3 reasons to enable your B2B customers through self-service


Undertaking a big technology change for an organization is a lot like heading out on a road trip. The destination is exciting and you can’t wait to get there, but you need to give some thought to how you’re going to get from point A to point B to help the journey go off without a hitch.

Self service is the new normal for B2B and the spectrum of self-service implementations is nearly limitless. In a survey of C-level executives from WBR Insights, 67% of responding companies said they planned to implement more self-service options for customers. Online product catalogs and order status lookup are simple steps businesses can take to begin to plant the self-service seed. Online purchasing is at the other end of the spectrum in terms of ease of implementation, but according to management consultancy McKinsey & Co., “Ninety-nine percent of B2B buyers claim they will make a purchase in an end-to-end digital self-serve model, with the vast majority very comfortable spending $50K or more online.” The study goes further to reveal 15% would be willing to spend up to 1M online. And this number is only going to grow.  

So, why should you let your buyers help themselves?

Reduced Friction. 

When your B2B customers need help with complex issues like order resolution or initial sales packages, there is no one better to help than a sales rep. They provide a personal touch and are able to make snap decisions to maintain a relationship. But if your buyers need to know the status of an order, look up product specs or pay an invoice, making them take the step of contacting a human can cause a lot of unnecessary friction.

A Smith client in the medical equipment field found that 80% of their calls were commodity-based, meaning order lookup, shipment status, pricing confirmation, product lookup and each of these calls cost $5-7. This was causing a lot of friction for their clients, and a lot of money for their business. Once they implemented online order management, they got out of these costly and frustrating commodity interactions and spent more time on complex order needs, increasing their customer satisfaction.

Increased customer satisfaction.

Helping customers solve problems with the least amount of effort is one of the best ways to increase retention and satisfaction. When customers can help themselves, it’s not only easier for them, but the error rates dramatically decrease. Third party human error like misspellings and misunderstandings account for many if not most of the errors when placing or finding orders. 

Another error of the human condition you can work around with self service—sleep. When call centers close for the day and sales reps clock out, ecommerce platforms are still open and running, delivering 24/7/365 service, letting buyers engage when it’s convenient for them and making global service in different time zones more manageable.

Operational efficiencies and cost savings.

When another Smith client, a global materials provider, wanted to increase efficiency and decrease customer friction, they implemented self service invoice payments. They were able to cost from $6.47 per 25 invoices down to $.27 per 25 invoices, a savings of $844k over a 9 month period. A similar story can be told at nearly every business that takes a step toward self service. Increasing operational efficiencies not only saves cost, but it frees up resources to be redirected to address critical business needs. 

Businesses can also use existing data to create more personalized self service. And all of these cost savings can be reinvested and lead to top line revenue.

The increase in digital adoption and expectation presents an unprecedented opportunity for B2B organizations. A shift to self service can lower costs and significantly decrease error rates. All while delighting customers who are demanding new ways of interacting.

The same McKinsey study done after the height of the pandemic found that about 75% of buyers say they prefer digital self-service and remote human contact to in-person communication; only 20% of all B2B buyers surveyed said they hope to return to face-to-face sales. It’s safe to say self service is here to stay.