Kirk Krappe, Co-founder & CEO, Apttus
Your B2B customers expect services and products now. They expect these things quickly, and they expect fulfilment over any channel. Some may blame Amazon; the ease of use that people have come to expect out of B2C has carried over into what they expect from B2B. Others might hold the sheer accessibility of information (the Internet), services (apps like Uber or Instacart) or people (channels like Skype or WhatsApp) accountable. Whatever the cause, such high standards are forcing companies to operate in a more complex environment – one that requires more buying and selling channels, increased product complexity, more unique pricing models, increased commoditization and globalization, and more regulations – all while maintaining ease of use and flexibility. In this environment, as products and services become more competitive, customer experience emerges as the main differentiator – the first thing companies need to address to remain competitive in such a convoluted landscape.
All Channels, Any Time
To become truly customer centric, companies must prioritize delivering the optimal experience across all touchpoints. Companies cannot afford to choose any one channel; modern day businesses must evolve to become channel neutral. While most B2C companies, with Amazon being the prime example, have committed to this transition, B2B companies are far behind the curve. In fact, just 25% of B2B companies actively sell online.
To create the best customer experience, businesses must be able to answer buyers’ demands across all possible channels. This is not just the ability to sell through e-commerce storefront, it is equipping the customer with all the information they could possibly need and empowering them to make to take their own path down the buying journey.
Be Fast or Be Last
The ability to create a seamless customer experience over all touchpoints goes hand in hand with the ability to create a fast and frictionless interaction. In most cases, an integrated, channel neutral experience is the precursor to creating the necessary speed that customers have come to expect. The traditional, manual, siloed, and product-centric approach to business is ill-equipped to deliver the needed information at the speed modern day commerce necessitates. In today’s world, the company that first delivers what the customer requires, is the company that tends to ultimately win the deal.
Remove the Customer from the Back Office
To do this, companies must rethink how certain processes reside within the business. Systems and processes that in the past resided in “back office”, ERP systems need to be moved to create the “new front office.” At the core of this essential shift is Quote-to-Cash, or the business processes that connect the traditional front-office CRM system with the back-office ERP.
Too often siloed and disconnected from the front-end customer experience, these processes contain much of the vital customer information that is needed to optimize customer interactions, such as past contracting terms and pricing information. By automating and connecting these processes, businesses can equip front-end, revenue producing teams with the needed customer information to enhance interactions with customers across all touchpoints.
[Image Courtesy: NY – http://nyphotographic.com/]
About the Author
Kirk Krappe is co-founder and CEO of Apttus, the leading Intelligent Quote-to-Cash solution provider. Kirk has extensive experience marketing, selling, and delivering enterprise solutions to organizations worldwide. He has helped transform the Quote-to-Cash process for over 100 of the Fortune 500. He is the author of Intelligent Quote-to-Cash.