Customer Engagement Isn't Just for B2C Anymore

Sept. 19, 2016
Believe it or not, engagement tools like customer loyalty and sales reward programs are undergoing a renaissance, making them more effective and easier than ever for B2B companies to utilize. In the past, the problem HVAC industries have had with incentive programs is one of delayed gratification, but not any more thanks to incentive program technology.

In the HVAC world, motivating contractors and other sales channel partners to do business with you can be tricky. While business-to-consumer (B2C) companies can be endlessly creative with their products and marketing, HVAC companies don't have much opportunity to outshine the competition from a business value perspective. As with many other business-to-business (B2B) industries, HVAC products and services must adhere to certain standardizations of safety and functionality.

But with today's connective technology, "touchy feely" marketing concepts such as customer engagement and personal value – long-held traditions in the B2C world – are migrating into B2B. Engagement tools such as customer loyalty and sales reward programs are undergoing a renaissance, making them more effective and easier than ever for B2B companies to utilize.

Incentive Program Problem Solved!
The problem HVAC industries have traditionally had with incentive programs is one of delayed gratification. As early as 1911, psychologists such as Edward Thorndike noted that "response acquisition is negatively related to the interval between a response and its effect or consequence." In other words, the longer someone has to wait to be rewarded for a positive action, the less meaningful that reward is, and the less likely they are to repeat the positive behavior.

Let's say a distributor wanted to offer its contractors incentive rewards for selling units in a line of high-margin products. In order to verify that they made the sale, contractors would need to mail in their invoices, then wait weeks for the distributor's administrative office to send them a reward. The reward was delayed for so long that their recipient no longer associated it with the sale.

The solution? Incentive program technology that not only speeds up reward delivery to give recipients motivation to participate, but enhances customer loyalty and engagement in these brand-new ways:

Claims data transfer is faster, better, easier: Digital data transfer is a beautiful thing. It allows text, documents, images, audio and video to be transferred between devices. What else is included in data transfer? You guessed it: invoices and other purchase- verifying documentation.

"Today's incentive programs are available both online and through mobile apps," says Luke Kreitner, vice president of sales at Loyaltyworks, a B2B incentive program provider, "which makes them suitable for B2B industries in a way they never were before. Sales reps can scan or take pictures of claims and immediately send them to the distributor. The distributor can then instantly issue rewards in the form of online points, which they can spend in a digital catalog similar to Amazon or Overstock."

Automated claims verification: Instant claims data submission is great for reward recipients, but how can distributors, manufacturers and other reward program sponsors quickly verify those claims to ensure short reward wait times? By using online incentive technology with automated sales claim verification.

Online incentive technology is capable of automatically auditing sales claims by UPC, part number, delivery location, claim amount and virtually any other parameter you can think of.

If an incentive program administrator wants to validate the sale of a single product listed on an invoice with multiple purchases, he or she can integrate their program with intelligent character recognition (ICR) technology. ICR distinguishes specific words or characters from others in a document. Say, for instance, that a sales rep submits an invoice for an elbow connector, flex duct and AC security cage, but the distributor only wants to offer incentive rewards for the security cage. ICR can detect "AC security cage" from the invoice so the incentive program can validate the claim.

Speed and flexibility in the claims verification give incentive program sponsors the ability to manage programs according to their unique business needs and sales promotions.

More claims data = a better, cleaner customer database: The ease and speed of claims and reward exchange facilitates more interest and activity in B2B incentive programs. More activity means more claims submissions and purchase information, which allows distributors and other sales channel members to update their customer database with clean, up-to-date data. In today's age of data-driven marketing strategies, B2B companies can never have enough information about the end-users they're all too often estranged from.

Contemporary technology has turned incentive programs into agile marketing tools that can be used to promote a variety of behaviors in sales channel processes. Manufacturers, dealers and distributors can quickly and easily use incentive rewards to increase sales by taking advantage of these capabilities:

  • Instant claims data transfer
  • Automated claims verification
  • More purchase data to build a clean customer database

By fully utilizing reward and engagement tools, distributors can encourage more warranty registrations, aftermarket service sign-ups, installer training, customer feedback and customer referrals. Engaging and rewarding sales channel customers with personal value is the best way to build brand loyalty.

Steve Damerow is CEO of Incentive Solutions, He is a recognized expert, published author and host of the national radio show "Business Matters." Incentive Solutions currently manages hundreds of incentive loyalty programs within the HVAC/building industries. Steve Damerow can be reached at: [email protected]; 678/514-0203.