As economists continue to debate whether or not a recession is in fact going to happen, many companies are busy developing strategic plans should this come to fruition, taking the “hurry up and wait” mentality and focusing efforts on becoming more efficient with their dollars.
The past few years have been transformative for many, and hopefully, your business has implemented some customer experience and digital transformation initiatives. Maybe you were already ahead of the curve or in more cases than not, the pandemic lit a fire under your organization as it did for many others. But if not, the good news is that it’s not too late to get started and with the economic uncertainty, now is a perfect time. The first step? Giving your customers what they really want with self-service options, which in turn will help you operate more efficiently from a digital perspective and more importantly, lead you through the potential recession.
So how is this done? Let’s take a look at what your company can (and should) be doing:
Help your customers help themselves — literally
We are all familiar with how sales used to happen: Handshakes, order forms and catalogs over lunch. This method still worked before Covid-19, but changed drastically afterward — everything went remote and many companies had no choice but to go digital if they wanted to keep up. And now with another likely economic downturn, everyone’s minds are on their wallets, which means that one of the easiest ways to level up your business and lower the cost of sales is to ensure your customers have access to self-serve options so they can get the products they need without assistance. Convenience is key, as is ease of use — for every single interaction.
It doesn’t really matter what your starting point is. Maybe you’re still employing dozens or even hundreds of field reps that are meeting face-to-face with customers, or maybe your customers use a call center where they’re helped by a rep with their product needs. The thing that matters most is where you need to go: A thoughtful digital experience tailored to your customer’s needs, accessible from anywhere to get what they need in real-time. Things that are easy should be easy. This means that if your customer wants to do something like order a product, track it or update payment information with you, they should be able to do all of those things themselves at a time and place that is most convenient for them. Therefore, creating the digital infrastructure for this is crucial. If something isn’t easy and cannot be done on its own, a customer may second guess their decision or withgo it all together — after all, budgets are tighter, so why waste time on something that isn’t convenient? Upgrading digital also means fewer sales responsibilities. However, with this lowered-cost-of-sale concept may come the logical thought, “are you suggesting we reduce the size of our sales team?”
Make sure your sales team is still providing exceptional customer service
To be clear, we are not advocating for you to make drastic changes to your sales team. In fact, quite the opposite. While we’d argue that many clients, especially the big strategic ones, should have a dedicated human being they can go to when they need something, there are always going to be long-tail customers that are perfectly happy to get set up once and from then on, use self-service for all routine smaller orders or account status questions.
Once your sales team is freed from checking inventory, providing shipping updates, and other administrative tasks, they have a lot more time to do what they’re best at: building relationships and serving your customers with an unparalleled experience that differentiates your company from others. After this is implemented, watch as your customer relationships thrive and flourish. The option of self-service options will be a huge support for your sales team and make them better at their jobs and happier at work, which means you’re far less likely to deal with retention problems – something many industries are still feeling the crunch of in a post-Covid world.
When we start working with just about any client, one of the first things we want to know is how their selling gets done, and what we can do to make it better, because, at the end of the day, this is what ultimately helps the client’s bottom line. What are the nuts and bolts of how your products are ordered to end up in your customers’ hands? While it may seem that you have bigger things to worry about in the face of economic uncertainty than changing your selling model, I’d argue there’s never been a more important time. Self-service may be the very thing that helps you weather this storm and thrive well beyond it.