The trends towards digitalisation of services and increased service quality in the support of customers/sales partners (hereafter referred to as business partners) already existed before the crisis. In the lockdown, employers and employees face several challenges, such as virtual collaboration in the home office or digital employee management. The importance and need for competitive differentiation is clearly emerging for companies, especially intensified by rising costs, innovative competitors and further growing business partner requirements. Especially in the B2B environment, the business partner relationship goes beyond the pure purchase of a product and usually results in a long-term cooperation. A coordinated digitalisation of offers and processes that meets the requirements of internal and external stakeholders offers real added value for business partners. These five lessons are clearly emerging in the market:
Especially in times of “social distancing”, the possibility of contact is essential for business partners. Therefore, make sure that your company provides the best possible accessibility even in times of working from home (e.g. by creating a virtual team across regional borders). For 24/7 services, provide new digital service opportunities such as dynamic FAQs or video tutorials.
Find out which channels your company currently offers (e.g. telephone, mail) and which are desired by your business partners. When deciding to expand your channel offer, bear in mind that business partners are spoiled by purchasing/service experiences with Amazon & Co. in terms of excellent customer experience (convenient selection, fast/transparent delivery, simple processing and omni-channel offer). Consider whether all the channels you are planning can be served with the level of quality you have offered so far.
Keep in mind that a broad positioning of your sales and service channels in terms of multi-channel support will maintain your service in the event of a temporary loss of individual channels. As a result of the Corona pandemic, business partner support expectations have continued to rise. Service portals for ordering spare parts or remote services in case of machine defects are innovative ways to support your business partners at any time and from anywhere.
Ensure that your employees have access to cross-departmental information on products, current marketing activities, but also customer histories. Especially the use of a cross-location CRM system creates the basis for the best possible business partner service and thus customer satisfaction. In addition, setting up a cross-location competence centre can be helpful to bundle your company’s technical, business partner and market knowledge and make it transparent by providing a knowledge management system.
The increasing complexity of your products due to high variety of product models or shorter product launch cycles lead to more and more questions of your business partners. Therefore, create training services and achieve the best possible product knowledge so that your business partners can solve problems on their own. Online training formats (e.g. web-based training) are suitable options, especially in times of contact avoidance.
When changing the channel offer, the business partner communication or the services, it is important to involve all employees as well as business partners in the change process and to convince them of the digital transformation. This means that affected company divisions and stakeholders must be identified and involved, and responsibilities must be defined before digitalisation measures can be pushed forward.
The Corona crisis is a unique opportunity for the optimisation and digitalisation of after-sales services. Use the time to implement the learnings of the market. This will enable you to align your company’s services in a customer-oriented and digitalised way and thus achieve a favourable competitive differentiation compared to product innovations.
For better readability, the generic masculine is used in these articles. The designations of persons used in these articles refer to all genders unless otherwise indicated.