Maybe I’m a spoiled consumer. If so, blame Amazon. Amazon – and many other companies – have increased our expectations about speed and convenience, which most of us need to navigate our hurried and harried lives. Amazon has made ordering and returning merchandise as easy as it has ever been. Because of that, a company recently lost my business for good. And the reasons for that offer lessons for all organizations, B2B and B2C alike.
Over the holidays, I placed an online order from a small company after I heard friends endorse its clothes. I didn’t need the clothing item by a firm delivery date, as it wasn’t a gift for anyone, so I was fortunately not in a hurry. I say “fortunately” because the first hitch I hit in the process was a notification that the company was closed for two weeks. The notice told me I shouldn’t expect my package until after employees were back and the business reopened. This left me less than impressed with the company’s work ethic, but I continued with the process.
When the package finally arrived, I tried on the item and found that it did not fit. What first occurred to me was that the company hadn’t provided any online guidance about the fit of the clothing, so it wasn’t surprising that I ordered the incorrect size. That aside, I decided to exchange it for a smaller size. I read the return instructions and then learned that the company didn’t accept exchanges. The instructions gave me the option of returning the item for a refund, and then ordering the size I wanted from the web site, again, as a new order. With that, I decided that I had accommodated this business more than I wanted to, and so I simply returned the item for my refund. They made $0, and in fact lost time and money on me.
The lesson? If you don’t have the systems and people to provide customers with a convenient and hassle-free experience while they do business with you, you need to make some changes.
I am far from the only consumer who demands an Amazon-like experience from everyone. The company has almost single-handedly raised the bar for customer expectations in what’s commonly known as the “Amazon Effect” – and has sales numbers that demonstrate that loyalty. According to a U.S. Commerce Department report issued this month, consumer spending on the web increased by 16% in 2017, the highest growth rate since 2011. What’s amazing is, almost three-quarters of that gain came from Amazon sales alone.
In light of that kind of competition, your software must support processes that are designed around exceptional customer service and convenience. The clothing company that lost my business obviously didn’t have an online storefront application that provided for basic online shopping workflows. Nor did it have people who were capable of working around those gaps.
While Amazon is a consumer retail example, those same customers are bringing their expectations into the B2B world. A recent McKinsey report says, “In our experience, a customer-centric mind-set is just as critical in the B2B space . . . Digitization and the rising use of smartphones are establishing new standards for fast, seamless customer service in all settings. Real-time responsiveness and easy-to-use apps for daily banking chores or ordering groceries are setting a high bar for speed and ease of doing business in B2C industries, and these expectations are migrating to B2B.”
To keep up with the “Amazon Effect” and avoid losing customers with high service expectations, you must look for systems and application vendors that can support you in supporting your customers. Remember, you may be dealing with a spoiled someone like me – someone who has less time and patience than before, and, if given a better option, won’t hesitate long before going elsewhere. That’s true whether we’re talking about buying clothing from a small business, building a retail empire, making cars or manufacturing medical devices. B2B or B2C, it matters not: customers don’t distinguish any longer, and neither should you.