The birth of the CPQ technology, as mentioned earlier, was mainly conditioned by the complexity of the B2B sales processes. At first, CPQ made it easier for sales reps to find the ultimate configuration of their buyers’ products and services and quote them accurately. As the CPQ technology shifted towards the self-service paradigm of digital commerce, it became imperative for sales reps and engineers to simplify and adapt it in such a way that it is comprehensible, useful, and serviceable for customers. By investing thousands of dollars into a complex technology, you don’t want to end up with something that customers don’t use or have no idea how to work with. So, the question is, how to make CPQ work for your customers so that they actually end up using it and derive the maximum possible value from it.
If your buyers were accustomed to filling out the forms or spending countless hours on the phone with a sales rep, they might have a hard time transitioning to a new system, leading to mistakes and overall resistance to using the software. By rolling out CPQ technology in a big swoop, you might only turn your customers away or negatively impact its long-term adoption.
First of all, consider using the Crawl-Walk-Run approach to roll out your CPQ solution gradually, for example, across multiple releases, deploying its functionality in pieces. Start with relatively easy functionality that will certainly benefit most buyers. Introducing these easy-to-use features will help spread positive feedback and increase customer awareness of the potential benefits yet to be reaped.
Customers who are used to having an in-person communication and collaborative, consultative experience may feel threatened they won’t have this opportunity to ask for clarification. To solve this problem, encourage your sales team to follow up when customers place their orders to ensure that you receive accurate information and customers are happy with their final proposals. The follow-up call is also a great opportunity to gather customer feedback on the rollout of the CPQ solution and reassure your buyers that they still can access sales reps as required while experiencing the independent shopping experience. Every proposal that your company ships should include ways to get in touch with your company and share feedback or pose any questions.
Other ways to address the customer hesitancy is to provide as much information as possible upfront, producing FAQs, user manuals, video tutorials, either before or immediately after rolling out the new system. Prepare your salespeople to answer all software-related questions when the customer calls or emails about them. The ultimate goal here is to provide assistance to customers limiting erroneous configurations and facilitate customer adoption of the new technology.
Your CPQ solution should surely be enriched with visual representation, 2D or 3D visual imagery, or augmented reality (AR) whenever possible. By leveraging the power of CPQ visualization software, you can show your customers a configuration solution in real-time, complete with selected options and inputs. Visualization software can help customers not only select the right parts but also guide them through installation instructions and simulations.
As mentioned earlier, the most promising actions of making the customer experience easier include personalization of shopping experience and product/service recommendations, such as
- Recommending products customers are most like to buy based on what’s in their carts or what other similar customers purchase;
- Prompting customers to buy what they have previously purchased.
However, the personalization and any other add-ons should not add complexity to the customer buying journey, which should remain as intuitive as possible. Recommendations and personalizations work not only by offering more products and services but also by limiting the products that can be bought together through guided selling, which alleviates the risk of a customer buying incompatible products and removes any customer uncertainty.
It goes without saying that customer dashboards need to be user-friendly, comprehensible, and relevant to your buyers’ job functions and activities. Moreover, if customers feel like talking to a sales rep at any point during their buyer’s journey, ensure they can do so by requesting information or a callback. For example, after adding coffee machines to their carts, customers might be interested in receiving an additional discount on their bulk orders. By placing the “Request a Quote” button on their checkout page, you’ll ensure they have an opportunity to further negotiate the pricing. In return, salespeople can call back, or immediately approve or decline requests for quotes and even apply the discount for further purchases.
By making products and pricing all in sync, ensure your customers can return for touchless repurchasing – user dashboards need to offer the ‘reorder’ and ‘status’ buttons to either repeat the last order or track the status of the current or previous orders without the need to contact a sales rep.
Creating a customer-centric search or procuring a powerful search engine, which utilizes natural language processing and, if possible, advanced image and video recognition will help your customers find the information and products on the fly and greatly enhance customer satisfaction. It is surprising, but many B2B customers abandon ecommerce platforms because the product results displayed are not relevant. People take relevant search results as a given, so ignoring the power of a good search is no longer an option.
Put a Live Chat box on your platform to deliver instantaneous and personalized support via chat and even SMS messaging apps of their own choice. If a live conversation is not possible or a real person is not available, ensure your customers can talk to a chatbot or leave a message in case they don’t find the right information.
To incentivize customers to try new software, mention on your website that the fastest way to get a quote or response is to use your system and that, due to demand, other general sales inquiries can take a longer time to respond. You may want to look at the Buyer Enablement guidance by Gartner to get some general insights into how to structure a customer's journey and apply them to your complex sales process.
To put it shortly, you have to do everything possible to achieve a consistent, transparent, and comprehensive customer experience. A positive buyer experience changes the way customers see your brand. And if the buying process is easy, they are more likely to come back.