George Anderson


#CX essentials for manufacturers

What does it take for manufacturers to compete online?

With pressures from Amazon and competitors who have branded eCommerce experiences, it’s imperative that manufacturers determine what their dealers and distributors are looking for in terms of CX (customer experience). Chances are, the status quo (i.e. phone/fax/email interaction) isn’t cutting it anymore.

So what does a great customer experience look like for your dealers and distributors?

Here’s our take.

1. Online order tracking for ALL orders, any channel

How do your customers get order status today?

Chances are, if you don’t have a self-service portal, they have to pick up the phone and talk to a CSR (Customer Service Rep). The CSR navigates through SAP GUI to get order status or shipment status, to reprint documents, and more.

Under this model, data is centralized in SAP ERP. But in the age of self service, a phone-based customer experience may leave something to be desired.

For routine post-order status checks, document reprints, credit status, and more, a post-order status portal gives your customers everything they need to track orders and manage their accounts. It also frees up your CSRs to work on higher-value tasks.

Post-order tracking is included in Corevist Commerce, our B2B commerce suite built specifically for manufacturers. Our post-order tracking module is also available separately—see Corevist Online Order Tracking for more information.

2. A Sales team empowered to serve customers in the field

While self-service is on the rise in B2B, it’s not a fit in every scenario. For complex products and transactions, customers may actually prefer to work with a Sales rep to finalize a quote request or place an order.

In these cases, a crucial part of the customer experience is the knowledge of the customer which the rep brings to the table—not only previous order history, but visibility into related products, scaled pricing discounts, real-time inventory, and more.

Reps also need the ability to place orders on behalf of customers, whether from the office or in the field. That means they need access to an eCommerce-style catalog, the ability to select between multiple customer accounts, and assurance that their field sales portal is honoring all relevant SAP business rules governing the transaction. And they need all of that in a mobile-ready package.

Since all of this data lives in the ERP system, any solution for Sales reps requires direct, real-time integration to SAP. That’s what Corevist Field Sales provides. It offers customer-specific catalogs, cross-sell/upsell products, on-behalf-of transactions, full order history by customer account, and much more.

3. Customer self-service browsing and buying that’s designed for B2B

For transactions which don’t require a Sales rep, most B2B buyers would rather not pick up the phone. They’d prefer to place orders through an Amazon-style eCommerce experience.

In other words, they’d rather use a B2B eCommerce solution.

But our experience with manufacturers has taught us one thing: B2B eCommerce solutions aren’t created equal. Many B2B eCommerce platforms function more like standalone systems which compete with the ERP for ultimate “ownership” of business data. This leads to complex architecture with batch synchronization between eCommerce and the ERP. As we’ve documented elsewhere, that architecture isn’t scalable and easily leads to problems in customer experience.

The alternative is an eCommerce solution that’s built on a real-time integration to SAP ERP. That’s the thinking behind Corevist Commerce. It’s how we offer the make-or-break data points which you need to inspire confidence in the eCommerce transaction (and keep the customer from picking up the phone):

  • 100% accurate contract pricing from SAP
  • 100% accurate, real-time inventory/ATP data from SAP
  • Personalized picklists based on customer’s product restrictions in SAP
  • 100% accurate SKU substitutions, straight from SAP
  • Tiered user permissions for different roles within the customer organization
  • And much more

4. Seamless A/R processes with self-service payments

In the world of B2B eCommerce, customer experience doesn’t end with order placement. Since invoices and net payment terms are a crucial part of many manufacturers’ business processes, it stands to reason that a well-constructed customer experience should take these processes into account.

In other words, it’s not enough to provide self-service browsing, buying, and order history. You also need to give your customers full visibility into their credit status, plus the ability to select invoices and pay them down through self-service. This ensures that if a customer’s account is on credit block, the customer can see the problem, deal with it (by paying down invoices), and go on placing orders through eCommerce.

A web A/R solution like this should provide everything a customer needs to manage their account financially:

  • Visibility into all voices, regardless of order channel (e.g. eCommerce, phone, fax, email, EDI, etc.)
  • Full support for your preferred payment methods (credit/debit cards, ACH transfer, eCheck, Paypal, and more)
  • Real-time transaction posting to SAP so the customer’s account returns to good standing after processing payment (enabling them to go on placing orders).

This is the thinking behind Corevist Bill Pay, which is available both separately, and as a core part of Corevist Commerce.

Moving forward: FREE case study

Want to see what best-of-breed customer experience looks like at a real manufacturer? Download this case study on LORD Corporation. You’ll learn how this leading industrial manufacturer pivoted from an end-of-life eCommerce solution to Corevist Commerce and achieved a great customer experience that keeps SAP at the core.

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