The advantage of shopping with distributors is simple: customers have a partner in the purchasing process. Businesses collaborate with distributors to obtain necessary materials, with the distributor providing a guiding hand through each stage of the purchasing journey. This above-and-beyond service is something distributors pride themselves on – and often, it can translate into lifelong relationships and recurring purchases.
However, while distributors provide unparalleled personal service, big-box competitors have found another way to compete: operational efficiency. Digital-forward giants such as Amazon have broken into markets previously dominated by conventional distributors. With B2B customer preferences shifting toward remote transactions and omnichannel shopping experiences, non-digitalized distributors are at a disadvantage.
For customers, however, operational efficiency does not trump knowledgeable, personal service. Therefore, conventional distributors have a massive competitive advantage over these digital-forward giants. However, antiquated, non-digitalized process structures create operational inefficiencies that limit distributors’ ability to compete effectively. Distributors must look closely at how their siloed systems and manual processes are hindering them – and how innovative technology can help them come back stronger than ever.
Antiquated infrastructures fragment customer experiences
Traditionally, distributors have operated off a disconnected framework composed of sticky notes, spreadsheets, and other siloed sources of information. Distributors relied on this non-centralized operational structure and treated it as the status quo – after all, until recently, it has delivered results and kept customers happy.
But now, consumers want to interact with companies across digital and non-digital touchpoints without losing progress in their journeys. Unfortunately, providing seamless, omnichannel shopping experiences is nearly impossible when companies store customer data in silos. The customer journey becomes fragmented, prone to sudden stops and starts in a bumpy shopping experience. Siloed data also causes interdepartmental confusion and operational inefficiencies, which can negatively impact the customer experience. A few of these consequences include:
- Inconsistent quotes: Because sales representatives aren’t working through a centralized data source, they store information across silos that not everyone in the department can access. As a result, when customers call, they may receive different quotes depending on the sales representative they speak with and repeatedly restart their shopping journey.
- Constant miscommunication: Without a single source of truth, sales representatives may inadvertently communicate inconsistent information, such as deadlines and product recommendations. As a result, when customers call, they may receive different answers to important questions – a frustrating experience that could cost the company future opportunities.
- Lack of omnichannel/web-integrated features: Customers have come to expect a level of digital integration from businesses they patronize. The ability to continue a seamless shopping journey across digital and non-digital touchpoints at will is a must, as are features like delivery tracking and order updates. Without a digitalized system, most conventional distributors may struggle to provide the well-informed, just-in-time service that customers expect.
Distributors pride themselves on delivering knowledgeable service and stellar customer experiences. Unfortunately, it’s clear that the technological “status quo” can no longer support distributors’ goals; instead, it hinders distributors’ ability to compete with digital-forward disruptors.
Using Salesforce Manufacturing Cloud to provide superhuman service and stellar customer experiences
To provide the service experiences customers demand, distributors need to establish a digital foundation that eliminates silos and centralizes data across departments. According to Gerent’s Director of Distribution, Nicholas Holbik-Siu, Salesforce’s Manufacturing Cloud allows distributors to do so easily.
Holbik-Siu elaborated in an interview, “Distributors can store all their information in Salesforce — files, conversations, interactions, projects, or bidding activity — and tag and label it based on the account, person, or contact. Salesforce takes all this disjointed data and organizes it so everybody can find it and work faster.”
The CRM facilitates seamless customer experiences across all channels, as each stage of the customer’s journey is logged in a system that any employee can access at any time. Journey-unique experiences can be designed, deployed, and refined in real time, and may pause and resume flawlessly throughout several touchpoints. Manufacturing Cloud also provides a single source of truth, so representatives no longer need to worry about miscommunication.
“With Salesforce, the company has one ear and one voice,” Holbik-Siu explained. “The employee is the ear, tells the company what’s going on, and the company responds as a unified front. With data consolidated, there’s no more confusion about quotes, deadlines, or delivery tracking – it’s all there, accurate and accessible at a moment’s notice.”
Manufacturing Cloud repairs the process inefficiencies that negatively impact customer experiences, paving the way for all new, seamless shopping journeys. Distributors can reach a whole new echelon of service with the wide variety of tools embedded in Salesforce’s time-tested solution – and those better service experiences may just translate into increased customer loyalty.
Want to hear more about how Manufacturing Cloud facilitates superhuman service in distribution? Check out our first white paper in this series, Providing Personalized Service at Scale: The Role of Tech in Distribution, or contact us to speak with one of our consultants.