COVID-19 has brought us extended lockdowns, pervasive uncertainty, and fundamentally changed the...
Change management in the world of B2B
In many instances, the line between B2B and B2C has blurred into non-existence. Whether that’s due to the gravitation towards eCommerce (which doesn’t allow for the traditional business-led information drip) or because technology allows our offices to be anywhere and everywhere is up for debate. Either way that blurred line has led to a focus on user experience and customer expectations in the B2B world that, frankly, makes me ecstatic.
This brings me to the topic of today’s post: change management. Gone are the days of painful desktop only sites and retroactive explanations for changes. BUT (it’s a big one) this is where B2B and B2C often diverge.
One of the challenges many B2B sellers face is that they generally don’t just have one consumer segment to look after. They may have the purchasing officer who completes the order, but they also have accounts payable (who login to get invoices) and managers (who login to approve orders), etc., etc. It doesn’t take long to understand why change management in these environments can be an exercise in business Jenga.
To show you what I mean, I thought I’d take you through some of what I do when considering the change management strategy for a B2B customer. It all starts with a very simple but important precept: everything should help the customer.
I start with some basic questions:
How does this help your customer? (Yes, it matters so much I put it in again)
Frame your communication with your customer’s point of view in mind. You may be asking them to transact online (which will lower your cost to serve), but you’re also giving them the flexibility to engage with you whenever it suits them, regardless of the hour. One explanation helps you, the other focusses on their needs.
What is your point of difference?
With most change, you’re asking your customer to do something different. Whether it’s ultimately to their benefit or not, people don’t like change, which means you have to encourage and support them. Just having an online offering for them to utilise isn’t new, or encouraging; nowadays it’s the baseline. Consider B2B and its process-driven nature. Are your customers aware of every relevant function you offer that could make their lives easier? This is your chance to add some value to their business and highlight both the new and the existing pieces that could make their days better! Consider:
- Order templates
- Order approvals
- Custom catalogues
- Invoice reprints
Is your help informative?
I like to self-service. A lot of my customers do too. They may be doing something out of hours, or simply prefer not to pick up the phone. Regardless of their reason, an unhelpful FAQ is incredibly frustrating. If you know there are changes coming to the site that you’re communicating to customers through other methods (whether that’s your sales team, your eDMs, or even email signatures), make sure that same information is available online.
Remember: with BPD you can layer your FAQs so your public role may have generic “how to I apply for an account” questions, while your B2B role could have more detailed questions like “how to find your outstanding balance”.
Is your sales team educated and on-board?
Arming your sales team with the information they need to be able to help customers is paramount. Consider cheat sheets and internal How To guides. Deputise someone as the “go to” person for any questions during the roll out. Change management, for me, always starts from within. Make sure everyone WITHIN your organisation is on the same wavelength, and then work outwards to your customers. Remember, other staff members are your customers too.
Once I know the answers to the above, I use these to form a plan of action. I make sure my communication strategy is multi-pronged. One of the important things to remember in change management is that not everyone consumes information the same way. In fact, there are seven distinct learning styles. Which means some people are going to want to get their hands dirty, some people are going to want to watch someone else do it first, and others will want to read the process steps. Catering for each of these different styles through the appropriate medium can make a big difference to the adoption of your new initiative.
I’d love to hear how you form your change management strategies. What was the last project you did that needed it? Did it go well, or did you have room for improvement?