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How Self-Service Portals Cut Costs, Improve Customer Experience and Drive Sales

How Self-Service Portals Cut Costs, Improve Customer Experience and Drive Sales

Albert Einstein once said, “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”

Any FMCG or Drinks company competing in today’s ever-changing business climate should take Einstein’s words to heart.

Think about it: As evidenced in a recent survey conducted by Adobe Systems, office workers in Europe spend more than a third of their waking hours reading, writing and replying to emails. For FMCG sales managers, this means that 38% of their time, 15 hours in an average workweek, is spent engaging with email. Often, they’re dealing with basic client queries regarding invoices or an order status, instead of tackling role-specific tasks like selling.

That’s not to say that client support via email isn’t doing its part to advance a sale or increase customer loyalty. But imagine what could be achieved if some of those 15 hours were freed up to focus on more productive activities, not spent in reaction mode and digging for data to respond to client requests.

A Consistent Customer Experience, Without Adding To Workloads

A self-service portal which integrates into your Enterprise Resource Planning system (ERP system) can help. By providing those customers with access to their account information, they can quickly get answers to their own questions. Meanwhile, FMCG and drinks companies can still deliver excellent customer service without burdening their sales managers with non-sales administrative tasks that take away from the bigger picture. That leaves businesses with plenty of time to have more meaningful conversations with their customers. Win-win.

Here’s how it works: Broadly speaking, ERP refers to the systems and software used by a business to manage its day-to-day operations, integrating everything from planning and purchasing to inventory and sales. Each department typically has its own system but can easily communicate and share critical information with the rest of the company, offering complete oversight of all operations. Think of it like a social network, but one that streamlines a company’s production and sales processes and reduces risk and inefficiencies.

Adding a self-service customer portal to the mix kicks that competence up a notch. It means that FMCG and Drinks Wholesalers with time-sensitive queries about the status of an order don’t have to try and get hold of their sales rep via email or phone. They can login to their online account—any time of the day, from anywhere in the world—and access whatever information they require, from copies of invoices to proof of delivery.

That level of end-user autonomy not only gives customers the flexibility they expect in the digital age, but also unshackles sales managers to concentrate on other strategic initiatives with fewer interruptions during the day. Not to mention, it can reduce time and money spent on redundant admin duties.

Greater Convenience Leads To Increased Customer Satisfaction

Self-service portals also allow customers to place an order 24-7, without waiting for a sales rep to clock in and accept it—as well as take advantage of up-to-date pricing, promotion and discount information that’s automatically pulled from the main ERP system. It’s the ease of online shopping in a B2B world.

Convenience isn’t the only benefit that a self-service portal offers. It can also drive sales and influence purchasing decisions when used to push certain products, like short-dated stock, and offer discounts or deals.

But cost savings and increased sales will never come into the equation if customers don’t know the portal exists. Companies can actively encourage their clients to use the portal by placing prominent messages about it on their website, mentioning it in emails, touting its ease-of-use during on-hold messages and publishing trustworthy testimonials from customers who’ve had positive experiences using it.

As Customer Expectations Continue To Grow, Self-Service Is The Only Answer

Customer experience remains a top priority going forward. In their ‘Analyst Day 2017’ report, Gartner defines customer experience as perceptions and related feelings caused by one-off and cumulative effect of interactions with an enterprise’s employees, channels, systems or products. Keeping up with consumers’ constantly changing behaviour is a challenge to FMCG and drinks brands and retailers alike, but improved data visibility and advanced analytics could optimise decision-making, improve efficiency, increase speed-to-market and support projected business growth.

Embracing technology that reduces repetitive, time-consuming tasks like answering emails not only eliminates the need to hire additional back-office staff, it also maximises the amount of time sales managers spend selling. Moreover, greater data visibility ensures they sell the right products to the right customers at the right time. It’s a no-brainer.

Did you miss out on our last blog? Do you want to find out how to increase sales efficiencies while protecting your profit margins by using an ERP built specifically for the drinks industry? Click HERE to find out more!