In any industry, businesses must anticipate the needs of their customers to provide the right offering, whether that’s in developing new products or providing a particular service. For merchants, that’s a complex challenge, given all the variables that can affect supply and demand.
Having spoken at length with our own customers, including timber merchants, builders merchants, steel stockholders, plumbing merchants and more, as well as research into what both commercial and domestic customers are looking for in the wider market, we have built that feedback into everything our ERP software helps you to do.
Here are the top 6 things your customers want from you
1. The right products in stock
Availability is of paramount importance. Understanding what stock holding you have across your entire business, and enhanced access to supplier information to help you optimise stock control and understand what’s on order and due where and when, is hugely beneficial for merchants. And if you can use intelligent reporting to better predict demand and negotiate better rates with suppliers, so much the better.
2. The right products supplied at the right time
Streamlined operations management and logistics control have a big impact on customer satisfaction. Being able to process orders faster, build orders from stock, milling or directly on site, and optimise delivery efficiency with strong transport planning are all factors in helping provide the supply chain proposition your customers need.
3. The right products at the right price
Everyone loves a bargain, right? Well yes, but the “right” price doesn’t have to be the cheapest price. Being able to set pricing automatically by customer and based on other factors like frequency, value or quantity can save a lot of time, and having built-in margin protection and credit control is a great way to empower your sales team to make on-the-spot decisions and deals while de-risking the process for your own business. Prices will always fluctuate based on supply and demand, so make sure you have total transparency and reliable reporting to help guide your pricing decisions, and implement changes efficiently and fast.
4. The right products as easily as possible
Customers in all sectors are becoming used to the ease and convenience of online transactions, and potentially less patient with slower, more traditional methods. Importantly though, offering a service that minimises the obstacles to purchase and is done in a way that suits each customer is the key component. Whether that means online selling or click and collect, simplifying repeat orders, speeding up trade counter collections or having faster access to information to instantly resolve phone queries, the principle remains the same: make it as easy as possible for your customers to access the products they want, and they’ll keep coming back to you time and time again.
5. The right products with great communication
Everyone gets impatient when they don’t know what’s going on. Even delays in supply or order shortfalls can be forgiven with the right communication. Using automated updates so your customers know exactly what’s happening with their order will help manage expectation and keep things clear; emails and printed documents can be sent instantly online, with order progress alerts, transport delivery alerts and so on to keep everyone up to date. And with a system that is always up to date with everything from credit history to despatch notifications, it means anyone can answer a query instantly rather than needing to wait for the right person to be in the office, or trawling through files of old orders to check the details.
6. The right products – with a little bit of magic
This last point is a collation of a lot of feedback suggesting that preferred suppliers do all of the above, and then they go just that bit further to set themselves apart. Really surpassing expectation on customer service is a big part of this, but it can be anything else that shows a customer you’re really looking out for them. A handwritten note from the MD to say thanks, predicting the need for an order before they’ve even had to ask about it, saving them time and hassle every day – it will be different for everyone, but it’s pretty clear that it isn’t just the price, availability and range that will make you a preferred supplier. It’s that little bit extra you add on top, whether that be service, added value or user experience. And maybe, just maybe, the software you use will help you deliver it.
Do you have anything you’d like to add to this list? What feedback have you had from YOUR customers about why they come back to you? We’d love to hear from you – just email info@ten-25, or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.