When I visited last month an electronic goods store to buy a new laptop I asked for some guidance by a sales clerk to make a well based buying decision. To my surprise I was asked to pay a consultation fee first. Only then I received guidance and information from the store assistant so that I could decide which laptop would be the best one for my needs. When I paid the laptop my already paid fee was deducted from the price. Based on this experience I checked if this is a common practice now. And it seems that at least some consumer stores ask for a fee for purchasing guidance. It is actually a reaction of the owners of the brick and mortar stores to those consumers who inform themselves in the stores but looking later online for the cheapest offer.
Will this also be a future trend in the B2B industry? Or is this an absolute B2C specific phenomenon?
Make a customer to a loyal customer by offering free of charge services is a known concept to differentiate – service offerings reach from availability of knowledgeable sales reps who can recommend products for certain use cases, to webinars or online tutorials.
How much money does it cost to offer those services and what is the return, what is the influence on the customer loyalty? That is difficult to measure. But in those days where wide range B2B web shops in combination with fast logistics services are offered from more and more competitors, service offering is a key competitive differentiator. And it seems that those offerings will be more and more extended. What will we see in the future? Wholesale Distributors I have spoken with are already thinking about 24/7 availability of knowledgeable service agents, a web presence that is much more than a web shop but a real platform with informative content, best practice information, even exclusive information for valuable customers. And the difficult questions is, to much extend has a service to be free of charge? At some day we might also see in B2B that charges for services are asked for that are now for free.
To enable more and more services to customers and this still free of charge, a focused IT strategy is required. With extensive use of technology the ongoing costs can be limited and new service offering can be created. Such technology supported services can be:
– Chat bots to unburden the service agents of routine questions so that they can focus on the challenging/demanding ones
– Intelligent ticket assignment so that the right people get the tickets assigned, even with possible solution suggestions
– Customer can get in touch using various communication channels and all those interactions can be managed in one unified agent desktop
– Access to rich content like product videos and recorded webinars, product information that is enriched with the knowledge of experienced sales reps, user group specific access to specific documents and information