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As new technology and continuous innovation drive new ways of buying and new levels of customer empowerment, what can online B2B sellers do to ensure they are able to service the ever-increasing expectations of their customers?

According to a recent study by Walker Research Group, by 2020, B2B customers will expect sellers to know their individual needs, personalise the experience they receive and proactively provide for their current and future needs.

The report also predicts that in the next few years, customer service will overtake product and price to become the single most important brand differentiator. So how can B2B sellers ensure their approach to customer service is fit for the future?

Over the longer-term, Walker identifies a number of strategic initiatives that companies should consider to help them gain competitive advantage – for example, leveraging the power of buyer data and insights to create a single, clear view of the customer across the organisation. This will help to enable a more proactive and personalised approach to supporting, retaining and attracting customers.

At the same time, B2B sellers must move towards an uncompromising, business-wide focus on the customer, ensuring that the right skills, resources and culture are in place to deliver on customer expectations. In the near future, new metrics that measure the effectiveness of this customer-centric approach will likely become the main indicators of a company’s growth and success.

In the shorter-term there are some simple, easy-to-execute reviews that b2b sellers can use to enhance the performance of their ecommerce systems and dramatically improve the customer experience. Here’s a basic 10-point checklist to help you think about some of the areas where you could quickly make a positive difference:

  1. How easy is it for potential new customers to find your website – is the site Search Engine Optimised?
  2. Can your customers quickly locate the products they want to research or buy and does your site provide them with all the information they need to place an order?
  3. Does your website show customers their own account-specific pricing and discounts and can they see a real-time stock position for all products?
  4. Can customers easily access product data sheets, brochures, and other additional useful information to download?
  5. Are you able to add incentives and tailored promotions to your site that reward existing customers and attract new ones?
  6. Is the ordering process and checkout as fast and simple as it could be – how many obstacles are there to purchasing?
  7. Can your customers pay on account and easily manage their details online?
  8. Are you able to offer a range of shipping options and accurate delivery times and prices?
  9. How easy is it for customers to process returns or exchanges through your website?

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