In today’s digital world, customer expectations have changed drastically. Data from Zendesk, a leading customer service company, shows that no less than 64% of customers expect better service. Yet too many product brands continue to serve their customers the same way they’ve been doing for decades: Using papers in a product box to provide information about the product, the service, the warranty, and -- if they’re lucky enough that a customer registers the product -- to collect customer data. Customers still need to use a paper receipt as proof of purchase and to bring it to the local service center if they need support. And even though there have been significant advancements in live support chats online, customers still often need to call a support number and wait on the line for more complex service. In the event that a customer needs to figure out how to do something with their new product (for example, change a setting for a coffee machine, or pair a new Bluetooth enabled device), the customer is expected to find documentation on the brand’s website or skim a PDF manual on their laptop (because PDFs are mostly impossible to read on mobile, despite mobile being today’s main device of interaction).
Each one of the above steps is a lost opportunity for a brand and its retailers to connect with its customers. Combined, they represent a tremendous opportunity cost for brands and retailers to build long-term business success. Given today’s customer demands for immediate, relevant, and easy service, each of the touchpoints post-purchase should be made on customer terms, in an intuitive and convenient way, offering immediate best-in-class support and service. Actions like these will help brands and retailers provide great experiences to customers and ultimately earn their trust. Up-selling and cross-selling should be kept for a later stage in the relationship where trust is already established.
How exactly can brands and retailers establish this trust in 2020?
Let’s reimagine the post-sale process from the customer’s perspective.
It begins with a purchase of a product, either online or at a brick-and-mortar retailer. At the time of sale, customers are required to provide information to the retailer - at the very least, payment details. Given this need, it makes sense for the seller to activate the product warranty and service policy at the time of sale, instead of delaying this process to a later stage and requiring the customer to do it. Usually, at the time of product unboxing, the customer finds the warranty, service, and registration, but those papers often end up filed away, lost, ignored, or recycled. Transferring the responsibility for warranty activation to the seller allows brands to achieve two goals: improved service for the customer and a reduction of their carbon footprint by going paperless.
In fact, going paperless is not only environmentally friendly. It eliminates the full set of frustrations for the customer: the requirement for a paper receipt, the need to hunt down specific product how-to information related to the exact model, and the need to find the right way to contact service at the exact time the customer is losing the most patience. Digitizing the post-sale experience allows brands the opportunity to go from zero to high customer engagement.
The key for brands to digitize the end-customer experience is to have access to real-time sellout, or sell-through, data: what was sold, where, when, and to whom (as in precise customer type, not a specific name and face).
Brands with access to this data have the ability to achieve two groundbreaking things: they can use the information to focus their marketing plans to provide customers with the high-quality products they’re looking for (and cut ones that they don’t), and they can provide those customers with real-time personalized service.
In other words, brands can be there for their customers at the time and place they need and value it most: they can make it far easier for customers to view their product information, including ways they can use their product as needed, and to instantly get service when something goes wrong.
It is often easy to lose sight of these critical fundamentals when we think of bells and whistles, follow-up offers and upselling.
But in fact, lasting customer engagement - customer trust - comes from brands having the right conversations with their customers at the right time. No brand can build word-of-mouth value unless it has a long-term, direct relationship with customers. This is the equity that ultimately leads to high demand.