“Customer support extends across the whole customer journey—all the way from awareness and interest, to retention and upsells. Retailers need to understand what customers are doing and what their needs are, and tailor support experiences to those needs” – Poulos
Technology has ensured that people are always connected – either through their computer systems or through their mobile devices. It has become easy to ‘move’ between the real and virtual worlds and customers constantly shift between both. While this access has made it simpler for customers to view companies, products, and brands, the task of companies has become overwhelmingly tough. Several companies fail miserably in ensuring that they bridge the gap between the actual sale and post purchase customer experience. Companies that are unable to understand and amend this problem find themselves at the receiving end of customer ire and churn. It is imperative for companies to understand the critical nature of this touch-point in making or breaking customer loyalty.
The business world has become increasingly competitive, and customer expectations are on the rise. In the past, it would suffice to make a great sale, and then move on to the next one. However, it has become imperative for companies to remember that when customers click on the buy button, when shopping online, it is not the end of the association. In fact, it is the beginning, and most companies seem to forget this. Customers now are in the ‘waiting period’ – with high expectations of the product they may have ordered and the kind of post purchase customer experience, the company should provide. Research shows that customers often find a gap in their expectations versus what the company actually delivers as an experience. Creating positive post purchase customer experience is a great way for companies to build a relationship with their customers, and build engagement and loyalty for their products and brand.
We believe that post purchase customer experience is a customer retention tool. Research shows, surprisingly so, only about 16% companies actually have customer retention focus, despite the fact that it is at least 5-7 times costlier to acquire new customers. Irrespective of whether companies recognize this fact or not, customers expect smooth and hassle free shopping experiences. They expect such experiences irrespective of where they shop from and which device they use. Earlier post purchase management was considered to be a logistics and supply chain issue, and was not part of the customer service teams responsible for customer experiences. However, that has changed now – post purchase customer experience is an inextricable part of the customer support function, especially since there is not much differentiation between conventional shopping and online purchases. Customers demand personalized shopping and post purchase experiences, and refuse to settle for less. Their entire journey with the company must be fulfilling and customized to their needs.
Given the demand, companies are beginning to see the utility of post purchase customer experience, in building loyalty and engagement for their brand. Companies ensure that they have regular interaction with the customers, afford them visibility into the timeframe and delivery status of their products, and provide high quality content to satisfy the intellectual mind-set of their customers. Companies have streamlined the online buying processes too, such that the overall customer experience is happy, ensuring repeat customers and over time insuring brand loyalty. There is so much competition out there that it would seem obvious that companies would use every opportunity to convert leads to customers, and one-time customers to regulars. However, there seem to be several gaps in how companies manage their customer experiences, leading to drop in sales and overall profits. It is important for companies to remain relentless in ensuring that from the start to end, every customer experience is top class, whether they buy from the brick-and-mortar stores or the online ones.
The period between the actually buying to the waiting for the product is a period of high anticipation and excitement for customers. It is the job of companies to heighten this post purchase customer experience through top class service. It is necessary to ensure that any supply chain and logistics inefficiencies are managed, exigencies accounted for, and any other reasons that could mar the experiences are proactively managed and deflected. For a seamless shopping experience, companies must take on the entire responsibility of the purchase – from the time of buying to the customer receiving their package, to any issues they may have. Doing so will ensure that customers begin to trust the company and would want to interact with the company repeatedly.
It would be prudent for a company to prevent any damage to their relationship with their customers, rather than attempting to control the hurt later on. To ensure a great post purchase customer experience, companies should harness the excitement and enthusiasm that customers feel before they receive the product, by offering relevant other product and service information and value-added content. At this stage, customers would be more likely to be drawn towards a company that can take away their worry and uncertainties surrounding timely delivery.
From start to post purchase customer experience, the key to success is continuity and consistency. Providing connectivity to customers ensures that the customers of today would appreciate such a company more, given that customers are connected constantly through various devices, they expect that companies understand this need. More importantly, customers hate to repeat their requests when switching between channels they use to connect with companies – it is one of the biggest causes of dissent and attrition. Customers who receive robotic service, and need to explain themselves repeatedly, are at least 4 times less likely to return to such companies – research has provided ample evidence of this fact. In addition, research shows that top class service, and effortless post purchase customer experience is what they prefer – trumping the number of choices and options, a company may provide them. Hence, it would be prudent for companies to focus on serving their customers well across channels, rather than putting their efforts into providing several options.
Companies that focus on the overall customer experience, would have fewer instances of poor customer experiences. The fact is several things can go wrong from the start to the post purchase customer experience, and companies that do not proactively prepare for such would face customer frustration, even up to the point of customers never returning. Even if the poor experiences were caused by situations beyond the control of the company, customers are unlikely to forgive them and would carry a negative impression of the company and the brand. However, prudent companies would be able to react and respond swiftly to such situations, and use them to not only pacify the customers, but also delight them enough to stay on and tell others about the company’s remarkable service recovery. By monitoring customer behaviour, and putting in place strategies to solve quickly, their problems, companies can provide a truly great customer experience.
Ensuring an awesome post purchase customer experience is not just a nice thing to do for customers, it is now one of key elements of top class customer service. The ability to allow customers to interact seamlessly with a company between online channels and the digital and real worlds is the underlying premise of top class customer experience. Every company must strive to offer such experiences to their customers, in order to bridge the gap between customer expectations and service, thereby possibly gaining customers for life.