Top 4 trends to action in 2020 and realize immediate gains.

Touchless Commerce

AI-enabled digital tools can facilitate every part of the buying journey except for live, personalized service. Complex business processes and personalized logic to process customer accounts no longer has to have any involvement from sales reps–even for those that don’t place their orders on an ecommerce website. In 2020, progressive companies know that whether an order is via ecommerce or emailed, the processing of the order should be completed without involving a human at all and be essentially “touchless”.

Buyers don’t want to talk to sellers until they really have a problem. In reality, sellers also essentially only want to talk to customers unless they can help them with buying more, either in that moment or in the immediate future. The perspective on touchless commerce on the transaction is mutual for both buyer and seller.  Consequently, sellers shouldn’t spend valuable time on a customer’s order that didn’t desire a human touch in the first place, and should make sure a human is available for customers when they do want to talk to someone. Touchless order processing delivers both productivity gains and higher returns on customer satisfaction. Both will grow your business.

Technical debt

An big enterprise trend in both 2018 and 2019 was to furiously apply Robotic Process Automation (RPA) bots to as many processes as possible in an effort to make productivity gains. In 2020, companies are going to begin to take a closer look at their technical debt from these initiatives.  Sometimes companies are so focused on executing a company-wide digital transformation that they identify business processes that they believe to be “suitable” for RPA, but only after implementation, discover they are more complex.

In reality, if there are more cognitive components required for a task’s automation, the bots can’t fully complete the work or can only complete a subset of the less complicated set of business processes. When the wrong process is selected for an RPA implementation, the result is enormous technical debt. With technical debt, it’s essentially just producing a new problem from a solution that was meant to relieve an old problem. As in-house support for RPA initiatives is a basic requirement, it’s critical to do a true cost benefit analysis to determine whether the manual processes that are meant to be eliminated through RPA are actually accelerating productivity. In previous years the technical debt from RPA was overlooked, and in 2020 companies will be looking to re-evaluate where they have applied it to unsuitable tasks.

Old school sales with new school tools

2020 will bring a shift in attitude in how to serve customers. The freshest approach lets humans do what they are best at, connecting and talking with customers and selling via relationships and meaningful conversations about the goods being sold. The deep tribal knowledge that sales people hold about customer accounts and products is invaluable and no technology can authentically replace. Technology should however be put to use where sales people are wasting time on tasks that do not support revenue growth or customer satisfaction. The experience and history CSRs have is an irreplaceable resource, yet most customer service team members only spend 20% of their day actively selling, and up to 30% on administrative tasks.

In 2020 the emphasis will be on enabling sales reps to increase their time spent on personalized customer service and being available to buyers. Companies will use technology to relieve barriers to best-in-class customer service and enable live selling in every way possible. We’ll see heavier investment in advanced customer analytics and elimination of manual tasks like order processing, correction, acknowledgment, and review. The focus will be to enable one outcome; implementing technology to eliminate manual tasks that don’t facilitate customers in their buying journey and increase their loyalty with the seller.

Up your commerce game or lose the game

For many companies, digital strategies and midterm and long term projects used to focus on ensuring they had a slick, comprehensive website. An ecommerce goal at a minimum was great usability and PIM integration. Sophisticated features and upgrades were the only vision and the lens was focused on the initial stage of the buying process.  While the B2B marketplace may not always be as competitive as B2C, your customer’s buying experience from the moment an order is placed to weeks post sale, has to be perfect. From product research to transaction to order inquiries, customers will no longer tolerate transacting with companies who are not recognizing and catering to their current requirements when it comes to their business.

Companies need to provide personalized immediate service on the website, all the way down to customer inquiries placed by phone. All transactions, order management, customer history, etc. need to be distilled down and viewed in one central pane of glass as customers do not have the patience to wait on hold for a CSR to update themselves on the history of a customer and their transaction before addressing the purpose of the call. Companies that don’t catch up to this operational structure for customer order management will be swallowed up by those who do.