Before 2020, many B2B companies already had digital transformation plans in place. However, the unexpected events of the past year forced businesses to accelerate them. In 2020, lots of B2B companies replaced manual processes with digital ones in months—rather than years.
70% of survey respondents said their companies either have a digital transformation strategy in place or are working on one, according to a 2018 survey by Tech Pro Research
This rapid digital transformation created many stressful challenges. But while it forced us out of our comfort zone, digital technology has changed the way we do business in a positive way.
In fact, digital transformation has prepared B2B companies for the new era of digital self-service.
What Is Digital Self-Service?
Digital self-service isn’t a new concept. B2B companies have been using self-service tactics—like FAQs, forums, resource centers and chatbots—to provide customer support without requiring human contact.
But we need to evolve digital self-service and redefine its role. Providing answers to questions is just not enough for today’s B2B buyers. Digital self-service must allow customers and prospects to complete every step of the buying process on their own—find answers, compare products, make decisions and complete purchases.
Digital self-service empowers online users to independently find answers, compare products, make decisions and complete purchases through digital channels without contacting a salesperson.
Why Is Digital Self-Service So Important In B2B?
The pandemic has greatly diminished in-person interactions, escalating the trend toward remote and digital interactions. Not only that, there’s been an increasing sense of empowerment.
Businesses were faced with unprecedented challenges and limited resources. For B2B companies that lost significant volume, that restricted resource was money. For booming businesses manufacturing essential products, that resource was time.
To make the most out of our limited resources, we were pressed to become even more creative and agile. In order to “get it done,” we were empowered to explore and execute new options. This empowerment led to an increased need for digital self-service.
More than three quarters of buyers and sellers believe this new digital model is more effective. That’s because digital self-service and remote interactions have made it easier for buyers to get information, place orders, get support and arrange service.
In fact, 68%-84% of B2B decision makers now prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service over face-to-face engagements. Only about 20 to 30 percent of B2B buyers say they hope to return to in-person sales.
How Do We Create The Ideal Digital Self-Service Experience?
What does this all mean after the world goes back to “normal?” We won’t be able to go back to just structuring marketing and sales initiatives around in-person trade shows, demos and sales meetings. So how do we create a digital self-service experience that empowers buyers?
To start, we must ditch the usual metrics of traffic, downloads and lead conversions. Instead, we should focus on customer experience goals. Customer experience goals could include: engagements, requests, conversations, tasks completed and appointments set.
Across the entire customer journey, there are many opportunities to empower prospects and existing customers to serve themselves using digital channels. The key is identifying which opportunities will provide the biggest impact.
Customer Experience Metrics + Self-Serve Experience + Supporting Technology
By setting goals, empowering online users to self-serve and having the right technology in place, you allow prospects and customers to make decisions on their own, which will will directly impact growth and retention.
Examples Of How Two B2B Companies Are Offering Digital Self-Service
We have the privilege of working with some really innovative clients. Here are two different examples of how they’re taking their B2B business to the next level with digital self-service.
Education & Training
We’re working with one client to develop an online training program. The goal is to make it easy and rewarding for their buyers’ employees to complete self-training courses online
We’re using the buyers’ input to craft the educational materials. Plus, we’re rewarding course completions with incentives—monetary, physical and experiential—that are highly valued by employees. We’re also building in feedback loops that allow the buyers to build an online community based on transparent information and conversation exchange.
What we love about this approach: The education the client is providing directly ties to growing the buyer’s business. The well-trained employees will provide a better customer experience. A better customer experience will lead to more business. More business requires more product purchases from the client. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Custom Product Bundles
We’re working with another client on a custom product bundling project. Buyers can use an online self-selection tool to determine the best combination of products for their business.
The customized solution will best reflect the buyer’s brand. This will improve satisfaction and retention for both employees and customers. These bundles may also qualify for different incentives—discounts, rebates or complementary services.
What we love about this approach: The self-selection tool empowers buyers to make decisions on their own. The custom product bundling allows buyer to purchase exactly what they need for their business. The subscription-like purchase setup also increases buyer retention.
The pandemic accelerated our need to be more agile and adaptable than ever before. This led to what will now be a permanent way of doing business—digital self-service. Do you have the opportunity to execute a digital self-service experience to your customers and prospects? Tell us how we can help.
Tessa combines her marketing and software product management experience with agile principles to execute Tenlo’s rapid marketing testing, which focuses on identifying and forecasting clients' most effective experiences and sales channels for scaling successful products or launching innovation.
Tessa Burg, VP of UX & Technology Strategy