KO'd by 4Imprint? Here's Why. (Engagement Commerce Series, Part II)


The book title by the authors’ Jennings and Haughton nailed it:

It’s not the big that eat the small, it’s the fast that eat the slow.

We began this series on “The New E-Commerce: Engagement Commerce,” discussing today’s buying preferences for the B2B buyer. In our last post, we talked about the expectations (namely, speed) that the B2B buyer brings from her B2C shopping experiences. As time has proven, the B2B buyer doesn’t necessarily want to buy through a shopping cart, but what today’s buyer does want is an easier way to buy from you. Speed and convenience are the driving forces behind their decision making. Savvy distributors today know this and react swiftly to project requests, and win business. It’s that simple and that difficult. But most of our processes today are decades old and maddeningly slow. If you were to map out every touch-point on an order with a customer, you would quickly see there are too many steps which means too many opportunities to lose the business along the way. When you consider the industries that have been disrupted, they were ripe for disruption, not because of price or because of a commodity, but because they were not obsessed with the customer experience. Cab companies didn’t see Uber coming because they ignored what frustrated us most when just trying to hail a cab. Large chain bookstores were disrupted because they had forgotten that an intimate browsing experience was what we loved (and, consequently, independent bookstores are on the rise). If you really want to improve the lives of your clients, and help them fall in love with your service more, start with empathy: think through the experience of buying from you, think through every step of the process. What you’ll discover is that today’s purchasing process is full of frustration for the buyer:
  • Cluttered PDF’s with too many products (no different than dropping a catalog on their desk!)
  • Multiple emails that aggravate the busy buyer
  • Cumbersome proofing processes
  • Lack of shareability of ideas with colleagues
  • Discrepancies in invoicing (freight and over-runs)
These old and clunky processes exhaust the buyer. Taken by themselves, they are mildly tolerable (because the customer is used to it), but as an aggregate, it’s a mess.Price shoppers aside, you most often lose your buyer to an online provider because of a frustrating buying experience. Because we do not make it easy, the buyer chooses self-service through a shopping cart site, replacing the consultative work of a distributor by searching for themselves.  

6 Discovery Questions to Improve the Client Experience

 How do we begin to improve our service with our customers? By being willing to listen and learn what it’s like to walk in their shoes. To do this, you might consider a visit with your most trusted (recommended via phone or in-person, never over email). But you can’t just ask, “How are you doing?” because it’s a generic, non-specific question; to which the customer usually replies with a generic, vague answer. She might, at best, recall the latest problem they had, “Oh, your service is fine. We had that problem with the mis-shipment that you know about, but we got that resolved and it’s fine.” Nothing lost. But nothing learned. Most clients are either too busy to give it much thought, or they are too nice! They rarely tell you the truth, “You are great to work with, but it’s a little frustrating trying to select items and approve.”Asking specific questions about the process will reveal a host of changes needed, from reducing time spent selecting items, to making the proofing process efficient.To radically change the process, a savvy distributor should ask very refined questions, questions posed from the perspective of the customer, what it’s like to be in their role. Here are six essential discovery questions:
  1. When you begin a project, how does it start? Do you get a request from a colleague? Is this via email? During a meeting? How do most projects begin with you and your team? (This type of question might improve how you deliver future, proactive ideas).
  2. When you submit a need for ideas to us, and we respond with ideas, what do you love most about that process? What part of that process costs you the most time? (This question will reveal steps you can eliminate that slow the selection process).
  3. When you are considering ideas, what is your next step? Do you gather consensus from peers? How do you do this? Via email? What would make this process easier for you? (Rarely do we consider this: almost all B2B purchases are done so through consensus, even if it’s a committee of two people, the buyer and a colleague).
  4. Once an order is placed and confirmed, what do you think of the proofing process? Is it fast? Slow? What would make this easier for you? (Proofing processes are plagued with too many emails).
  5. What kind of confirmations do you want for your orders? Are shipping confirmations valuable to you? Are we communicating the right information to you? How much information is too much?
  6. Once we have successfully delivered the project, what’s the invoice approval process like, on your end? (The final step, billing, is often one of the most exasperating parts of the process for a customer).
What we are ultimately trying to do is create a more human buying experience by removing administrative tasks that irritate the client, and open up a feedback channel that promotes strong, quick engagement. Adweek had a great phrase for this when they wrote about the beauty brand Glossier’s Slack channel, which they use for feedback from customers, they called it: “adapting, engaging, and personalizing at the speed of selfie.”Engagement commerce fuses a fast and efficient digital buying experience for your customer with all of the deeply creative and strategic value your team offers through consultation. But to maximize the creative, consultative part of the experience, the process part of the equation must be resolved, improve your process, make sure it’s a robust, fast, and efficient buying experience that invites engaging dialogue versus one that slows the process with disruptive tasks for the buyer.
This article is the second in a series entitled, The New E-Commerce is Engagement Commerce. You can check out the first article here, or listen to the podcast conversation that sparked this series, The Future of B2B E-Commerce.commonsku is an effortless business management platform that empowers you to process more orders and handle more business. Learn more at commonsku.com