The schema above shows the gradual deployment of self-service features. The first thing that you might offer your customers as a self-service functionality is the authorization of orders. In case your sales representatives still take orders from customers over the phone, they can then send a confirmation link with the contents of an order to a customer to verify the order completeness and correctness. The customer then checks the order and authorizes it if it is correct or informs the sales rep to adjust the content if something is amiss.
In another scenario, your customers might want to know the status of their order or its assembly, browse through their order, payment, or invoice histories, and you will offer them an opportunity to do just that.
Instead of forcing the customer to adopt your ecommerce solution right off the bat, position the new features as additional services that customers can use if they want to.
The next step would be to allow your customers to manage users and their roles. You can suggest your customers add roles and permissions for their accounting staff, so they don’t have to ask your sales department for invoices or order history and can download those papers themselves.
If some customers refuse the digitalization of their shopping experiences, you may ask your sales rep to create accounts and manage permissions and so forth on their behalf. In such a way, your sales reps or account managers become customer advocates – they will go through the same buying journey as if they were the real customers.
In a B2B environment, many customers order the same items every week or month, so adding a simple reorder feature will help both your customers and your sales team to speed up the order process. Your customers can browse through their order history and, having found the correct order assembly they like to reorder, they can simply reorder the same items with one click.
The next logical step would be adding your digital catalog with products and services online and educating your customers on how to work with search and filters. Improve the existing functionality by gathering feedback from both sales reps and customers until they feel pretty comfortable navigating the catalog and using the available tooling.
By adding product recommendations or limiting products that are not compatible, you’ll help your customers supplement or substitute products whenever necessary without external help. In the pool of thousands upon thousands of different products and services your company offers, not a single sales representative might be able to suggest the complementary products with the precision of an AI-driven algorithm.
The last step before rolling out complete order automation, you might allow your customers to “draft” their orders, and then ask a sales rep to call back the customers and check if everything has been added correctly.
During the order automation stage, you shift your buyers to a fully online experience, giving them real time access to inventory data, personal pricing (including promotions), and the ability to submit orders online (by themselves), i.e. lock inventory and prices. The specifics of B2B business imply that shipping and payment information is often complex and should be added either later or with the help of a sales representative first. However, it should not be long before you are able to automate those processes as well.
After you’ve rolled out your ecommerce solution gradually, you may improve upon it just as incrementally. Below are the suggestions to make your self-service portal even more top-notch.