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The Customer Service Challenge for Distributors

Customer service is a hot topic these days as organizations across industries realize that being customer-centric sets the tone for success. In today’s crowded and competitive marketplace, stellar customer service emerges as a crucial point for driving competitive differentiation. Organizations focused on delivering elevated levels of customer service enjoy greater customer loyalty and achieve higher margins.

For modern-day distributors, navigating the customer service challenge thus becomes inevitable to improve their business outcomes, impact the bottom line positively and drive profits.

However, most distributors manage a wide range of products and service combinations. Along with this, there are regulatory requirements to adhere to when it comes to customer protection, circular economy trends, national mandates, and product traceability.

That apart, distributors have to deliver superior quality products, ensure flawless execution of operations, and all within shorter delivery times to make sure customers receive elevated service, every single time.

It is also because of these complexities that delivering exceptional customer service becomes challenging for distributors.

Old disconnected processes do not offer a complete, 360-degree view of the customers. The absence of business intelligence impacts demand forecasting capabilities. This can lead to poor estimations and low stocks. This can impact both selling opportunities and customer experience negatively.

The intermediary nature of the distribution business makes it critical to identify all the influencers of customer service and assess ways to offer additional services, drive personalization and improve the ease of doing business by delivering high-value services or by increasing operational efficiencies.

Distributors now need to also accelerate their speed of innovation to address market changes faster and deliver personalized customer-focused solutions and transform their business outcomes.

Here are a few things that distributors can do to navigate these challenges and deliver top-notch customer service and stay ahead of the curve.

Smart Product Information Management

Organizing a complex product repertoire can be a challenge for most distributors. With varying product specifications and SKUs, product information management is a herculean challenge for most distributors.

The inability to create a centralized product information repository complete with updated content on all products and their specifications impacts the customer experience. With robust catalogue management technologies, however, all product-related information is stored in a centralized location. It then becomes easier, especially for field sales agents, to provide complete and current product information to the client whenever needed.

Inventory Management

Developing robust inventory management capabilities is also crucial to driving good customer service. Keeping a track of all the products and goods coming in and going out can help distributors ensure that there are no delays during order fulfilment.

Poor inventory management capabilities often lead to frustration for the customers and missed opportunities to drive customer satisfaction.

Manually handling inventory management can be error-prone, effort-intensive, and time-consuming. Using technology-driven inventory management solutions that help manage inventory accurately and precisely contributes to a smoother order fulfilment experience and improved customer service.

Improved, 360-degree View of the Customer

Distributors also need to develop their capabilities to respond to market needs faster and deliver what the customers need proactively. They also need to develop customization and personalization capacities to create competitive differentiation in today’s complex business environment.

Getting a comprehensive, 360-degree view of the customer is critical to providing customized, personalized, and elevated customer service. Data-backed analysis of customer behaviours delivers clear insights needed to drive contextual upselling and reselling opportunities. These insights can also be leveraged to identify usage patterns and create relevant customer engagement strategies.

With clear and comprehensive customer data, field sales agents can have more impactful sales conversations, identify and leverage selling, upselling, and cross-selling opportunities, service the customer better and stay in the eye line of the customer.

With the right insights and data, distributors can raise the visibility and stature of service and position themselves as solution partners with customers.

Improved Demand Forecasting = Better Customer Service

Distributors also need to improve their future planning capabilities by gaining insights into how customer needs are evolving. Marrying historical insights with current and real-time data provides deep insights into trends and patterns.

Improving demand forecasting capabilities ensure that the distributors are positioned to manage market and consumer demands. With insights into evolving demands, distributors can then ensure better inventory planning and ensure that the entire supply chain can support the evolving needs of the customer.

Complexities in demand forecasting or the inability to do so accurately not only avoid overstock and out-of-stock situations but also ensures that distributors don’t waste money by tying cash unnecessarily in inventory and also reduce the negative impact on customer service due to low or outdated stock.

In Conclusion

The speed at which consumers experience order fulfilment and experience sales services in their personal lives is putting inordinate pressure on distributors to improve customer experience. Distributors now have to deliver more impactful field sales services, offer additional, contextual services to their customers and increase levels of personalization to mimic the B2C experience.

Those who navigate these issues and capably leverage technology to augment customer interactions and deliver on customer expectations can expect to stay ahead of the curve by providing high-value services. Those who don’t will find themselves struggling to win the customer battle. Connect with us to see how solutions like iSteer Sales Channel can help you up your customer service game.