Today’s customers covet convenience. From having groceries delivered to their door, dry cleaning picked up and delivered to their homes, and even the handling of their finances, the majority of everyday needs are solved without lifting a finger.
Online bill pay has become so common that most people don’t have a current checkbook. Credit cards are being replaced by cell phones. And online retailers are outpacing brick and mortar retail establishments due to the ease and convenience of customers not having to leave their home. When given the option, customers will choose the path of least resistance to meet their needs.
So why – in this world of digital convergence, technological advancements, and streamline automation – has the business-to-business space remained so reluctant to change?
I’ve worked in B2B for years, and what has become overwhelmingly clear is that there is a massive disconnect between what the customer wants and what most suppliers are willing to provide. When I discuss adopting new payment and invoicing technologies with finance leaders, I hear feedback such as “our customers don’t even have computers where they work”, “our customers require paper remittances”, and yes even “our customers require us to upload our invoices to their portal”. You’re underestimating your customers and their desire for convenience.
I get it. Your largest customers aren’t going to change their processes overnight, but your small and mid-sized customers will. And the large ones will come around eventually. Put yourself in the position of your customer.
Handshake vs. Link Click
You need a product or service and have previously worked with two vendors that could satisfy the order: Vendor A and Vendor B.
Vendor A has an easy to use website where everything you need is only ever a click away. You can find what you need to purchase, look at past orders, review historical invoices, and even make payments using a simple shopping cart checkout that has stored your payment information.
Vendor B still believes that all deals should be done face-to-face and finalized with a handshake. If you ever need an invoice, have a question, or want to make a payment, you need to pick up the phone and call.
You’re busy. You need to place the order today. Who do you choose?
Pay within minutes vs. Pay within days
You have a pricing concern about a product you want to purchase.
With Vendor A you make a couple clicks with the mouse, review your invoice, collaborate directly with the supplier on the pricing concern, and pay the reduced amount electronically, all within minutes.
With Vendor B you download a PDF invoice, review it, email the supplier to find a resolution on pricing, wait, be sent another PDF when the pricing issue is resolved, get your checkbook out, write the final payment, and mail your check which will arrive in days.
Who do you choose?
Reset your password vs. Go elsewhere
You need to place an order from one of your preferred online retailers. You go to Vendor B’s website where you are required to enter a username and password. You don’t remember your password. You remember that Vendor A doesn’t require a password to place an order.
Who do you choose?
Your customers will change
I believe in face-to-face meetings, businesses run on handshakes, and knowing your customers by first name. But what we’re starting to see is that no matter how well-developed your customer relationships are, your customers can no longer afford to invest the extra time.
Looking at the B2B suppliers I work with here at VersaPay, more than 70% of their customers have adopted the VersaPay payment portal. That’s across industries such as wholesale and distribution, commercial real estate, manufacturing, and so on. If you provide customers with a better way to manage their invoices and payments – a more convenient way – they will choose the path of least resistance. Because that’s what customers do.
Knowing that your customers are going to take the path of least resistance, you have to ask yourself – is that you? Or has somebody found an easier way to do business and begun slowly stealing market share?