How to Provide Top-Notch After-Sales Care as Part of a Great Customer Experience
B2B Saas companies and manufacturers on the importance of CX
Just like display advertising or corporate philanthropy, the revenue impact of after-sales care is tough to quantify. However, it’s an inalienable aspect of customer relationship management, even if it generates no upfront revenue.
Beyond simply engendering organizational goodwill, after-sales care may be necessary for customer retention and acquisition. Perks like free installation and delivery, user training and warranty services can sway the initial purchase decision.
For Saas businesses like Hootsuite or Dropbox, providing technical troubleshooting through after-sales care is necessary for customers to continue using the product after they run into service issues or have questions. Apple and Android smartphones are eligible for periodic upgrades free of charge 3-4 years after purchase; if they weren’t, their product life cycle and value-for-money would vastly diminish.
Before dismissing the importance of after-sales care, remember that it’s seven times more expensive to sell to a new customer than an existing one.
The most valuable touchpoint in after-sales care
First, it’s crucial to distinguish between the purchase journey and the sales journey, Angus Bryan, VP of merchandising at Brandsmart, said during a panel discussion at CEWeek 2019. The after-sales relationship tends to deal with service issues, which are associated with a level of angst, while the purchase journey is neutral or positive. “You’ve got to figure out how to alleviate that angst and make their journey to action fast and seamless,” said Bryan.
Saas businesses are expected to provide 24/7 customer support from specialist agents, many of whom are trained engineers. The bar for after-sales care is higher among Saas businesses for two reasons:
1) The customer base is digitally literate, therefore they contact you for complex or uncommon issues not resolved in self-service
2) The profitability of a subscription model hinges on a high volume of renewals. If a customer can’t resolve a service issue, they won’t renew their subscription.
Therefore, the main goal of the customer support team is customer success, which takes a long-term view of the customer experience beyond a single touchpoint and considers the larger outcomes customers can achieve using the product. It’s not enough to simply say: “Try jiggling the electric plug.”
For a B2B Saas company like LinkedIn, after-sales care is contractually obligated, where a customer success manager works with the client’s HR team to ensure the company meets its hiring needs.
“You deal with the client everyday and they trust you as their consultant and advisor,” Tracey Abrams, customer success manager at LinkedIn, said at a recent event in New York City.
Why manufacturers are going direct-to-consumer
Retail supply chains are weakening with the decline of big-box stores like Sears. Last year, Amazon surpassed Best Buy in retail sales for consumer electronics. Meanwhile, rising demand for personalized experiences has convinced manufacturers to reclaim ownership of the customer relationship. They can no longer remain the faceless monolith that boxes the item and ships it to a retailer.
“From a consumer standpoint, it’s about Joe, the guy who sold you the appliance, not the Electrolux or Frigidaire, the big bad appliance maker,” Darius Bullock, senior manager of extended service agreements at Electrolux, said at CEWeek.
Manufacturers can strengthen the customer relationship in several ways:
- Recognize that the retailer is as much a customer as the end user.
Retail sales personnel want to make educated recommendations while protecting their personal reputation, so the better-trained they are in using your product, the more enthusiastically they’ll sell it.
“You can strengthen the point-of-purchase or marketing materials that are in the box so you have the best onboarding presentation to make it easier for your retailer to make the case for your brand,” said Bullock.
2) Reclaim the customer relationship through after-sales care
For a consumer electronics manufacturer, it’s better to sell service contracts instead of warranty protection plans. That way, you underwrite the insurance for the product instead of an external insurer and the customer consults with you directly on service issues. Electrolux created a new division called Ownership Solutions specifically designed to provide personalized ownership solutions and aftermarket sales.
Over the last two years, the manufacturer developed a proprietary cloud platform, the Electrolux Connectivity Platform, an IoT ecosystem that connects consumers, service providers and third parties. In 2017, it was the first appliance company to sign up with Google Home to bring voice activation to Frigidaire and Anova products in the US.
“Before, [customer support] was always reactionary,” said Bullock. “But now we’re actively engaging those consumers, we’re building relationships on social media, we’re putting out webinars on how to better use your appliance.”
3) Have visibility into the retail customer experience
If you do outsource after-sales care or customer support to a retailer, it’s still important to have visibility into the customer experience. Maybe you provide a digital portal for the retailer to administer surveys to customers 2-3 days after purchase, or you request access to key contact center metrics or other in-store analytics like returns and refunds or voice of customer data.
“Even if the third party is typically there to take phone calls, use your branded website and give direct paths for the consumer to get to you,” advised Bullock.
Gather detailed feedback - not just star ratings
In deference to waning attention spans, many companies have shortened their surveys to maintain response rates. While NPS on a scale of 1-10 was once the default, some companies simply ask for a star rating of 1-5. Others have even reduced it to a green smiley face for “Good”, a yellow indifferent face for “OK”, and a red angry face for “Bad.”
This approach not only reduces customer feedback to a metric-focused positive reinforcement loop, but it misses out on valuable voice of customer insights that could indicate a glaring problem or an untapped innovation. Without any context, it’s difficult to meaningfully interpret feedback.
“Look at your internal KPIs and tracking that against what’s going on with the star rating or the pain scale,” said Bullock. “If you’re seeing a dip in stars and a dip in, say, handle time or first-time fix or whatever the case might be, you can correlate the two.”