If you haven’t noticed, the “interwebs” continue to become a more and more integral part of our daily life. It isn’t going away, either. With a simple search engine search, we can find products and services, voice our opinions and provide feedback, and learn what’s going on in the entire world.
We especially like using the Internet when we can easily find what we’re looking for and even better, and have a great online experience while doing it. So by now, if you’re a business, you must be wondering how to have a healthy online relationship with your customers.
B2B professionals have certainly transitioned to a more digital way of doing business over the years. This is because it offers greater efficiency and convenience on the job. Buyers want fewer calls by sales reps, and more independence to do their shopping and transact.
So, how exactly can distributors build and maintain a good relationship with customers when face-to-face engagement is being completely (or only somewhat) phased out of the buying process? Some businesses have cracked the code, while others still struggle.
A good place to start is to employ excellent customer-centric strategies that elevate the customer experience, drive engagement and build brand awareness.
Without further ado, let’s talk about…
How to Have a Healthy Online Relationship With Your Customers
The B2B customer relationship
The average lifecycle of a B2B customer is considerably longer than of a retail consumer. With more time and consideration required on both the seller and buyer sides, it’s no wonder. You see, B2B customers highly regard their vendor relationships and, in turn, will hold them to a higher standard.
However, organizations that provide an omnichannel experience – meaning they deliver consistent customer service, product information, and account information online, in-store, and on the phone – build better customer relationships and more brand advocates.
Minimize Customer Effort, and Maximize the Experience
Usability is always going to be a key factor in keeping buyers engaged on your website. You never want to make it difficult for them to find answers, search for products, or make purchases online. Instead, you want to offer an easy-to-navigate interface, plenty of content to educate the buyer, and a user-friend customer portal with easy access to account information.
It’s also worth noting that buyers are most likely viewing your site on a mobile device like a tablet or phone, so navigation and accessibility to account information MUST also be available via a responsive-designed site or a native mobile app. The more accessible and transparent information is for customers, the more positive an impact you’ll make on them.
You can make your website a more integral part of your customers’ lives by giving them the tools, resources, and personalized experience they desire. Simply start by employing a solid strategy with a customer-centric focus. Once you do this, you will see your customer relationships grow online and across your organization.
Try Offering Different Service Options
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Your customers are not all alike. Many may prefer to shop online, while others are more traditional and still really rely on customer service representatives to help place their orders. With this in mind, you need to be sure to manage all your customer’s expectations by offering different shopping and service options that meet everyone’s needs and make everyone happy.
You can cater to younger professionals and others who prefer researching and transacting online by having a self-service eCommerce site. On this website, they will be able to access everything they need with a few clicks of a mouse. A self-service site should provide account information like order history and the status of deliveries, show customer-specific pricing, and give access to reference materials. They should also integrate punchout catalogs via an e-procurement system.
Assist those who prefer more personal assistance with transactions by offering a full-service option. Full-service requires the expertise and assistance of salespeople or customer service reps who can answer questions, provide product recommendations, develop custom proposals, and place orders for buyers.
Lastly, you should include a combined offering for those looking to make an independent purchase, but who want the opportunity to speak with someone in case a question arises. This type of customer is not uncommon at all. This hybrid-service option lets people communicate with a salesperson or CSR through different tools such as e-mail messaging, online chat, and click-to-call.
By combining 24/7 customer service assistance with self-service ordering, you’re giving buyers the freedom they want with the assurance they need to make a sound purchase.
Personalize The Visits
You should regularly evaluate your customers’ search and purchasing history to create a more personalized experience on your site. This is easy to accomplish with web analytics lets you see what products they’ve been researching or considering. This will give you a better sense of their buying patterns. Once you know your customers’ business needs, you can easily advertise customer-specific promotions on your site, including clearance and sales items, and develop an up-selling and cross-selling strategy to recommend alternative products and accessories.
Personalization is a great way to show customers that your company has taken the time to know them and their business needs.
Utilize Social Media
We preach a lot about social media, and for good reason. Today, it’s not just good business practice to be on social media; it is an absolute necessity. In fact, social media is now the second most effective channel for distributing B2B content.
You should use social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to promote your company and product offerings, post industry news and updates, and engage with your customers. In addition to this, direct message conversations via social media can help build a personal connection with customers and show that you’re responsive to their questions and their feedback.
Write Excellent Emails
We mean it when we say that every email you send out is a chance to build a connection with a potential customer- or even a former customer. Just remember that there’s a human on the other end of the email (and phone – but we digress). Your emails should provide value and be personalized to the preferences of the specific human being on the other end. You want to know where they are in their customer journey. After all, you’re trying to be a part of someone’s life for the long-haul, right?
Look, no one wants to hear from someone they haven’t heard from in a while who is just asking for money. We don’t, and you don’t. That said, you don’t only want to reach out to your customers when you have something to sell, right?
Instead, remember to keep things personal and somewhat humanized. Keep them up to date on the latest happenings within your business or industry, send them special offers, and continue to educate them by being an irreplaceable source of valuable information. When they’re ready to buy, they’ll know exactly where to find you.
Develop Some Loyalty Programs
Everyone needs a little bit of an incentive from time to time, so you should consider creating a loyalty program for current customers to help boost revenue and cultivate your relationships with them.
For example, you can offer a small reward to encourage buyers to sign up for your loyalty program, and then continue to provide more valuable benefits and promotions based on what their continuing purchases are. Another way to show your appreciation is by acknowledging them during the holidays… or their anniversaries… or even their birthdays.
Always Learn From Your Customers
It’s a simple fact that customer needs and expectations are going to change over time, so keep your finger on their pulse by regularly seeking their feedback and suggestions. Literally – you can ask for it. Take advantage of social media channels like Facebook and Twitter to get their opinions. Just make sure to always respond and thank them for their feedback – whether it’s positive OR negative.
Another option is to send out occasional surveys to your customer base with a specific set of questions related to your product offerings. You can also ask about your website functionality, customer service, and much more. Don’t be afraid to ask! After customers transact with you, be sure to request a post-purchase review so they have an opportunity to provide helpful feedback about their entire buying experience.
Establish Some Trust
There are numerous ways to build trust with customers in this day and age. It can be as simple as providing great customer service and dependable products. However, trust goes beyond the basic goods and services you provide. You should know that buyers take into account their entire collective experience with your organization to determine their loyalty to your company and/or brand.
Try building a sense of confidence and dependability by creating a secure user experience. Do this not only online, but across all your selling channels. You can do this by providing useful and reliable content at their disposal and developing an online repository of information about your products, as well as industry trends. You can even publish reports, blogs, and videos to capture and keep their attention.
Additionally, you should also become a problem-solver by knowing your customers’ needs and offering solutions. Buyers are more inclined to trust a business that demonstrates it always has their best interests in mind.