When customers take the plunge with a new vender, they send a silent prayer to the universe, “Please, no hiccups.” There’s a domino effect in B2B. The promises you make to your customers will impact the promises they’ve made to their own customers. Trust is key, especially since B2B sales often focus on a relatively small number of high value accounts. We asked ourselves what makes us confident in the venders we count on, and how can pass more confidence to our own customers? After much discussion a key factor emerged: clear process.
What does process look like for customers?
Above: an outline of the process used by Falcon Structures. Every company's process will look slightly different.
As customers, we want to know exactly where our product is. Silence leaves too much to the imagination. For instance, before the days of digital tracking, you had to wonder whether that late package was stolen off your doorstep or simply delayed at the distribution center.
Companies like Fedex and Amazon have done a great job using technology to give their customers peace of mind by providing regular updates. EyeBuyDirect is another great example. Customers can opt to stay in the loop about what phase of the crafting process their eyeglasses are in. Each email describes the step of the process, and it feels like a small affirmation.
A clearly communicated process tells customers that yes, their purchase is going to arrive on deadline and be everything they imagined. It also conveys experience. Generally speaking, a process optimized for efficiency signals a stable organization that has the basics down and is thinking about long-term growth. When you ask a salesperson, “What happens next?” clear steps and dates go a long way.
Step 1: Have a process and document it.
Step zero is to have a process built into your company’s daily operations. If your company already has a process in place, step one would be to document it. While documentation may seem redundant, something happens when the pen hits the paper. You catch inefficiencies and start to plan improvements once your process is spelled out in an outline or flowchart.
We experienced this first hand when we documented our manufacturing process to achieve AC462 code compliance. What at first seemed like another bureaucratic hoop to jump through turned into a growth opportunity.
Documentation spurred us to put regular tool calibrations on our calendars. We drew clear lines around grey areas that could confuse employees. In addition to getting confirmation that our containers are fit to be used as building materials, we gained confidence that when people had questions—be that an inspector or a customer—we could answer them.
Step 2: Communicate your process.
We’ve seen a lot of great innovation in communicating process in B2C businesses. As mentioned above, package tracking and email updates are common for online orders—also you’ve got to love the Domino’s pizza tracker.
B2B companies are more likely to have a sales professional working one on one with accounts as opposed to a completely digitized purchase process. Thus, communicating process to the customer is going to mean communicating process to your sales team.
Improving communications with sales is one of our top initiatives. Our sales team can always ask the production department where a product is in manufacturing, but our goal is to eventually digitize our manufacturing check points, so sales simply pulls up a web-page, or even sends the customer a link to the progress report.
Step 3: Walk the talk.
Of course, not every customer is interested (or has the time) to check in day by day. Ideally, you build trust over time by coming through on deadlines and delivering the product or service promised.
Having a documented process behind the scenes will make you a more reliable business. Even if you don’t name drop your ISO 9001 certification during a meeting, the work you’ve put into process will come through with on-budget and on-time deliverables.