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While economists continue to debate whether or not a recession will actually happen, many companies are busy developing strategic plans should one come true, adopting a “hurry up and wait” mentality and focusing their 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. Perhaps you were already ahead of the curve, or in several cases, 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, see you through the potential recession.
So how is this done? Let’s take a look at what your company can (and should) do:
Help your customers help themselves – literally
We’re 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 afterwards – everything became remote, and many companies had no choice but to go digital if they wanted to keep up. And now, with another economic downturn likely, everyone’s thoughts are on their wallets, which means one of the easiest ways to grow your business and lower your cost of sales is to ensure your customers have access to self-service options so they can get the products they need without help. Convenience is key, as is ease of use – for every single interaction.
It doesn’t matter what your starting point is. Perhaps you still employ dozens or even hundreds of field representatives who meet with customers face-to-face, or perhaps your customers use a call center where they are assisted by a representative with their product needs. What matters most is where you need to go: A thoughtful digital experience tailored to your customers’ needs, accessible from anywhere to get what they need in real time. Things that are simple 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 these things themselves at a time and place that works best for them. Therefore, it is crucial to create the digital infrastructure for this. If something isn’t easy and can’t be done on their own, a customer might second-guess their decision or forgo it altogether – after all, budgets are tighter, so why waste time on something that isn’t practical? Digital upgrading also means less sales responsibility. However, with this concept of reduced cost of sales, the logical thought may come, “are you suggesting that we reduce the size of our sales team?”
Related: The 6 essential in-store experiences your customers want to see
Ensure your sales team continues to provide exceptional customer service
To be clear, we are not recommending that you make drastic changes to your sales team. In fact, quite the contrary. Although we would argue that many customers, especially the large strategic ones, should have a dedicated person they can go to when they need something, there will always be long-tail customers who are perfectly happy to sit down once and from then on, use self-service for all routine minor orders or account status questions.
When your sales team is freed from checking inventory, providing shipping updates, and other administrative tasks, they have much more time to do what they do best: build relationships and serve your customers with an exceptional experience that sets your business apart. After this is implemented, watch your customer relationship flourish and flourish. The possibility of self-service options will be a huge support to your sales team and make them better at their jobs and happier at work, meaning you are far less likely to deal with retention issues – something many industries are still experiencing the crisis. 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 sales are being made and what we can do to make it better, because ultimately this is what helps the client’s bottom line. What are the nuts and bolts of how your products are ordered to end up in customers’ hands? While it may seem like you have bigger things to worry about in the face of economic uncertainty than changing your sales model, I’d argue that there’s never been a more important time. Self-care can be what helps you weather this storm and thrive beyond it.