As online portals are widely used in the B2C retail sector, today’s millennial consumers are conditioned to turn to a retailer’s portal for everything from paying a store credit card, filling a return, or even getting in touch with a retailer’s customer service team.
But such online portals remain scarce in the B2B realm by manufacturers and distributors, according to a recent analysis.
In fact, just 36 percent of manufacturers and suppliers have some type of online customer service portal in place that handles customers inquires and demands, says TermSync, a B2B online customer portal firm, citing its own recently administered study of the post-sale relationship between these businesses and their vendors.
That means a surprising 64 percent of respondents are essentially behind on the technologically, web-crazed times.
And as more of manufacturing and business goes to millennial-run companies, it’s essential that all vendors begin embracing the same technology millennials have come to expect with businesses they work with, says Mark Wilson, CEO and founder of the cloud-based customer portal service TermSync.
“We’ve had a lot of our clients who are the vendors in the transaction say they work with customers who aren’t Internet savvy, and therefore, they weren’t sure how many would use such a portal,” Wilson tells Leo Rommel of Industry Today. “What we find is that while obviously not 100 percent of your customers are going to use this, a good percentage of them will, especially those who are a part of the younger generations.”
Makes sense, given that about 70 million Americans are part of the so-called millennial generation, a population that will count for 75 percent of the workforce by 2025.
As this generation’s parents – the Baby Boomers – are retiring or gearing up to retire, millennials are swiftly moving up the executive ladders, putting them in influential seats with the buying teams that ultimately determine which vendors and service suppliers to do business with.
“With the younger generation, their first thought when they have a question with a vendor is not to call and ask a question and sit on hold for five minutes and get passed around to three different people, but to go online, log in, and figure out the answer for themselves or submit a question where they’ll get a response in a timely manner,” Wilson says.
And it’s not just the younger generations who expect this type of web-based service, but many in the older generations, too, Wilson explains.
“We’ve always looked at this relative to the younger generations, those who grew up with this type of technology and therefore expect services like this, but many members of the older generation, as they’re getting more comfortable in their personal lives with technology, are turning first to a website or a service like ours to find the answers to their questions,” he says. “A high percentage of people between the ages of 25 and 35 certainly demand a web-based service like this, but by no means are they the only ones.”
But vendors are not realizing the return on a possible investment because many of their customers reportedly are not using portals, mostly because they are hesitant to create a log-in name and password for each vendor’s portal, then log on to each one separately when it comes time to pay an invoice or ask a question.
Wilson says that if these portals were reconfigured to include multiple vendors in one place, those same businesses would be much more likely to interact with vendors through them – as opposed to having vendors frequently chase down customers for payment.
“Services like ours make it easy for them where they can interact with a participating vendor from the same link we provide,” Wilson says. “I think the best thing anyone can do is say, ‘As my customer, as someone who I would sell to if I’m a manufacturer or distributor, what’s easiest for you?’ Once you get in that mindset, then you’re going to quickly realize that providing them another option like this is not costly to me.”
He adds, “Not everyone will use it, but certainly more than enough will that I’ll be looked upon favorably. Again, it all comes back to being easy to do business with. That’s what every company should strive for.”
TermSync helps B2B companies bring a customer-centric approach to the post-sale relationship. Its cloud-based platform connects over 100,000 businesses, streamlining processes for both vendors and their business customers. This approach results in improved customer relations, reduced processing costs, and faster payments.