How Lean Principles Apply to Digital Technology, Sales and Customer Experience

Share this post!

How do Lean Principles Relate to Digital Technology?

Lean principles are normally associated with manufacturing and services. When you reduce bottlenecks on the manufacturing floor by flagging broken-down machines, that is Lean.

When you figure out a way to reduce processing waste and save on costs, that is a lean principle. When a delivery driver suggests a new route that would save on both gas and money, and management listens, that is a lean principle.

Lean seems to be a business trend rooted in the physical processes associated with reducing waste. But how can it possibly be related to digital, digital being technology-based? In its simplest form, digital is a binary code made up of ones and zeros—abstract to those of us who have just skimmed the very surface of technology.

Let’s take it one step further. Beyond using a CRM (customer resource management software) to simplify the salesperson’s job, how can the digital version of the lean concept connect to and complement selling, especially when there are so many different definitions for digital lean?

The one similarity that can be found between a majority of those digital lean definitions and the major concept of selling, the most important piece for any B2B or B2C business, is the customer. Let’s take a look at three ways digital lean concepts can help the customer, and because they help the customer, they help sales.

Many B2B companies now use CPQ, a cloud-based software (SaaS) that acts as a self-serve retail experience for the customer and a lead generator for the salesperson.

How Lean Principles Apply to Ecommerce

Ecommerce has been around for a while. The first ecommerce business was created in 1982 by Boston Computer Exchange though it can be argued that the idea has been around since the launch of CompuServe in 1969. Since then, many businesses have jumped on the digital-sales bandwagon.

By February of 2019, for the very first time, online sales exceeded those of the brick-and-mortar retail stores. This only became possible because companies like Amazon incorporated digital lean principles into sales strategies.

When it comes to B2C companies, retailers cannot control an online shopper who is just browsing or, for no apparent reason, decides to abandon his or her shopping cart.

However, many of the issues that stop a sale are due to unnecessary digital complexities: difficult or long checkout processes, confusing web navigation, concerns over security, unexpected costs, a slow-loading website or the website simply crashing.

Users want simplicity. There are already so many complications in their lives, and online shopping should not be one of them. Simplify your website. There are tools you can use to ferret out problems: heatmapping, session replay, conversion funnel mapping and form analytics.

Some problems are easily fixed or simplified without tools such as combining the cost of shipping and handling into the price of the product or giving the customer the option of using guest checkout instead of supplying the extra information that would be needed for a user account.

B2B companies, needing to catch up with B2C, have started offering similar experiences, but in a slightly different way. When selling to another business, the product or service typically needs to be configurable, making an older sales process based on databases and paperwork both complex and timely.

Configure-Price-Quote Software Provides a Self-Serve Customer Experience

Many B2B companies now use CPQ, a cloud-based software (SaaS) that acts as a self-serve retail experience for the customer and a lead generator for the salesperson.

By giving customers more power over product configuration, much of the burden has been removed from the salesperson, who can now give his or her undivided attention to serious customers who want to make a purchase.

Imagine the employee benefit for Tom—a salesperson who is just returning from lunch. Before the implementation of CPQ, Tom would have been reviewing databases, discussing manufacturing issues with the operations manager and returning numerous phone calls to multiple B2B customers—some who won’t even buy the product.

After CPQ, Tom has serious leads and can actually spend more time with each client: finishing a sale, building a relationship and laying any groundwork needed for future sales.

How Lean Principles Apply to Customer Experience

“Representative” … “Representative” … “REP-RE-SEN-TA-TIVE”!

Raise your hand if you have ever experienced a frustrating phone call with customer service. I can’t actually see if you are raising your hand, but I’m pretty sure we have all experienced this frustrating scenario a time or two.

You call with a question or to discuss an issue, and you get the runaround, repeat the same information over and over again and are placed on hold for an inordinate amount of time.

What in the heck does this have to do with sales? A lot, actually. Increasingly, repeat business hinges on customer service. A good customer-service experience can create brand loyalty and repeat business, whereas a poor experience will be shared on social media, costing a business both new and current clients.

What do customers want in a customer-service experience? They want the opposite of what is mentioned above. They want simplicity.

There are many ways to simplify or make customer service digitally lean while improving sales.

  • One technique is to provide omnichannel, multiple ways for customers to contact customer service. This can be done simply by adding social media to other points of contact: live chat, phone numbers, emails, etc.
  • Another is to provide a “Commonly Asked Questions” page for reoccurring questions.
  • Finally, the most important customer-service tool is to provide ecommerce Customer Service Software to customer service representatives so they can manage every aspect of a customer-service ticket from beginning to end.

How Lean Principles Apply to Data Analysis

Sales are increasingly becoming more about “pull” than “push.” Instead of companies pushing products that customers neither want or need, companies are learning to listen. Management that uses the beginning statement of, “I think the customer will want … ,” and making a guess, is out.

What is in? Data analytics. Both Marketing and Sales want an easier and faster method of ensuring sales. There is even a digital lean definition—one of many—that specifically describes data analytics and what it can mean for sales.

Digital lean is about sorting through the digital information that typically goes to waste and finding the value in analytics and user feedback that is often lost or underutilized.

For example, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a shortage of laptops.

A smart B2B company would see this trend and, using pandemic protocols, produce more motherboards. In the process, they would beat out their competition.

A B2C company could use data analytics to discover that customer service is now more important than product quality or price point, and in doing so, state on the company’s website that they have easy 24/7 customer service.

The Customer is Key: Simplify the Buying Process

In conclusion, selling has changed. Customers expect more features and less complexity. They can shop for themselves, only asking for help when it is absolutely necessary.

None of this is bad for the salesperson. He or she no longer has to fish for a sale; sales can come more naturally. Plus, the tools used—whether it is a CPQ, a CRM or ecommerce customer service software—provide benefits for all involved, because anything that benefits the employee will benefit the company and eventually the customer. And, the customer is key.


Latest Blog Posts