Vendor Portals: The Importance of Good Customer Experience

Portals can give vendors the tools to provide the best customer experience but only if they are actually used.

TermSync Vendor PortalFor restaurant vendors, online portals provide their customers an easy outlet to ask questions, voice disputes or simply pay invoices. The problem is vendors aren’t realizing the return on their investment because the restaurants they work with simply aren’t using the portals.

This has been confirmed by a new study of the restaurant industry ‘s payment habits by post-sale customer relationship management firm TermSync.

The study of the post sale relationship between restaurants and their vendors revealed that while most restaurant owners are aware of the portal option, they still are not using online portals to manage their invoices. However, if these portals were reconfigured to include multiple vendors in one place, those same restaurant owners would be much more likely to interact with vendors through them.

Small Businesses Owners Claim to Want Portals Yet They Do Not Use Them

According to the study, 70 percent of restaurant owners are aware that they have the ability to pay their invoices or ask questions online for certain vendors. But when these same owners have a question regarding an invoice, just 3 percent said they would log-in to their vendor’s online portal to contact the company. This is surprising considering a recent Forrester report that found 72 percent of people would prefer a self-service model (like a portal) to resolve a customer service issue rather than use phone or e-mail.

Put together, we find that many customers (72 percent) want to use a self-service model like a portal and most (70 percent) are aware their vendors offer a portal, yet very few (3 percent) are actually using them when an issue arises. This leaves many vendors wondering where the disconnect is? Why are restaurants not using the self-service models that studies show they prefer?

Why Traditional Portals Get Little Customer Adoption

The main issue with most current customer portals is that vendors fail to take into account that restaurants are purchasing products or services from many different sources. It’s just not realistic to think your customers are going to create a log-in and password for each vendor’s portal, then log-on to each one separately when it comes time to pay an invoice or ask a question. The portals themselves may be very user-friendly, but they are useless if the customer never signs up in the first place.

Instead, restaurant owners are depending on traditional communication methods. Calling the vendor was by far the most common way restaurant owners contact their vendors, with 79 percent of restaurant owners saying they pick up the phone when they have a question regarding an invoice.

The Importance of Good Customer Experience

Depending on your customers to call you with questions or concerns can be problematic as well. In addition to it being time consuming and disruptive to their day, many small business owners are paying bills at odd hours due to their busy schedules. When this happens, it’s unlikely they will be able to connect with a vendor employee via phone should they have a questions or concern.

Because of this, when a restaurant owner has a question or concern about an invoice, they often wait for the vendor to call them rather than proactively reaching out. The vendor is waiting for a payment while the customer is just sitting on the bill, waiting for a call so he or she can ask a question or voice a concern regarding the invoice. Both sides become frustrated and the relationship suffers.

Customers are increasingly likely to take this approach when they deal with multiple vendors as they don’t have time to proactively reach out to each one. In fact, 80% of restaurant owners that work with 16 or more vendors admitted to having delayed a payment just to ask a question when they receive a reminder phone call.

Customers will certainly call or contact you when there is a major issue, but many little things go undocumented, yet still leave a bad taste in the customer’s mouth. This can be very problematic because, as reported by Ruby Newell-Legner in “Understanding Customers”, a typical business only hears from 4% of its dissatisfied customers and it usually takes 12 positive service experiences to make up for just one unresolved negative experience. However, when you hear from a dissatisfied customer and are able to resolve the issue, the customer is often more loyal than before the issue occurred. Basically, the key is providing an easier communication method so customers are more likely to reach out when an issue occurs.

Multi-Vendor Portals Benefit Customers & Vendors

Portals can give vendors the tools to provide the best customer experience but only if they are actually used. So how do you get customers to be more proactive with their questions or concerns so issues can be resolved quickly without hurting the relationship? The answer may simply be to make their lives easier by no longer forcing them to make separate calls or log-in to separate portals to manage each vendor’s bill.

When the restaurant owners were asked if they would use a standardized portal that allowed them to view all their invoice information, ask questions and make payments to several vendors from one location, 85% said they would. That’s a marked difference from the 3% who say they currently access individual vendor portals when they have a question.

At TermSync, CustomerConnect was built to revolutionize B2B post-sale interactions by including several vendors in one standardized portal that is free for any small business customer to use. This allows the customer to manage all their invoices from one location, which results in the business owners or managers being more proactive to submit questions to vendors. Disputes get resolved faster, payments made quicker, and relationships remain strong.

Restaurant owners will appreciate the customer-first approach and likely recommend vendors who utilize this type of technology to others in the business. That is important as, according to the study, 73 percent of surveyed restaurant owners said that other restaurant managers’ feedback was important when choosing a vendor. In today’s competitive B2B market, referrals and customer experience are key differentiators.

In summary, portals have been around for years but have never really taken off because vendors were ignoring one important fact – no matter how key of a vendor they are to their customer, they are not the customer’s only vendor. Once customers are able to manage several vendors in one location, adoption rates increase, customer satisfaction improves and both sides gain efficiencies.

About the Author

Article contributed by TermSync. TermSync connects thousands of B2B vendors and customers through our standardized, cloud-based platform. Leveraging the collective power of the TermSync network as well as intuitive, non-disruptive technology, clients are able to improve customer relations, reduce processing costs, and get paid faster.

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