The post-COVID digital world is driving manufacturers to adopt B2B self-service portals. With digital expectations now the norm, a self-service portal is a basic necessity for a good customer experience.
But how do you define the needs of your customers (and your organization) as you assemble a project for your B2B portal? What can you do to cover all your bases?
Use these four questions to uncover the needs of different stakeholders when it comes to a B2B self-service portal.
1. Ask customers where they experience friction in doing business with you
If customers have to pick up the phone, send an email (or, gasp, send a fax) to do business with you, then you might have friction in your customer experience. 😉
Today’s B2B customer enjoys self-service digital options in all areas of life. You don’t want to be that one supplier who interrupts their busy day with a difficult, time-consuming process.
So how do your customers feel about doing business with you? What do they think of your current processes for getting information about products, placing orders, tracking orders or paying invoices?
There’s only one way to find out. Ask them.
The answers you get will help you define the biggest pain points in your current customer experience. That information is vital as you plan your B2B self-service portal project.
2. Ask customer service what eats up their time the most
A B2B self-service portal doesn’t only affect customers. It will change the lives of your customer service reps, too. In fact, a properly-architected portal can free up your customer service team from routine inquiries — leaving them more time to focus on value-added activities.
So what do they want off their plates the most?
Chances are, they’d like to spend less time answering routine calls about order status, shipment status, invoice status, and so on. Since they’re just reading this information from SAP ERP, this is an area where a B2B self-service portal can help. A portal that’s integrated to the ERP in real time can provide the same information through self-service that the customer would get over the phone.
When you make that information available to all customers in a personalized portal experience, you’ll drastically reduce the workload of your customer service team.
3. Ask sales what impact they could make if they had less routine work
Are your sales reps spending significant time entering customer orders into SAP ERP?
Are they answering routine status inquiries, acting as customer service reps?
If so, it’s possible they’re not providing all the value they could — either to you or to the customer.
That’s why it’s good to ask them how a B2B self-service portal will impact their work. With time freed up from routine customer care tasks, what can they do instead to drive revenue and customer value?
Most likely, a self-service B2B portal will give your reps more time to engage in consultative selling. Depending on your marketing strategy, they could also engage in market research or outbound tactics to get in front of new customers.
Whatever fits best at your organization, one thing’s for sure: Sales reps will create more value for the organization if they aren’t handling routine post-order inquiries or entering sales orders into the ERP.
4. Ask IT what they think about integrating the B2B portal to SAP ERP
Chances are, your IT team will balk at the idea of building and maintaining their own SAP ERP integration. It’s just too complex for them to own, both in the project phase and in ongoing support.
Most organizations engage a partner to integrate their B2B self-service portal to the ERP. There are two basic options here.
- A standalone B2B portal solution with third-party integration software. Yikes, that’s a mouthful. In essence, it means you’ll need three systems — the self-service portal, an integration platform and your ERP. You’ll have to maintain all data and business rules in three separate copies, in three separate places. (Hint: IT won’t like this option much.)
- A B2B portal solution that includes direct, real-time ERP integration and doesn’t require a third system. In this scenario, you maintain all data and logic in one place only — the ERP. Your self-service B2B portal automatically reflects the right data and logic every time, for every logged-in user. (Hint: IT should like this. It creates almost no new work for them. It’s also the thinking behind Corevist Commerce.)
The takeaway: A self-service B2B portal should benefit all parties (but you’ll need a way to prioritize their concerns)
Once you ask these questions of customers and internal stakeholders, you’ll have a lot of feedback on what the B2B portal should do. Most likely, you’ll also have a list of things to avoid.
How do you move forward when the preferences of different stakeholders come into conflict?
You don’t want to get bogged down in conflicting requirements. Rather, you’ll want to understand the project as a complex, multi-party negotiation.
Here at Corevist, we use a unique, Agile methodology to referee between competing concerns and determine the highest-priority features and functionality for launch. It’s a big part of why our clients succeed.