3. Recurring orders
Some say, “once a customer, always a customer,” but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, one mistake is all it takes to put off a customer. This usually occurs in repeat orders, where manual order processes are vulnerable to errors.
Therefore, one thing you can do is make the process of recurring orders dead-simple. A B2B eCommerce solution website can help your customers reorder past orders, or even schedule recurring purchases, all on their own. This is a huge plus. Because when you give your customers an easy way to help themselves, you’re empowering them at the same time.
If your customers still encounter issues with placing orders, another good idea is providing phone or email support. Some B2B companies even provide chat support on their eCommerce websites, to assist customers each time they enter. Exploring ways to be available in a variety of channels lets your customers know that you are willing to listen to their needs and can be relied on whenever they need assistance.
Making payments can sometimes be painstaking and time-consuming for customers, especially if it’s their first time. Making the process as easy as possible is a great way to empower them. Each customer is different, and flexible options for payments—be it a credit card, cash or bank transfer/ACH—is a must if you want to provide excellent customer service.
Using an accounting platform that supports online invoice payments is a great option. Providing a client portal that offers transaction and payment support can allow for a more even more customer-friendly payment process.
In wholesale, nothing is more important than ensuring your products are delivered from your warehouse to your buyer’s warehouse expediently and without any mistakes. It’s often not as easy as it sounds since an order goes through a lot of digital and physical processing before it gets to the customer
Keeping close track of your inventory as it gets accounted for, packed, shipped, and received by the customer is of utmost importance. Systems like inventory tracking software are crucial to this process.
The amount of care you have for your customers is often reflected in how close to perfect your order fulfillment performance is – thus why “Perfect Order Performance” is a supply chain metric. Making sure that the products are safe, tracked, and accounted for adds to the overall improvement of your customer’s experience.
6. Returns and/or damages
Handling returns for products can be one of the most stressful parts of the sales process. It usually implies your buyer had a negative experience with your product and may affect their impression of you. But this doesn’t have to be the case. You can treat it as an opportunity to delight your customer.
Some wholesalers do not allow the return of unsold inventory from their retailers and this is a huge missed opportunity. Providing retailers some options to return products builds trust and can prove to be hugely beneficial in the long run.
In the case of damaged items, make sure that you establish generous terms in making returns. Again, you want to make your customers feel that you care for them. Offering leeway can go a long way in making buyers comfortable purchasing from you.
7. Stay in contact
Going out of your way to keep in touch with your retailers to check on how their business is doing, or to update them on promotional discounts can vastly improve their customer experience. Touching base with them up shows that you’re available when they need you.
Also, should any issues crop up, even if no fix is available yet, reaching out shows that you’re on top of things and working to resolve the issue.
While a great product and a strong marketing strategy are two primary drivers of success, great customer service can make a difference for your business. In an ultra-competitive market where prices tend to be similar between competitors, it’s best to have an edge. Having an excellent customer service process can give you that. Keep delighting your existing customers and you’ll be surprised by how they’d be willing to refer you to new prospects and more business opportunities.
Now that we’ve established how you can provide excellent customer service, it’s time for you to take the steps to improve their buying experience. Treat them to a customer-friendly B2B eCommerce platform where they can feel empowered, engaged, unconstrained, and overall, well taken care of.
Sweet is a cloud-based inventory and order management platform specifically designed for wholesale distributors. We've built Sweet to help you keep up with the non-stop nature of running a business in today’s market. We can help you sync orders that come in through email, calls, texts, and then ensure your production, accounting, and customer service all have the same information throughout.
To learn more about how Sweet can help you improve your customer experience, sign up for a free trial here.