Regular B2B Mistakes, Part 2: User Management, Client Service

For 10 years I have consulted with B2B ecommerce companies globally. I have assisted in the setup of new B2B sites, in optimizing existing B2B sites, and with continuing support for B2B sites.

This post is the second in a series where I handle common mistakes of B2B ecommerce merchants. The first post addressed B2B mistakes in catalog pricing and management. With this installment, I will review mistakes connected with user management and customer support.

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B2B Mistakes: User Management, Client Service

Missing users. B2B customers add new employees and users routinely. Often a B2B buyer will punch out with a user name which does not exist on the merchant’s website, resulting in a failed transaction. This requires the merchant to manually add a new user before she can make a purchase.

Tough user setup. Some B2B merchants need numerous tests and verifications before a consumer is set up on the site, sometimes taking days to complete the process. Merchants should make user setup as simple as possible and even consider automatically setting up new clients as part of the punchout request.

Missing functions. B2B customers frequently create new roles and responsibilities. The customer then uses these new functions during a punchout transaction, causing the transaction to fail. The merchant must then manually fix the function and the related privileges. Similar to users which are missing, merchants should expedite the process of fixing or adding buyers‘ roles.

Out-of-sync password. Sometimes a password was changed on the customer’s site but not on the merchant’s, which causes the punchout transaction to fail. Merchants have to sync passwords with their customers’ platforms.

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Poor login, passwords. I’ve observed B2B customers create one login to a merchant’s site for the entire company. This greatly increases the probability of a security violation. I also have seen clients that don’t have any password or a blank password into a merchant’s site! That’s even riskier.

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No order-on-behalf capability. B2B customer-service brokers require the capability to simulate a user’s shopping experience to understand issues. This is called”order-on-behalf.” But most B2B platforms do not support it, preventing the agent from a timely resolution of an issue.

Limited perspective of the arrangement’s journey. Customer-service brokers require visibility into a buyer’s complete purchase travel — if merchandise been picked up, shipping status, in-transit details, and when delivered. In my experience, most B2B customer-service tools can share only 3 pieces: if the order was placed, if it has been sent, along with the tentative delivery date. This often doesn’t supply enough information to the customer.

Lack of punchout visibility. Often customer-service agents can only see purchase transactions, not when the user punched out and what products were punched back. This lack of visibility limits agents from resolving punchout difficulties.

No quick access to customer-specific pricing. Many customer-service brokers can not easily confirm that the price shown to the buyer matches the contracted price. This can require agents to spend hours solving pricing questions, which could frustrate the purchaser and jeopardize the whole relationship.

Limitations around issuing refunds. Often buyers will ask customer-service agents to issue refunds. But a lot of B2B platforms are not designed to do that. Most have a intricate refund process, often requiring the involvement of accounting personnel. The result, again, is a frustrated customer.

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Regular B2B Mistakes, Part 3: Shopping Carts, Order Management

This post is the third in a series where I handle common mistakes of B2B ecommerce merchants. It follows from my 10 years of consulting with B2B companies worldwide, including the setup of new B2B sites and optimizing existing B2B sites.

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The first post dealt with B2B errors for catalog management and pricing. The following reviewed mistakes with user management and customer support. With this setup, I will discuss mistakes related to shopping carts, checkout, and order management.

B2B Mistakes: Shopping Carts, Order Management

Single thing punch back. Many B2B sites allow only 1 product to be punched back to the customer’s procurement environment in contrast to the entire shopping cart. This is a considerable limitation. It makes the buying process awkward. The merchant ends up losing business.

One cart each vendor. B2B sites often sell products from several suppliers. Some websites require another cart for goods from each vendor. This, again, makes buying inefficient.

No saved carts. B2B orders frequently undergo a lengthy process. Buyers frequently use saved carts to produce groups of potential orders. Cases are saved carts for office supplies and cafeteria utensils. B2B websites that don’t offer saved-cart functionality can lose customers.

Allowing shared carts. Often an institution will share a B2B shopping cart wherein all users from this institution will have one login to add and remove products. Merchants often allow shared carts, which is a mistake. Shared carts expedite the observation of sequence changes and obtaining approval.

Incorrect landing page. B2B buyers often prefer to edit their orders in their procurement systems, which links to the merchant’s cart. However, I have seen”edit cart” functions that route buyers to the merchant’s home page or a catalog page versus launching the shopping cart. This frustrates buyers.

No support for configurable products. Many B2B websites struggle with supporting configurable products in the shopping cart. The challenge is to accommodate a listing of approved configurations. In the absence of such capacity, buyers are made to purchase configurable products offline, via the phone or direct sales personnel.

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Missing lead times. B2B shopping carts should exhibit the availability of products that are ordered and, importantly, their associated shipping times. But most B2B websites do not display lead times. If they do, it’s often incorrect and static, such as”This product ships in two days.”

Limited payment methods. Purchase orders are the most common payment method on B2B sites. Often B2B buyers want more flexibility, however, such as payment by credit card, PayPal, or direct bank transfer. By not advocating these approaches, B2B websites eliminate earnings and clients.

No ad hoc shipping addresses. B2B customers sometimes require orders to be sent to a non-standard website. This might be a challenge as many merchants ship only to pre-approved addresses, to prevent theft. Regardless, merchants should allow ad hoc shipping addresses.

Outdated products. It is typical for B2B merchants to have outdated catalogs on their websites. The process for upgrading can be complicated — replacing each the goods and ensuring certain they are backward compatible. It’s necessary, however, since it prevents orders of out-of-stock or discontinued items.

No reorders. B2B ecommerce sites will typically report a customer’s order history. However, they don’t typically support reordering with that history. This is mostly because a merchant can not check the product from the order unless the customer punches back to the merchant’s site, to confirm the products and pricing. This makes it hard for customers to reorder products.

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