Virtually every distributor claims they are easy to do business with, however many don’t realize when they have fallen behind in meeting customer expectations. Those are the findings of a recent study conducted by TermSync
Inc., a company providing cloud based solutions for post-sale B2B interactions. Not surprisingly, 82% of surveyed distributors believe that their quality of customer service differentiates them from competition. However, when digging deeper to see what tools distributors make available to their customers, the majority can’t support their claims of a superior customer experience.
Customer Effort is Often Ignored
According to a 2010 Harvard Business Review study and re-affirmed in findings from the recently released book “The Effortless Experience”, the most important factor in establishing loyalty is making it easy for customers to do business with you.
Traditionally it was good enough to respond to customers through email and phone support. Because of advancements in technology and changes in expectations, however, customers now expect to also have a selfservice option. Calling customer support is now seen as a hassle and avoided at all costs. In fact, according to a recent Forrester study, 72 percent of people prefer a self-service model, like an online portal, to phone or email support. And it is not just the younger generation that is driving this statistic. “The Effortless Experience,” points out that 52 percent of individuals between ages 41 and 50 prefer the web to phone support and 47 percent of ages 41-60 agree.
According to TermSync’s findings, however, only 30 percent of distributors are offering a customer portal for customers to perform basic functions like pay an invoice or file a dispute. With that gap in mind, it’s easy to see why customer-centric vendors should start looking to web options in order to provide the best experience. What may be even more troubling is that of the distributors offering portals, many of them lack core functionality features that customers expect in online tools. This is a problem because, according to a recent study by Amdocs, 75 percent of consumers would prefer online support if it were reliable. Unfortunately, only 37 percent even try online support now because they perceive the options as inaccurate or incomplete. In the same study, 91 percent said they would use a single, online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs.
With all this said, distributors surveyed by TermSync appeared to be missing a key opportunity to better meet their customer’s need.
Key Findings in TermSync’s study:
- Distributors are falling behind when it comes to giving their customers what they actually want. Only 30 percent of distributors are offering a customer portal, yet over 70 percent of customers would prefer an online service option, like a portal.
- Of the distributors that are offering portals, a majority of them are only providing the basics when it comes to the portals functionality. The study shows that just 54 percent have the ability to pay an invoice, 58 percent can view invoice history, 52 percent can view current promotions and 76 percent can ask questions. The reality is that ALL portals should include ALL these basic functions. If you’re not providing those basics, what is the portal there for?
- Even fewer distributors are taking the opportunity to implement features on their portal that make their customers feel special while also getting valuable feedback from them. This includes:
- Response Time: Guaranteeing a response to customers is one of the best ways to show that a company cares about their customers. The study shows that 93 percent of distributors expect their team to respond in one business day, yet only 40 percent track if that’s true. Of the ones that do track it, 85 percent rely on employees to self measure it and only 32% share results with customers. Measuring response time and sharing it with customers shows them that they are the top priority. When the metrics are compiled by an independent third party, they become even more powerful.
- Timely Feedback: Customers are going to be more likely to give accurate and useful feedback while they are dealing with an issue (or shortly thereafter) compared to the lengthy surveys sent out once a year. Unfortunately, only 3% of distributor’s measure customer satisfaction through an online portal, which can record the most real-time feedback.
- One of biggest reasons that many distributors are lacking in customer service is the failure to identify who in the company owns the customer relationship. When asked which department is responsible for overall customer experience, distributors were divided. Thirty-six percent cited operations, 33 percent sales, 17 percent marketing and 14 percent account management. This may help explain the lack of portals offered by distributors as no one takes responsibility to use their budget on the platform, even when providing one clearly makes the customer’s life easier.
- When asked why companies weren’t offering a customer portal, 42 percent said that other projects had priority. Studies continue to show that relationships improve and customers appreciate vendors who offer online options such as a portal. What “other projects” are coming before adding a portal and improving the customer experience? Truly customer-centric companies make the customer the first priority.
Many distributor executives may worry that technology will come between them and their customers. They feel the “personal touch” they provide is what makes their customers feel special. It is true that sometimes that personal touch is needed, but often times, the customer simply wants to get their issue resolved and move on with their day. Ten or even five years ago, it may have seemed convenient to pick up the phone and call about an invoice question for example, but in today’s fast-paced world, it is a hassle that most people do not want to deal with.
TermSync’s study revealed this disconnect between a distributor’s perception of the customer experience they are providing and what is actually occurring. While they most likely do provide good support when customers call in to phone support, they are failing to realize most customers would rather look to the web first. It is time for B2B distributors to catch up and get on board. Today’s solutions are not costly, are up and running quickly, and most importantly improve the customer experience.
About TermSync, Inc.
TermSync connects thousands of B2B vendors and customers through our standardized, cloud-based platform. Leveraging the collective power of the TermSync network as well as intuitive, non-disruptive technology, our clients
are able to improve customer relations, reduce processing costs, and get paid faster. Our technology operates in tandem with existing workflows, can be up and running in about a week, and receives rave reviews from our clients and their customers. We are committed to finally bringing the post-sale experience into the 21st century! TermSync is located in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information, please visit www.TermSync.com.