“Our customers aren’t our secretaries!”

Written February 15th, 2009 by
Categories: CEO's Blog
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“They are NOT going to rekey their orders into our SAP integrated eCommerce website for us.  Their purchasing systems generate faxes and emails and that’s what they are going to continue to send to us.”  I heard this story…yet again…this week and wanted to weigh in on this topic.

First of all, I’m going to start with a confession <rant>.

I think this excuse is exactly that…a thinly disguised excuse that prevents you from investing in an unbelievably worthwhile project that benefits both you and your customers.

Granted I have some vested interests here, but what really bothers me is that this paternalistic generalization is only hurting your customers and therefore your company. <end of rant>

Now for the discussion.

It’s not that simple.  All of your customers aren’t created equal nor do you value all of them equally.

Your most valuable “A” customers, who are your first priority, you’ve already established an EDI relationship with.  For them, it’s absolutely true that they aren’t going to be retyping their orders into your system.  But there is something else going on here.  You’ve also guaranteed that whatever product they need, and whenever they need it, you will supply it for them.  By definition, that’s what makes them one of your “A” customers.  b2b2dot0 doesn’t provide any value to that relationship…except for maybe allowing your EDI customers to track their orders and download order related documents (but that’s besides the point).

This discussion is centered around your “B” and “C” customers.  If they are phone/faxing/emailing orders today, you have to give them an incentive to go to your SAP Integrated B2B Sell-side eCommerce website tomorrow.  But what if you not only gave them value, but you also made it effortless to get their orders into your website?  How much do you think they’d appreciate that?

Here are the benefits that our client’s customers say they are realizing by taking their orders to the web:

  1. Real time confirmation – faxes and emails don’t guarantee that orders were received, understood and will be scheduled as requested.  Websites do.
  2. Scheduled delivery dates – it’s better to know that there will be issues with the delivery at the time of ordering than to be surprised by them days later.  Customers will work with you on schedule adjustments, they just hate surprises.
  3. Manage price discrepancies – pricing isn’t always in sync between your SAP system and your customer’s purchasing system.  Better to handle them at order entry time than when you’re trying to collect on an invoice.
  4. 24×7 availability – granted faxes and emails can be sent 24×7, but when you really need information or have a special request, you use the phone.  Your staff isn’t available 24×7…your website is.
  5. Quicker turnaround time – orders placed on the web are in real time.  If there are issues with the fax/email orders, it could take days to ping-pong back and forth before they’re resolved…especially if there are time zone differences involved.

Our experience has been that our client’s customers love the transparency of this information, the immediacy of the response and the capability to adjust their ordering plans in real time as required.

If your customers can export their orders out of their purchasing system into an Excel spreadsheet or text file, then the following demonstration shows you the “price they would have to pay” to get their order into your SAP system.  It doesn’t get any easier than this.

So what’s the real reason you don’t want to provide an SAP integrated B2B sell-side eCommerce website to your customers?  My bet is that it’s the perceived cost, complexity and risk of the project.

We can help with that.