The consumer journey to purchasing, utilising, enjoying and benefiting from a product, service, application or experience typically involves up to six phases before direct interaction occurs between individuals in the company and the customers.
Many images, perceptions, expectations and preferences are determined and influenced in this period.
Disturbingly, recognition, respect for, and awareness of the importance of the initial steps to a successful transaction and establishment of a sustaining relationship are spasmodic among many management ranks.
Attention to, and enhancements in the prompt responses to telephone calls (within 3 rings – 9 seconds), recognition of customers entering premises within 5 seconds, the asking of not less than six questions to establish the specifics of need, exhibiting pride in and enthusiasm for the company, its products, services and people, and the methodical and caring manner in which the deal’s value is presented and endorsed - are laudable.
Indeed, the phrase little things mean a lot, is founded on a universal and consistent adherence to these principles. Setting an enjoyable ambience is conducive to ensuring a great, positive customer experience.
However, they will account for little if, from the outset of their purchase journey, a prospective and, - alas, a returning customer - is required to negotiate a series of annoying, frustrating and unnecessary barriers, filters and impediments from the outset of their purchase journey.
The pathway to a sale should never be an obstacle course.
All too often the impediments to an expedient closing of the sale are readily recognisable. Typically, they include:
AN INERT WEBSITE
Window shopping, or browsing, is now usually done on-line. Across a broad spectrum of sectors, products, services and applications, up to 72% of intending buyers seek out and visit websites to collate, retrieve, and then analyse available information to enable the conclusion of informed decisions.
Websites that are not interactive reflect poorly on the business and its offerings. Those which are incompatible to mobile devices are deemed antiquated and indicative of the probable service and experiences that await those who persist with the contact. Smartphones currently total around 61% of operational mobiles, they are utilised in 41% of initial contacts and in 37% of sales and payment processes.
Individually and collectively, these statistics represent an immense leaking of forsaken sales opportunities.
LIMITED CONTACT OPPORTUNITIES
Websites and links which limit contact to electronic interactions imply that the tech-savvy external design consultants do not comprehend and have not responded to the fact that 43% of people seeking to buy or to have access to service use “on-line” chat on their mobile as the preferred communication channel.
A suite of, say seven contact options, without immediate access to a local human may improve internal efficiency. However, effectiveness in the interactions with the external marketplace will be trashed.
An absence of complaints – lodged on-line – is not indicative of service excellence. It may well be that the customers have been lost, without registering their dismay, displeasure and disappointment.
AUTOMATED TELEPHONE SYSTEMS
Commerce, marketing, sales and service are founded on opportunism and communication. Denying existing and prospective customers the opportunity to readily and personally communicate with individual service providers is insane.
The business treadmill is getting faster. Customer and client expectations are greater.
A recent national Australian study found that 54% of consumers expected to make six attempts for contact before satisfactorily resolving an issue. In stark contrast, a parallel study among contact centre managers revealed that a majority contended that customers need only make 1 or 2 contacts to have their needs fulfilled.
Just how well do company team members know their customers, and are aware of their recent experiences?
The three greatest and most recurring annoyances nominated by customers and clients in their dealing with supply companies are enlightening:
· Automated Telephony Systems – 51%
· Restricted Access to Human Representatives – 37%
· Wait Times to connect with people – 34%
Ouch! Those facts hurt ..... - particularly on the bottom line.
In the present NOW marketplace, in which value and premiums are placed on timely, full, open and immediate disclosure of key information and intelligence access is imperative.
In the recent past, information was power. Today it is a commodity and retrievable from multiple sources. Inventory levels, supply lead-times, warranty details and performance standards are factors that expedite the sales process.
Indeed, the promotion of such can be, and often is, a distinct competitive advantage.
Sharing such freely is a virtue, because it facilitates the making of informed decisions.
Multi-channel and omni-channel philosophies are not and should not be vertical silos by nature.
Cross- referencing is both supportive and highly productive.
Customers and clients value having the capacity to exercise their personal choice of the means with which means they prefer to conclude a purchase. Over the course of time it is probable that many of those channels will be utilised by the individual customer.
A significant percentage of customers have sacrificed their privacy, through membership of loyalty and relevant programs in the hope for more measured, targeted and customised interactions.
The immense promise of Big Data, with its capacity to collect, retrieve, analyse and selectively convert huge banks of general information into discrete intelligence has seldom been realised.
A lack of resources being allocated to capitalise on this invaluable storehouse is a major contributing factor for the continued distribution of generalised, irrelevant and annoying communications and offers, many of which are meaningless and valueless to recipients.
This distracts from the journey being undertaken, and from the optimally compelling image of the company, its products, services, and people.
It is these hurdles and others that mitigate against subsequent positive interactions which have the capacity to satisfy customer needs, to offer value and to sustain mutually rewarding relationships.
THE JOURNEY CONTINUES
Correcting and remediating the nature, context and content of earlier phases of the consumer’s journey does not discount the importance of effectively installing the product, service or application; initiating and maintaining a regular schedule for communications; ensuring service standards that are at all times optimal; and of making readily available updated information on all developments, innovations and enhancements.
In commerce, as in many aspects of life, the journey is not lineal. It is circular. What comes around goes around ...... - only faster, for those who are astute enough to recognise, understand, monitor, respect and enhance all phases of the customers’ purchase journeys.
Conference Keynote Speaker