Self-service was the second-most requested feature by B2B decision-makers in a recent survey from Episerver. Why, then, are a majority of businesses passing on this strategy?
Have you been jealous of, or intimidated by, children’s ability to easily navigate technology? “We used to drive to the video store and pay a fee when we were late or didn’t rewind the movie,” we might tell them as they load a streaming app: our version of “we went to drive-in movies that cost a nickel.” These days, we can binge-watch more easily than we can binge-eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
Which is why it’s massively puzzling that we don’t take the same approach in business that we do as consumers.
Self-service applications have completely dominated the consumer landscape this decade. We live in a world with ubiquitous digital media, self-service travel, and a delivery culture: You can book and check into your flight and your hotel room and order food… all without speaking to anyone.
Yet, when we surveyed hundreds of B2B professionals around the globe, only a small handful said they were prioritizing self-service applications for their audience of customers.
That might be puzzling, but the next point just seems to defy all science: When B2B professionals were surveyed about why they desired to improve relations as a business buyer, self-service capabilities were the second-most requested improvement.
Say what now?!
The dichotomy can induce some serious head-shaking: Self-service is a top desire as a customer; but, as providers, we avoid prioritizing it.
It should be a symphony of music to our ears: “Please make it easier for me to do business with you.” Think of how frustrating it is to be in a business, or trying to buy something, but it seems nobody is around: “Please, someone take my money!” is the emotion that is most frustrating—when people are willing to do business even though the customer experience is lacking. It’s almost a moral dilemma: They would rather reward good behavior than bad, yet they need to get this task done and just want to finish.
That kind of situation is all but a goodbye letter from that customer and a guarantee they are looking to your competition.
And, judging from casual discussions with colleagues and friends in business, it apparently also occurs frighteningly too often.
A top customer desire that is not being met by your competitors spells an opportunity for you. Self-service is your whitespace opportunity. If your colleagues are avoiding it at the same time customers tell you they want it, that spells both opportunity and timing: You are in the right place, at the right time, to win customers by giving them what they want.
Instead of leaving them frustrated because they can’t find someone to take their business, you can provide the best of both worlds: Be there for them, without actually being there.
Self-service applications are your opportunity to make a massive impact on your customer base, earn more prospects, and keep them longer than your competitors ever dreamed. A customer will gladly let you know when they need to talk. All other times, it should be as easy as possible for them to do what they want, when they want, with the goods and services you provide. This type of interaction is the ultimate win-win.
Applications such as inventory management and delivery scheduling are attractive to distributors and manufacturers reaching customers directly. The ability to quickly re-order guarantees better lifetime customer value. At the same time, many customers also appreciate product recommendations from your offerings; those increase average order value and provide lifts that make growth possible and goals achievable. This is also an opportunity to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) for discovery of what others are similarly ordering; knowing that your competition may be offering products or inventory you may not be can be a motivating factor.
Other ways B2B professionals want to work with you is having their own account, with a catalogue of services and goods that are specific to your relationship together. When accessing these applications (e.g., portals, extranets, websites, apps), customers can immediately open their information, with their catalog of what to add and edit, with a view of her specific account. This eliminates the experience of anonymity, wherein a customer may feel like merely one of millions of daily visitors left to search around—and ultimately leave. Instead, you can show them their product catalog, their specific agreements and engagements together, and include a valuable recommendation based on your last interaction together.
It makes little sense that something we want as customers we resist as providers. In chaos lies opportunity… or something like that. This is one of those rare times for real opportunity. Help your customers help themselves by giving them what they are asking for.
Instead of being jealous of how easy your kids have it with tech, be the envy of your competitors and the champion to your customers who are done rewinding their own movies in the business environment.
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