Faced with B2B supply chain issues like shortages of computer chips, repair parts, truckers and other critical logistics workers, business suppliers are forced to disappoint their customers. In turn, those B2B customers won't have the products that their consumers want.
According to a survey conducted for IBC365, “the stranglehold on the supply of key product components such as semiconductors is affecting 97% of vendors, with 63% flagging this as severe. That’s up from 40% of vendors in April 2021, when the IABM first polled its members.”
If these issues aren’t handled properly, it means the loss of the current order and also the loss of future revenue from that business, which will seek other suppliers to fulfill future orders.
Are you one of many B2B organizations dealing with supply chain issues? If so, consider these four CX strategies for maintaining customer satisfaction.
1. Connect Across Touchpoints
“The most important thing that B2B brands can do during supply chain challenges is provide their customers with an immersive customer experience across all touchpoints throughout the customer journey,” said Jonathan Moran, Head of MarTech Solutions Marketing at SAS. “During challenging times, it is imperative that B2B companies go beyond surface-level transactional interactions and create trusted, positive experiences with their customers."
Brands must be proactive in communicating with customers by predicting their needs and suggesting alternative solutions, Moran added. To do this, marketers must manage the customer journey across numerous touchpoints, all to constantly improve the brand-to-customer relationship.
"Brands eliminate silos so that the customer can seamlessly traverse channels, devices and points to quickly find the information they seek,” Moran said. “To do this, brands will need sound data management practices, the ability to use analytics for insight and engagement and the ability to develop, orchestrate and measure customer journeys. An agile organization can adapt to changing customer needs and in tense times that is paramount.”
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2. Emphasize Action
While empathy is essential for B2B as well as B2C CX, empathy without action is empty, said Mark Dohnalek, Pivot International President and CEO. “Reaffirm your commitment to your customer by communicating the concrete steps you’re taking to meet their needs. Help your customers know what to expect and be as specific as possible. For instance, after communicating you’re taking X action, let them know you expect this to lead to X result by X date.)
Keep your customer in the loop with regular updates. Use these updates to reaffirm your appreciation and commitment. Perhaps most importantly, continue to look outside the box for alternative solutions. At Pivot, for example, we’ve found that up to 30–50% of sourcing obstacles can be overcome with innovative engineering hacks."
3. Provide Transparency
Give customers early insight into supply shortages and potential shipping delays by providing inventory transparency, recommended Marc Stitt, CMO of FMX.
“In comparison to simply sending out notices, providing inventory transparency is obviously more complicated. That is why having good, clear data is so important. In addition, sharing inaccurate data with clients is far worse than not sharing any data at all. However, if your data is reliable, providing transparency to your inventory enables consumers to become aware of potential issues early on, allowing them to set realistic expectations with their customers for the future.”
One way to promote B2B CX during supply shortages is to keep customers updated on orders. “When a customer places an order with your company, they are making a purchase — not simply giving you money in exchange for nothing in return," said Jonathan Ben Zvi, CEO of All Forward. "You have promised that something will be delivered, and they have entrusted you to keep that promise."
Updates can include tracking numbers, phone calls explaining delays or issues encountered during shipping or even email responses with information on when an item might ship if delayed, Zvi added. It's also possible to offer service credits, discounts off future purchases and other incentives.
4. Consider CX Training Essential
With economic challenges come new opportunities to provide better service than ever before, according to Ben Zvi. “It's important to take advantage of these situations by training your employees to handle them carefully so they don't simply become more strain on your supply chain. This means not only demonstrating exceptional skill at problem-solving but staying vigilant for potential issues so you can respond quickly when they arise.”
Set up a system so that employees respond to inquiries and complaints promptly. Plus, it's essential to maintain a positive attitude and provide outstanding service, even in difficult times.
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Solving B2B Supply Chain Issues
There's no clear timeline on when supply shortages may be resolved. As such, it's critical for businesses to adapt. A B2B CX strategy that takes the four points above into consideration can ensure customers stay satisfied and loyal, even when you're unable to meet their demand.