Andrew Penny, November 2 2017

9 - Where do we go from here?

Designing your Customers' Experience

The delicious whooshing sound as the lid comes away is magical, the little pull-tabs that allow you to prise the product away from its hard, but yet soft, protective packaging is devious, the mathematically designed cutouts and wrappers are ingenious. And yet all of this is designed to happen, after the deal is inked. Why bother? 

In a service environment it may seem pretty obvious what to do once the deal is done, but far too often resellers focus on simply ‘giving the client the service’ with little or no regard for how they experience what they bought. The same, of course, is true for product based businesses – how will your customer experience it? how will it make them feel?  In many ways Apple is the gold standard in customer experience – I deliberately set aside time for the official ‘unwrapping’ of any Apple product I have bought – whooshing sounds and all. Certainly, attractive, protective packaging is a must but thinking about how the customer will experience it is what can make the difference between a thriving, high margin, returning customer business from those that take the money and run. 

Regardless of how great your product or service may be, what do you advise your resellers to do to ensure that the buyers of your products or services have an appropriate experience – one that they will rave to others about. 

Stihl ensures that its resellers show every customer how to use the chain saws they buy. On the other hand, big box retailers let you pick up the saw, pass though the automated check out and head home. 

Your resellers are responsible for ensuring that your customers get the most possible value from the product or service you sell. 

So What?

Every one of us can name three or four retail stores that have closed in recent months. Sometimes it is due to poor products, but mostly it is caused by poor customer experience resulting in customers choosing other channels to buy the things they want.  Today, if you are not in the experience business, you’d better be in the commodity (price and availability) business. You have to excel in at least one of those.  Some notable failures: Target; Sears; K-Mart; J.C.Penney (no relation), etc.  Even the Big Box stores are under threat from E-Bay or same-day Amazon. So, are you in the experience business? If so, what are you doing to ensure your customers are getting the right experience from your resellers. 

Do you have a problem?

Some signs that your resellers are providing a poor experience include:Low or declining numbers of repeat customers / high churn in service businesses.High usage of customer support lines.Push back on pricing.Minimal numbers of referrals.Poor Net Promoter Scores. 

What causes this?

Too many resellers think that closing the deal is where their part ends. They do not see themselves as being responsible for helping the customer achieve the outcome that they bought the product or service to achieve. At the risk of wearing out the old saw – nobody wants a ½” drill - they want a ½” hole. (Speaking of drills, Home Depot for one does a good job at this by providing unbiased advice on how best to obtain a ‘½” hole’ as well as providing the tools to do it with). 

Here’s what to do (and where we can help)

Know your customer journey. What are they trying to achieve? How can you make that journey better for them?Do the research, develop the customer types (personae), understand the use cases. Understand what the customer is going to do once they ink the deal. Where do they go next? What do they combine it with? When do they do it? Why do they do it? Who else is involved in the ‘experience’?What happens to them once the objective is achieved? What do they do with your product (or service) once the objective is achieved? Once you have mapped out these journeys, address all those issues in your direct control and make sure they enhance the customer journey (packaging (whooshing sounds?), instructions, warranty cards, how-to videos etc).Next pick two or three simple elements that your resellers can focus on to improve the experience (providing a card with a link to video instructions, adding a personal cell phone number on the back of a business card to offer support, offering to remove all the protective packaging in the store, providing the name of an installer, etc). From the list above, what you choose to do will depend on your product, how it is used and how you want your customers to experience it. Do the research, pick two or three things, and focus. 

What will be different?

The delivery of products and services is under siege from the commodity providers. Customer experience is a unique combination and interaction between your product or service - the what - and how you provide it. To survive and thrive, you and your resellers must provide a better customer experience than the commodity providers. Very few companies understand that the customer relationship does not end once the deal is signed. From your customer’s point of view, the relationship with your product or service is just beginning. By supporting them as they build that relationship you will have a higher level of customer satisfaction (enjoyment even) which leads to all sorts of great things, to whit: fewer complaints to manage, fewer returns to process, more repeat customers and more referrals. In other words – lower costs and higher revenues.    What’s not to like? 

 Where Do We Go From Here? is the ninth in a series of posts on improving sales channel efficiency and flow. It follows Inking the Deal

Written by

Andrew Penny

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