My colleagues have written some great articles [here and here] about the uncertainty around the COVID-19 outbreak. This article is geared toward what distributors can do right now to continue serving customers and keep productive using digital tools.

I talk with distributors every day; the theme of those conversations is: “What can I do right now to help my customers and keep my employees working?”

The following is The Dean’s List of seven things distributors can do right now using digital tools to help flatten the curve and combat the impact of COVID-19 on their teams and their businesses:

  1. Use web conferencing: Sales and customer service reps can use this right now. It adds a personal touch many of us crave during social distancing.For those of you who have used teleconferencing and/or videoconferencing in recent weeks, you may have noticed that it is sometimes hard to dial in or enter the remote meeting. If you’ve experienced that, this bonus tip is for you: Consider starting the conference call at 15 or 45 minutes after the hour during high-usage times, as it may minimize that annoying busy signal.
  2. Implement online chat: If you already have online chat, great! You may want to consider increasing the role and making sure customers know about that tool. If you don’t have online chat, consider adding it. There are a number of good options that are inexpensive and can be brought online very quickly. Just be sure to staff and train appropriately.
  3. Site Audit: Now, more than ever, it’s critical for your customers to find you easily on Google and other search engines. Conducting a detailed technical SEO site audit helps identify areas on your website that may need improvements. Focus now on quick improvements. Bonus points for incorporating Google Analytics pageviews into the technical audit results, which will provide laser guidance to optimize most viewed/important pages first.
  4. Set up product lists: Proactively create lists for top customers if your e-commerce platform allows you or your customers to create lists of frequently purchased items or a project list. That makes it quick and easy for customers to reorder frequently purchased items on your site.
  5. Upload product quote: Allowing customers to upload a file of products to quote allows time saving for your customers, as well as you.
  6. Evaluate and improve your UX (user experience): There are many factors that affect a user experience. Improving your user experience should be an ongoing process. Consider these:Look at page load speed and consider tools like Hotjar or Crazyegg. Those tools can show a heatmap of where users click. Another feature of those tools is that you can view and watch where a user’s mouse moves. These types of tools can provide terrific information to help you understand how to improve the user experience and, ultimately, help improve your CRO (conversion rate optimization).
  7. FAQs: Ask your sales and customer service reps the top five questions they receive from customers, as they are an excellent source to gain feedback. The goal is to make your website FAQs more robust; thereby, improving your self-service capability and minimizing customer service questions.

BONUS POINTS:

  • Curbside pickup: Several distributors I have talked with over the past two weeks are doing this. While a branch may be closed to the public, simply place an online order and the customer can pick up curbside.
  • Claim and optimize your Google MyBusiness and Bing Places listings: Having a local presence is important and is a key differentiating factor for many distributors vs a pure online-only supplier. You should also optimize your Local SEO.
  • Videos/Screencasts: Create a series of short videos and/or screencasts showing customers how to access specific things on your site. In short, help customers be more self-sufficient.

Be sure to communicate and let customers know what tools and services you have in place. Never assume they know. When we’re on the other side of this pandemic, a side benefit of implementing The Dean’s List right now is that all of these steps will continue to help your business grow and succeed.

And there you have it, The Dean’s List for things you can do right now to serve your customers effectively during the coronavirus pandemic.

If you would like to discuss what you are doing or how to implement any of the items on The Dean’s List, call or email anytime.

Digital is critical now more than ever. The above seven items are just the tip of the iceberg. Tell me what you are doing on the digital front right now to get you through these uncertain times.

Wishing you and your family health and safety during this unprecedented time. In the words of Spock, “Live Long and Prosper.”