Empowering Your Customer Service Team

Amazon’s 1-Click ordering is so valuable that the company patented the process in the United States in 1999. Not one to miss a revenue opportunity, the process was licensed to Apple in 2000 who uses it to ensure that your iTunes, iPhoto, and Apple App Store purchases are as quick and painless as possible. While Amazon’s patent on 1-Click ordering expired in September 2017, its impact on online buying expectations is long-lasting. Prompting the question, “How can we create a B2B buying experience that rivals Amazon?”

We know what we want. We want our customers to find it just as easy to order from us as it is to order a new charging cable for their iPhone. Why? For starters, Amazon’s 1-Click ordering accounts for nearly two and half billion dollars of their annual sales. Make it easy to order and your customers will order more. It is as simple as that. Secondly, Amazon’s customers are among the most satisfied with 67 percent of buyers reporting that they are very satisfied with their experience.


Putting the Amazon Experience to Work


In his excellent book, The Effortless Experience, Matthew Dixon explores the many ways in which businesses unwittingly create barriers to purchase. Those barriers could be as simple as collecting unnecessary information during the checkout process or as complex as poor account management. In either case, our customers want to order from us, yet we are failing to make the process as simple as possible.

I am on a mission to bring the Effortless Experience to American Cutting Edge. It is a journey and one that will be accomplished in incremental improvements; yet, the benefits will be well worth the effort. Our most recent goals have focused on using our existing systems more efficiently.

American Cutting Edge operates out of two campuses. When we examined the implementation of our CRM, we found that each of our campuses adhered to a unique set of best practices for managing data. Fields within our CRM were not utilized consistently which led to missed opportunities in three areas:

  • Inconsistent use of data fields created confusion (read: friction) with our customers; especially those who order from both campuses.
  • Inconsistent data only allowed for generic marketing efforts, which are ineffective and prevent us from putting meaningful content in front of our customers.
  • Incomplete data made the jobs of our accounting, shipping, and marketing departments much more difficult than they needed to be. Having to reach out to a current customer for proper shipping information or to identify the appropriate person in account receivables was, in a word, sloppy. These types of interactions made it seem that we valued the customer so little that getting their basic information correct required too much effort.

Until you understand your customers, deeply and genuinely, you cannot truly serve them. – Rasheed Ogunlaru


Developing Tools to Support Effortless Buying


We are far from alone in our data management trials. According to a survey conducted by Experian Data Quality, 94 percent of companies across all levels have experienced internal challenges when trying to improve data quality. To hedge our bets, we brought together power users from each campus and enabled this team to identify pain points both individually and collectively. As the users that are closest to both the CRM and our customers, the experiences of this group perfectly prepared them to develop solutions that work for both campuses.

As a result, we improved screen layouts and archived unnecessary information. We also made it significantly easier for our teams to assign customers to functional groups. Using a three-level system,  our sales team members now easily group customers based upon the product categories from which specific customers purchase or are likely to purchase. The system was designed for referential integrity so that illogical combinations cannot be made.  With this information, customers can  begin receiving meaningful and personalized content that aligns with their specific needs.

Don’t waste customers’ time asking them questions unless you are prepared to act on what they say. — Bruce Temkin


Using Data Effectively


Data trapped inside a silo is of little value to anyone. Breaking these silos open and sharing information openly and consistently brings power to an organization. As an example, we implemented a daily sales report that shows each member of our sales team what they are selling and to whom it was sold. This information is provided in daily, monthly, and annual snapshots so that our sales team members can get the day-to-day picture and the long term outlook.

With this information and our excellent customer base, our sales team understands which customers are truly driving the company forward and can focus on ensuring that those relationships remain solid. They can also identify customer slippage and enter into dialog with such customers to better understand the dynamics at play and potentially build solutions.

Another report we developed specifically serves our top tier customers. This report shows each customer what they ordered in the previous quarter, what is currently on order, and our own inventory expectations. The information allows our customers to make informed buying decisions and strategically plan their purchases for the upcoming quarter. It also shows our customers that we are paying attention to their business and paves the way for proactive conversations about their ordering habits.


Removing Tribal Information Barriers


The success of these improvements depends on our ability to act as a cohesive team and deliver consistency both internally and externally. This means providing our teams with training and support.

Our CRM leaders aid in the development of training materials and flow the information to the rest of the CRM team through classes and written user guides. To ensure that this process is always improving, we have developed a strong feedback loop that allows participants in the training and users of the guides to submit their reactions to the materials. We are always on top of how our teams accept both the content and the delivery of new information.

We’re not competitor obsessed; we’re customer obsessed. We start with what the customer needs, and we work backward. – Jeff Bezos

Perhaps our most valuable lesson is that while we are intensely passionate about cutting, our customers, generally, are not. Our customers want us to meet their needs and to make their lives easier. When we do this well, we build a relationship with our customer. When we do it very well, our customer’s experience is truly effortless.

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